PITTSBURGH -- In discussing the Giants before Friday's series opener, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made it clear how much he respects San Francisco starter Barry Zito.
"I was fortunate to watch this young man pitch as part of The Big Three in Oakland," Hurdle said. "There was power, there was velocity, there was spin, there was deception. [He had] a parachuting changeup, off-the-table curve, a fastball that he could throw eye-high, and [he could] throw the breaking ball off it."
Zito spent the first seven years of his career in Oakland, where he won the American League Cy Young Award and was voted to three All-Star Games. As a member of the A's, Zito posted a 102-63 record and 3.55 ERA.
But as Giants fans know, Zito has struggled in orange and black. After signing a seven-year deal worth $126 million, Zito is 49-67 with a 4.47 ERA during the six years he's spent in San Francisco.
"What he's had to do is re-create himself, and I think it's taken him some time, but he's doing a pretty good job of it now," Hurdle said. "He'll still be challenged with command from time to time. Playing with discipline can work against him, and you can help yourself with some walks. Get him down in some counts where he's got to come in."
Zito brought a 6-6 record and 3.84 ERA into his Friday start against the Pirates. He has racked up 52 strikeouts to go with 45 walks and threw a shutout in his first start of the season, something he hadn't done since 2003.
"He will still throw that breaking ball off the fastball up in the zone. He's cutting the ball more than he did in the past, in on right-handers and away from left-handers," Hurdle said. "The curve is his bread and butter, always has been and always will be."