"For Zito it's back to basics"
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| By deajay on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 04:08 pm:|
"The A's remaining ace works to turn things around."
Note that registration is now required for sacbee.
| By finleyshero on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 05:45 pm:|
The Bee never required registration until they had to summon Nick Peters from his bar stool over at the Torch Club to answer all of Deajay's irate e-mails.
| By deajay on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 10:01 pm:|
Actually, I only sent him one and then answered his answer to clarify a point, and he apologized for having missed it the first time. But the timing is interesting. Anyway, always glad to help.
| By eyleenn on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 10:45 pm:|
Registration is just a sneaky way for these sites to track users' preferences, etc.
| By jesse on Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 03:04 pm:|
For Zito, it's back to basics
The A's remaining ace works to turn things around.
By Tim Casey -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Wednesday, February 16, 2005
His Dodge Durango packed with clothes and equipment, Barry Zito plans to drive from his Hollywood Hills home to Arizona this morning, prepared for the most important season of his baseball career.
By tonight, Zito will arrive near the A's spring training complex. Sunday, Oakland's pitchers and catchers have their first official workout.
Reporting early allows Zito to acclimate to the area and continue his quest to erase any bad memories of 2004.
In his first offseason as the remaining member of the Big Three, Zito returned to his roots. Nearly every day, the left-hander worked on his mechanics and mentality. He spoke with mentors who had helped him since college and even earlier.
Yes, he's the same Zito with interests beyond sports. He still surfs, writes music, plays guitar, reads books. But those hobbies have always simply been creative outlets, ways for him to relax and enjoy his time away from baseball.
Some have questioned his commitment, suggesting it has led to Zito's recent inconsistency. Nonsense, according to Zito and those close to him.
"That's all you hear about him, the weird stuff," A's third baseman Eric Chavez said. "That's just all part of his balance. ... He puts a lot of thought into the game and prepares himself more than anyone I know. He's very exact, trying to get any edge he can."
With Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson gone, the spotlight shines on Zito, and it's a position he craves. At 26, Zito is the most experienced of the A's seven potential starters, yet he's trying to overcome two subpar years.
In 2002, his second full season, Zito went 23-5, had a 2.75 ERA and won the American League Cy Young award. He won a total of 25 games in 2003 and 2004 with ERAs of 3.30 and 4.48, respectively.
"Everyone wishes they did better last year," Zito said. "But I don't live in the past. I'm not going to be a hindsight, 20-20 guy and depress myself with what could have been. I don't have regrets. I learned my lessons and moved forward."
Asked for some of the specific lessons, Zito said only there were "too many." At times, he realized he thought too much on the mound and went away from what had made him an ace.
To Zito, pitching well has always been as much mental as physical. When he was 9, Zito began writing in a diary after each start, chronicling the positives and negatives. Even now, he continues that practice.
In 1997, Zito started working with Alan Jaeger, a former collegiate pitcher whose training program emphasizes relaxation and inner peace. They continued their relationship until last winter, when Zito followed another routine.
After the 2004 season, the first in which Zito didn't pitch in the playoffs, he called Jaeger. In December, Jaeger and Zito had four private sessions. They meditated and did yoga, focusing on Jaeger's background in Zen and Far Eastern principles.
Starting Jan. 10, Zito and nine minor-leaguers attended a program led by Jaeger in Woodland Hills. Three times per week, from noon to 2:45 p.m., they underwent mental training, including yoga.
Then, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., they threw long toss, had bullpen workouts and concentrated on proper breathing and stretching techniques. Zito taped almost all of the sessions and analyzed them afterward.
"I thought he had the best offseason ever," Jaeger said. "Last year was a blessing. He took it the right way, and he got stronger.
"Barry's always been mature, but he's matured so much. He's so at peace with who he is. He's more in tune with the process, rather than (focusing on) the results."
Zito's winter also included stints at the National Academy of Sports Medicine for his health and fitness. And he worked with Randy Jones, the 1976 National League Cy Young winner who tutored the young Zito in Southern California.
When his son was 13, Joe Zito had sought Jones' guidance. Over the next four years, Barry and Jones met almost every week for pitching lessons. It cost Joe and his wife, Roberta, about $10,000. But Joe said it was a worthy investment, with Barry receiving a scholarship to UC Santa Barbara.
As Zito progressed through the minors and majors, he occasionally kept in touch with Jones. Over the 2004 All-Star break, Zito learned to throw a two-seam fastball from Jones, and he put the pitch into his repertoire.
When he returned to Southern California late last year, Zito and Jones resumed tinkering with and fine-tuning Zito's mechanics. The extra work, Zito hopes, will pay dividends.
"Barry's gone back to those things that got him here," Joe Zito said. "He just doesn't want any outside distractions. He's working with all the people who got him to major-league ball. He's gone back to (Baseball) 101.
"I'll tell you, he's on a mission like I've never seen before. He's ready to pitch right now against whomever."
Said Barry: "Preparation's huge for me, mentally and physically. I feel like if I prepare the way I should and the way I can, it'll all be predictably good."
Each time Barry starts at the Coliseum, Joe and Roberta Zito travel from their Van Nuys home to Oakland. On the times they drive, they normally take their Shih Tzu, Dudley, and listen to classical music on the radio.
Like other A's fans, the Zitos are counting on their son to deliver a 2002-like season and help young starters such as Rich Harden, Joe Blanton, Dan Haren and Dan Meyer.
Last spring training, A's manager Ken Macha had Harden shadow Zito and learn from the left-hander's work habits.
"If you want the professional way to prepare," Macha said, "you watch what Barry does."
At first, Zito was a bit upset with the December trades that sent Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals and Hudson to the Atlanta Braves.
"Now that I look at it, I'm really excited about the opportunity," Zito said. "It's good we get out on our own now, see what we can do by ourselves.
"I'm not going to live in the past and say, 'Poor us.' We've got some pretty good pitching right now. I'm excited to lead the staff back to the playoffs."