*This article was original published on Baseball Hot Corner.
The winter meetings were all that we hoped them to be and then some. This year’s annual convention of managers, players, agents, and club executives saw more wheeling and dealing of big name players than possibly ever before. After Jon Lester signed with the Chicago Cubs, all the dominoes began to fall into place. Amidst all these wild trades and free agent signings, along with multiple rumors, there was one story about a player who didn’t even play for one out last season, that went mostly un-noticed.
Once the winner of the 2002 American League Cy Young award for the Oakland A’s, Barry Zito has been remembered more for his flop of a seven-year, $126 million contract with the San Francisco Giants from 2007-2013. Last year, there were talks that Zito had hung up his glove for the waves and a life of surfing. In that same article, Giants beat reporter Andrew Baggarly indicated that even though Zito was enjoying his time in Hawaii, he still had his heart set on pitching again in 2015.
Now, that thought of returning to baseball in 2015 has been in motion for quite some time according to Zito’s super-agent, Scott Boras.
“He’s been working hard on his mechanics,” Boras said. “He doesn’t cup the ball anymore. His drive to home plate is a little bit different than it was. He has some new mechanical evolutions he’s been working on to really advance what he thinks will be effective.”
Zito plans to throw in front of teams in January after working with pitching guru Ron Wolforth, who opened the Texas Baseball Ranch. The unconventional Wolforth promises to get any pitcher to throw over 90 miles per hour, and if anybody needs a velocity boost, it’s the 36-year-old Zito. In his last season in the bigs for the Giants, Zito’s average fastball sat at a low 83.2 mph. For his career, Zito has only averaged an 85.8 mph fastball.
So far, there have been no indications from any teams on their interest in Zito. The most likely scenario for Zito would be a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. After only playing for the two Bay Area teams in California, and Zito going to high school in San Diego, you would think that he is looking to toe the rubber on the West Coast.
Zito has had an up and down 14-year career, where he currently sits with a 165-143 record, and a 4.02 ERA. What could scare teams away is his seven years in San Francisco, where the three-time All-Star compiled a rough 63-80 record with a 4.62 ERA. Let’s wait and see if Zito can resurrect his career on the mound before he surfs away into the sunset.