Under the category of Now It Can Be Told: Giants left-hander Barry Zito has finally explained why he sported a radical new windup on his first day with San Francisco in 2008.
Zito tells the San Jose Mercury News’ Andrew Baggarly he decided to apply new principles being taught by Dick Mills, who had been instructing Zito for years. The changes included an exaggerated leg kick and stride; Zito used a tape measure to determine the latter.
The alterations took Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti by surprise and, Zito says, created friction between the two.
"It was definitely a little rocky because we were at odds," Zito tells the Mercury News. "But I understand in retrospect. I’m trying to do new stuff, and I was not conscious that I probably shouldn’t come to spring training with a completely new delivery after using the same one for six or seven years."
Zito went back to his old windup days later, but two bad seasons followed. In the meantime, he made amends with Righetti and tweaked his approach — more long toss, a change in release point, an improved slider. Now, Zito is once again a solid starter. He’s 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA in six starts this season.
These days, Zito is singing Righetti’s praises and thanking him for his patience. In the process, he also may be inadvertently taking shots at his old pitching coach with the A’s, Rick Peterson.
"In my opinion, when you talk about pitching coaches, there are two guys," Zito says in the Mercury News story. "There’s feel guys and there’s the guy who has, like, a lot of intellectual knowledge of stats and numbers and biomechanics and all that stuff (i.e., Peterson).
"(Righetti) is a feel guy. He knows exactly what it takes to succeed. And I think the people who haven’t succeeded at the big league level try to make up for a lack of feel, of pure pitching at the best level, with that intellectual knowledge. Rags doesn’t need that."
Righetti pitched 16 seasons in the majors and was a Rookie of the Year and an All-Star with the Yankees; Peterson, now the Brewers’ pitching coach, never got beyond Single-A as a minor league pitcher.