MESA, Ariz. – Taking the mound in a 10-2 ballgame isn’t a situation that gets the adrenaline pumping.
But Barry Zito is throwing zeroes on the scoreboard regardless of the scenario. The veteran lefty did it again for the A’s on Tuesday in a blowout victory over the Cubs. He entered in the fourth and threw four shutout innings of relief, another step forward in what’s been an encouraging comeback to baseball so far.
Zito has now pieced together 11 consecutive scoreless innings and lowered his spring ERA to 2.30 over five outings. No, it still doesn’t seem likely to win him a roster spot with Oakland. But Zito, 36, continues to show impressive stuff after sitting out the entire 2014 season to reboot from a mental standpoint.
“What are you gonna say?” A’s manager Bob Melvin said after his team’s 14-2 victory. “A lot of times, in games like that, (it’s difficult) for a guy that’s used to pitching in different scenarios. But he’s still focused and making every pitch. It’s impressive to see.”
Zito’s preference is to start, but just one of his five appearances has come in a starting assignment. In four games out of the bullpen, he’s shown the potential of someone who could be an effective long reliever. But the A’s have multiple options for that role. Would he accept a minor league assignment with Oakland? He’s done well enough that another team might be willing to give him a shot at the major league level, so it makes sense that the A’s could seek to deal him or just cut him loose at some point.
Zito maintains that he’s not getting caught up in the what-if scenarios.
“I only have so much control over it,” he said. “To get caught up in that whole game or whatever, I can essentially just (keep) throwing the ball the way I can when I have the opportunity. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
CAMP BATTLE: The indication came early that it wouldn’t be Drew Pomeranz’s day. The left-hander felt his right hip tighten up while warming for Tuesday’s start, then he battled through 2 2/3 laborious innings against the Cubs. Pomeranz walked four and was lifted with two outs in the third. He said the hip problem has occasionally surfaced in the past and usually only lasts a day or so after treatment, but it affects him on the mound.
“It’s hard to stay on line and really get through to the plate,” Pomeranz said. “It’s happened to me in spring training before. It’s an area that I’m used to dealing with, so it’s not serious or anything.”
It wasn’t the outing the lefty wanted as he tries to secure a spot in Oakland’s rotation. With Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir locks for the rotation, and Kendall Graveman and Jesse Hahn looking strong for two of the other spots, Pomeranz is competing with Jesse Chavez for the fifth and final starting spot. It’s unlikely that Tuesday’s outing, in and of itself, did major damage to his chances.
Melvin said he didn’t expect Pomeranz to miss his next side session in a couple days, much less his next start. Chavez, currently away from the team to be with his wife as she prepares to give birth, takes the ball Thursday night against the Giants.
FAMILIAR FACE: Shortstop Addison Russell, the A’s top prospect before they dealt him last July to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija deal, went 0-for-3 against his former club. It was his second time in the lineup against Oakland this spring. With Starlin Castro still manning shortstop for Chicago, Russell seems ticketed for Triple-A to start the season, but manager Joe Maddon has spoken very highly of him this spring.
“I’m pretty comfortable with the team and getting to know a lot of my teammates and just having fun with it,” Russell said.
LIGHTER SIDE: Edwin Jackson’s eventful day spread like wildfire on Twitter. The Cubs righty was scheduled to start Tuesday, but he was late arriving to Hohokam Stadium because Google Maps gave him driving directions to the A’s former spring home – Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
It was easy to get a laugh out of the situation -- unless you were Jackson. He entered in the second inning and the A’s tagged him for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.
DROPPING LUMBER: Stephen Vogt enjoyed a breakout game with the bat, going 3-for-3 with three RBI, including a two-run homer off Jackson.
That came after Vogt got some simple advice from hitting coach Darren Bush.
“Bushie said forget about mechanics, just see the ball and hit it,” Melvin said. “Pretty simplistic. Sometimes that works though.”
ODDS AND ENDS: Ike Davis went 3-for-4 and is hitting .500 (11-for-22) this spring. … Billy Butler connected for his team-leading third homer of the spring, showing impressive opposite field power on his two-run shot to right-center in the first off Blake Parker. … Center fielder Sam Fuld returned to the lineup after missing three days with a jaw injury and went 1-for-4 with an RBI. … Right fielder Josh Reddick took soft-toss swings for the first time to test his strained right oblique. Fellow outfielder Alex Hassan (strained right hamstring) is doing running drills but still not cleared to play in a game.