CHICAGO -- Barry Zito has put down the writing pen to pick up his baseball glove one last time.
And he’s totally stoked to have the chance.
Eight days after he thought his career had ended -- “I sent pictures to my closest friends ‘Baseball Rest in Peace: 1985-2015,’ he said -- Zito said Wednesday afternoon he’s thrilled to have a chance for a “storybook” ending to his baseball career after the A’s purchased his contract from Triple-A Nashville.
Having already started to transition to his new career, Zito received a surprise phone call from Billy Beane on Monday to ask if he wanted to finish the season in Oakland. Zito, who went 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 24 games at Nashville, told Beane he needed a day to mull the offer.
“I turned the page on the game eight days before,” Zito said. “So it was a little daunting and strange to have to pull that page back again after 15 years. Just was it the best thing for me? It ended up that my wife was really telling me all the things I needed to hear and ended up saying this is going to be a lot of fun.
“It was definitely tougher than I thought because major leagues get put on this pedestal your whole life and you try to come up there and then all of a sudden it’s like major leagues wants you and how come I’m not just like ‘Yeah man, let’s do it.’
“I think that was the most confusing part was that I wasn’t just jumping. But I’m here and I’m super excited and it hasn’t all set in.”
Zito -- who has a 102-63 record in 222 starts with the A’s and won the 2002 American League Cy Young award -- is serious about having moved on.
He was in the middle of a paid song writing session when Beane called him Monday with the news. A longtime musician, Zito not only intends to embark on a new career, he had already begun it after the A’s chose not to promote him earlier this month.
But the chance to pitch again one last time on the mound where his major league career began as well as the possibility of getting the “Big Three” band back together later this month were too much for Zito to decline.
“I’ve gone into song writing as a full-time profession,” Zito said. “Really, I can’t say that now. I was going. I had gone -- I put it on hold, cancelled all my sessions and I’ll be picking up where I left off in October.
“I’ve been a musician for 15 years and always put song writing on hold. I was like, ‘The heavens opened up and I don’t have to put it on hold.’ And then it’s like one more time you’ve gotta put it on hold.”
Even though he has only pitched an inning over the last six weeks (Sept. 6), Zito said he’s ready for action after a light bullpen session Wednesday. Prior to that, he hadn’t pitched since Aug. 5 because of shoulder issues.
But A’s manager Bob Melvin feels comfortable using Zito down the stretch -- ‘we’ll use him when we think we should,’ he said -- and is excited to have him back in uniform.
“I know Twitter is blowin’ up right now about Barry Zito possibilities, and I think it's terrific,” Melvin said. “It’s going to be great to bring him home and get him in games at our place, in front of our crowd. They love him there. Particularly when we play the Giants, it’s going to be a really exciting weekend. It’s really going to add to that, having him there.”
There’s been talk the Giants would line it up so fellow Big Three member Tim Hudson could make one last start in Oakland when the Bay Area rivals play there Sept. 25-27. Melvin has thought about the possibility of using Zito in the same game and said it “gives him goosebumps.” Same goes for Zito and Mark Mulder -- now an ESPN analyst who plans to attend the series -- who was texting with Zito on Monday around the time Beane called.
Hudson, who is retiring after this season, joined the A’s in 1999 while Zito and Mulder debuted a season later. The trio was talented and helped lead the A’s to four straight AL West titles from 2000-03 before they were famously broken up after the 2004 season when Mulder was traded to St.Louis and Hudson was shipped to Atlanta. Zito stayed with the A’s through 2006 before he signed a long-term deal with the Giants.
“For A’s fans to be able to see all three of us together on the field again and obviously all three in different roles and storylines -- it’s cool,” Zito said. “This is where I started. That mound in Oakland is where I threw my first major league pitch and I don’t know how it’s all going to shake out with the rotation, days and all that, but I’m going to throw one of my last major league pitches probably on that mound. That’s like storybook. It’s amazing.”