OAKLAND -- The scene is materializing like something from a Hollywood script.
Barry Zito taking the mound Saturday in front of a sold-out Coliseum crowd, matching up against former “Big Three” teammate Tim Hudson before both (in all likelihood) ride off into retirement together.
It will be a memorable treat for fans of both Bay Area teams, and Zito said his biggest challenge will be not getting too swept up in the emotion of it all.
“It's definitely going to be rowdy out here,” the lefty said Tuesday. “It's important that I -- I can't be a fan that day. I’ve got to still be a player. I won't be able to enjoy it as much as if I was in the dugout and I didn't have to lock it in for a game. But it's going to be a really great experience, regardless of what happens.”
Mark Mulder, the final third of the “Big Three,” will be here next weekend too, as the A’s will honor the trio with a ceremony before Sunday’s A’s-Giants series finale. Zito said he got a call from Mulder last week, just a few minutes after he got off the phone with A’s general manager Billy Beane, who had made his call to Zito to see if he had any innings left in his arm to help the A’s pitching staff.
“Mulder was like, 'Hey man, are they trying to get you out to come out to Oakland for this thing?'” Zito said. “I was like, 'Actually, I'll be on the field, I think.’”
From that first talk with Beane, Zito said the seeds were planted for his start Saturday against the Giants. The only question was whether he could get his pitch count up to a starter’s demand.
He threw an extended side session shortly after joining the A’s on Wednesday, then threw an inning of relief Sunday against Houston. Zito threw another session off the mound on Tuesday, and Melvin said the lefty could be good for around 50 pitches Saturday, though he wasn’t setting that number in stone. Zito definitely sounded like he’d be ready for a longer day’s work.
“I don't know, man. I'm preparing for more,” Zito said. “But obviously the game will dictate what happens. I'm just doing everything I can to prepare my body to go out there and give it a good showing.”
Zito, 37, commended Hudson on the work he’s doing in the Giants rotation at age 40. The right-hander is 8-8 with a 4.20 ERA in 22 appearances (20 starts). And Zito reflected a bit on the “Big Three” heyday, when he, Hudson and Mulder formed the nucleus of one of the most dominant rotations in the majors.
“When you're in the middle of something you don't really know how special it is until you're away from it and you can reflect,” Zito said. “But it definitely was special. And to have three home-grown guys is pretty rare. You are seeing that with the Mets right now. … We had a playoff run. I think that was the special part, it's (four) straight years. I thought that was normal stuff back then.”
Zito’s recent comments have strongly indicated he’ll retire after this season, but he left the door cracked slightly Tuesday on the possibility of another season.
“I’m allowing room for things to change if something were to happen,” Zito said. “But more my mindset is just being with the family and chill out for a minute. It’s not a final decision by any means.”
It will likely take a lot for Zito to further delay a songwriting career he hopes to get off the ground. A season spent in Nashville, pitching for the A’s Triple-A team, has allowed Zito to network in the music industry. He said his current plan is to spend the offseason in Nashville before moving his family back to San Diego in February or March.
And what genre of music will he explore in his songwriting?
“Probably country,” Zito said with a smile. “That’s what you do in Nashville.”