SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After another strong spring outing, Barry Zito appears to be ready for the start of the season.
Zito pitched six efficient innings, giving up a run and two hits in six innings as the San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals 3-1 on Saturday."He threw very well. He had good command for the most part," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He got into a few jams but got out of them. I'm very pleased with how he is throwing and where he is at."He was pounding the strike zone. The last two or three outings, he has thrown a lot of strikes."Zito, who walked four and struck out two, got support from solo home runs by Cody Ross, Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff.Ross hit his third homer of the spring off left-hander Bruce Chen in the second inning. Posey hit his third in the fourth, and Huff connected for his fourth in the sixth.Zito is 40-57 with a 4.45 earned-run average in 131 starts over four years since leaving the Oakland Athletics to move across San Francisco Bay to join the Giants as a free agent October of 2006. He has never quite recaptured the form that earned him the American League Cy Young Award in 2002. He started out 5-0 in 2010, but finished the season at 9-14.Earlier this month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Zito's spot on the Giants' roster wasn't guaranteed. However, Bochy immediately denied truth to the report and Zito is 2-0 in four starts with the Giants this spring and pitched five innings in a minor-league game.Now that right-hander Matt Cain has rebounded from elbow stiffness with two solid outings, the Giants' rotation appears to be set with right-handers Tim Lincecum and Cain, and left-handers Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner and Zito.The Giants' starters have limited opponents to two earned runs or fewer in all but one of their games, and that was the opener on Feb. 25 against Arizona.The closer's role is another story, however.San Francisco was hit by the news before the game that closer Brian Wilson will be out temporarily and possibly longer with a strained left rib cage muscle. He will be re-evaluated on Monday. Wilson, who led the National League in saves with 48 last year, also was bothered by a stiff back earlier in camp.Some of the candidates to step in in Wilson's absence pitched on Saturday -- left-hander Jeremy Affeldt and right-handers Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.Bochy figured that people would speculate that the job would be Casilla's, "but you shouldn't read anything into that. We needed them to get their work in, and this was the only real way to do it with the way Zito was pitching. All three pitchers are expected to throw again on Sunday, when the Giants play split-squad games against Oakland and the Chicago Cubs.Casilla struck out two of the three men he faced in the ninth, relying on a potent curveball."There were a couple of filthy ones," Bochy said.
Bochy said he was going to try to get Huff more time in left field before the team breaks camp. Huff started 97 games at 1B last season, 33 in RF and 24 in LF. Bochy's decision could mean the team is considering keeping rookie 1B Brandon Belt on the opening-day roster. ... 2B Freddy Sanchez increased his hitting streak to six games. ... Royals OF Melky Cabrera drove in the only run with on a ground ball in the sixth. He was hitless in three at-bats but still is hitting .488 (20 for 41).