As I mentioned at the end of yesterday's post, I was fortunate enough to get interviews with several players during my spring training trip.
One of those players was Barry Zito, who suddenly has the opportunity to create an identity separate from The Big Three.
Two things I want to mention quickly.
- I didn't ask him about the opportunity to be out on his own because I felt like he'd answered that question plenty and it had been covered ad nauseam.
- I did ask some questions that weren't related to baseball. I know some of you might bring up my critique of TV reporters. Just to get this straight in advance, I was criticizing them for asking nothing but questions unrelated to baseball. That was what I found exceptionally annoying.
Blez: I know you write a lot on the inside bill of your cap. Give me an example of something you write there.
Barry Zito: I just write mechanical things.
Blez: Stuff you need to remember?
BZ: Little mechanical points. I think every guy has mechanical points he wants to hit. Stuff like quiet head.
Blez: Is there a player on the team that you can "go deep" with, as in Aces speak? A player you can talk about philosophy with?
BZ: Not really. I can never really get to a level that will satiate me. I think in general it's hard to find that. I can do it with my family. Hatteberg. Hatteberg's good and a smart guy. Charles Thomas is also a really smart guy.
Blez: I read a story that said that you had gotten away from things in preparation for last season. Was there some great epiphany that you had where you realized you'd done things differently in terms of preparation?
BZ: No, not really. Preparation was the same. Are you saying that in context of people saying I need to get back to basics?
Blez: Yeah, exactly.
BZ: No, I hadn't focused on mechanics since I signed professionally. I didn't do things in 00, 01 or 02 that I stopped doing. It was that I just started doing things that I had done in 99 when I was in college.
Blez: I'm curious what your offseason regimen looks like.
BZ: This year it was throwing, light lifting.
Blez: Did you include yoga in that?
BZ: Yeah, I do yoga every offseason. Also throwing light, doing a lot of flexibility stuff.
Blez: You talk about the mind being the most powerful tool to help make you successful in Aces. From all accounts I've read in the media and whatnot, I've seen that it's saying you have a "take-no-prisoners" mentality going into this year. Is that why you're so confident you're going to have a great season?
BZ: I think it's just getting back to who I am and what I do best. My strengths are my fastball, my curveball and my change. Mix in that fastball away and the fastball up in the zone. For the most part, it's just sticking with my game.
Blez: I've noticed this spring that you've got quite a few ground ball double plays. Is that in part due the two-seamer you added?
BZ: Yeah, I think so. I like to throw the sinker away to guys and I've induced quite a few ground balls. Although I do get a lot on curveballs and changeups too. Keeping the offspeed stuff down in the zone is key.
Blez: Did you work on that with Randy Jones this offseason?
BZ: No, I didn't work with Randy this offseason, but I did keep throwing it to make sure I maintained my feel for the ball.
Blez: You're featured fairly prominently in some of the A's 2005 advertising. In one, Haren and Blanton come to you for advice. Which of the three, Haren, Blanton and Meyer has actually come to you and sought out your wisdom?
BZ: Meyer is a guy who has shown he wants to pick my brain a little bit. And I think as they all get a little more comfortable, I think they'll all start picking my brain a bit. I'm open to all that. Meyer and I have a bit in common because we're both left-handed. I think it's great that he seeks out that advice because he's not too "cool" or too uncomfortable to ask for it.
Blez: How are their personalities different?
BZ: From what I can tell now, Blanton is a good ol' boy from Kentucky. He's a great guy. All three have in common that they're willing to learn and willing to do what it takes to get to the next level and stay there. Haren is more quiet. He's a guy who came to this team from another organization whereas Blanton is homegrown. He's already had a bit of success at this level. Meyer is a bit more outgoing.
Blez: How has this camp been for you without Huddy and Mulder?
BZ: It's definitely been different. It took a couple of weeks to get used to it. But we're pretty much standard procedure now. We'll just carry on.
Blez: How often have you talked to them, if at all?
BZ: I've talked with Huddy a couple of times this spring, but I haven't had a chance to hook up with Mulder yet. I do look forward to keeping in touch with the guys because we'll always be connected in people's minds.
Blez: Is it weird being the "veteran" of the staff? I mean it's strange to see you in those commercials as being the older one. I know they're tongue in cheek and you have nothing to do with writing them, but it's an odd sight to see you as a Godfather-type.
BZ: I'm OK being the veteran, but I'm still just a kid. I mean I'm only two years older than two of them and three years older than the other two. So, it's not like I'm some kind of veteran and there is this huge age gap. I identify with them more off the field. I need to set an example, which is great and I look forward to doing just that.
Blez: Do you think this is the best defense you've had behind you?
BZ: It's pretty good, man, yeah. We had the best defense in the AL last year, in terms of errors allowed. The outfield is solid, so is the catching and the infield.
Blez: Does the defense behind you affect your decision on what pitch to throw in what count?
BZ: Nah, big league defense is going to get outs most times.
Blez: How early do you know when you curve is working and when it's going to be really biting?
BZ: I think in the bullpen you can tell during your warmups, if you have a good feel for it. But anything can happen once you get into a game. Sometimes you just wind up throwing it better than ever before one day without knowing why.
Blez: You met Sandy Koufax before when you received your Cy Young. Did you get any advice from him in terms of curveballs and pitch grip?
BZ: He actually told me how to throw a good curve. He told me to pull down with my second finger and to push it up with your thumb, which I thought was good advice. But we didn't get a chance to talk as much as I would've liked.
Blez: I know you have a lot of interestes outside the game and I know you like to read. I was wondering if you had a favorite philosopher, and if you do, who?
BZ: Nevell. He's a modern-era philosopher who's written some pretty advanced stuff. He's a guy who focuses on the mind and what it is capable of. He shows you the pathways to get what you want.
Blez: You've done Letterman, Stern, The Chris Isaak Show and JAG. Any experience stand out for you and why?
BZ: I think going on Howard Stern was great. I was such a fan of his for so many years. It was just so cool to be in that studio and to meet Robin (Quivers), Artie, Fred and all those guys.
Blez: Name five CDs that are in your car right now.
BZ: I have an Ipod, but...Jamiroquai, Ben Folds, Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake.
Blez: Do you watch a lot of movies?
BZ: I have the desire to, but I don't seem to ever find the time to.
Blez: Do you have a favorite movie?
BZ: Yeah, a movie called Happiness.
Blez: I've heard of it, I know the director's name...
BZ: Todd Solondz. He directed (Welcome to) the Dollhouse.
Blez: That's right.
Blez: Thanks so much for your time, Barry. Athletics Nation appreciates your time.
BZ: No problem, man. Anytime.
Here is the photo Barry posed for right after the interview: