There is a chance that Tuesday afternoon's contest against the Los Angeles Angels will not be the last time you see Barry Zito in an Oakland Athletics uniform. To be clear, Barry Zito will not be on the opening day roster. He is starting today because of the usual last week of spring training shenanigans. The A's do not want the Angels to have an early opportunity to face Sonny Gray or Jesse Hahn before their regular season series late in April.
But today I contemplated the possibility that today was the last chance to watch the Old Man show how "movement is a product of that which does not move." Five days from today is the Sunday off day preceding opening night, and I searched for any hope that he might be tossed into Saturday's game at the Coliseum for a relief appearance, however brief. Alas:
@jfkooAN Don't see how unless only works few innings today. I don't think that is in plans. Honestly not sure he'd still be w A's by then.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 31, 2015
As I began to despair and remember fondly his stunning performance in the 2006 postseason, his 2002 Cy Young campaign, his part in the Big 3, Slusser reminded me that it was also no guarantee that another team's front office was interested in Zito for their starting rotation. And that is what he has said from the start what he wants to do, to make it back into an MLB starting rotation, whether it is for Oakland or elsewhere.
@jfkooAN maybe/maybe not. If no offers for him, would think he would go to Nashville w/ potential to be first man caked up if starter hurt.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 31, 2015
@jfkooAN caked up sounds yummy.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 31, 2015
The way things have fallen into place this spring training, Zito has positioned himself well to be the next starter called up for now. Sean Nolin is essentially just starting spring training after a late start due to an extended recovery from sports hernia surgery. Chris Bassitt is having an impossible time throwing inside against left-handed batters. The rest of the starters invited to camp and not expected to make the roster were transferred to the minor league side weeks ago.
Which is how all this offseason depth is supposed to work, really. Have seven potential starting pitchers for the last three spots in the rotation: three make it, one goes to the pen, one works out issues in the minors, one is injured, and on the outside looking in is the veteran impressing in his last chance to show everyone he still has something to offer to his game. One key early, and hopefully brief, injury in the starting rotation, and we will see Zito back in an Oakland uniform, with "A's" on his cap for the first time in nine years instead of an elephant.
As long as some other team does not give him a spot in a rotation first.