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Barry Zito looks meaner than his fastball really is.
Barry Zito isn't known as the type of guy who's going to blow batters away with high-velocity fastballs. He's a guy who does his damage with a devastating whip of a curveball. (Or used to anyway.)
Still, it's a little concern to hear the report from Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury-News that Zito was dealing his "heater" in the low 80-MPH range on Tuesday.
Pavlovic says he sat behind scouts, curious to see what Zito would register on the radar gun. And what he saw was not good: 82, 81, 81, 83, 82, 81, 82, 83 were the speeds of the fastballs Zito threw in the first inning.
Zito told Pavlovic he was "surprised" by the numbers, since he claims he hit 88 in January. And catcher Eli Whiteside was thrown off too.
"I thought he had a little more than that – it seemed like it," Whiteside said.
Maybe it did. Maybe the radar gun was off. Whatever, Bruce Bochy was happy with his performance.
“I thought Barry looked great,” Bochy said. “He should feel good about that outing. He really pounded the strike zone well. He really hit his spots.”
Zito pitched two innings, gave up four hits, two earned runs, one home run, walked one batter and struck out two. So, statistically, no one should be falling all over themselves.
But the early portions of spring training aren't about statistics. They're about finding your groove and figuring things out and other cliches relating to the early part of baseball season.
Hopefully, Zito's groove involves something along the lines of "finding his velocity" or "fixing the radar guns behind home plate."