Strong first half earns Zito third All-Star nod
A's southpaw given nod by squad's manager Guillen
OAKLAND -- If this turns out to be Barry Zito's last season, or last month, with the Athletics, he'll have gone out in All-Star style.Major League Baseball announced on Sunday that Zito, with a deceptive 8-5 record and a 3.28 ERA, will be Oakland's lone representative in the Midsummer Classic on July 11 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. "Obviously, it's a huge honor," Zito said. "But I feel like we have a handful of guys worthy of representing us, so this is more of a team thing in my mind." Named to the American League team by All-Star manager Ozzie Guillen, Zito, in the last year of his contract with the A's and regularly mentioned in trade rumors this time of year, will be making the third All-Star appearance of his seven-year career. He also made the AL team in 2002, on his way to being named the AL Cy Young Award winner, and again in 2003. "I don't think you can compare one to the other," he said. "From the day you start playing this game, being one of the best is one of your goals, so any time you get acknowledged by other people as one of the best is special in its own way." Zito, who said his parents, Joe and Roberta, will make the trip to Pittsburgh, hopes to see a little more action this time around. In 2002 in Milwaukee, he was limited to one-third of an inning because he'd made his final start of the first half on the Sunday before the All-Star Game. He worked the previous Sunday in 2003, too, and didn't get into the game at all. His last scheduled start of the first half this year is on Friday. "It'd be nice to get at least an inning in," he said. "I'll definitely be a lot more fresh than I was in '02 and '03." Zito, who turned 28 in May, will be Oakland's only All-Star, making it consecutive seasons in which only one A's player was picked. Last year, it was righty reliever Justin Duchscherer, and he, too, was a manager's selection. "I'd have liked to have seen more," said A's manager Ken Macha. "But Barry's been tremendous. We've leaned on him pretty hard, and he's responded." Zito was hammered by the Yankees on Opening Day, allowing seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings, but over 17 subsequent starts, he's 8-4 with a 2.77 ERA. In May, he went 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA, and he's pitched at least six innings in all but two starts. "Consistency is part of what makes Barry so good," said pitching coach Curt Young. "Since that first game, he's just been everything you think of when you think of a successful pitcher. He's confident, he attacks hitters, he has great stuff and he gets us deep into games."
He does not, however, always get rewarded for his efforts. Zito has been backed with three runs or less in 11 of his 18 starts, and in his five losses this year, the A's have scored a total of three runs.On Sunday, he took the mound less than an hour after getting the All-Star news and gave up one earned run over 8 2/3 innings, but he lost, 3-1, after an error led to two unearned runs for Arizona in the top of the ninth. "He's been ridiculously good all year," said A's catcher Jason Kendall. "And if we'd score a few runs for him more than once every five or six games, he could have 11, 12 wins by now." "He's definitely deserving," added outfielder Mark Kotsay. "He'll represent us well, no question. He's the leader on this staff, and he's been the best, most consistent guy on this club." Zito said he was surprised to hear that none of his teammates will be joining him in the Steel City. On the All-Star ballot distributed to players, coaches and managers, Zito said he voted for three Athletics: third baseman Eric Chavez, outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher and closer Huston Street. "Street's been unreal, Chavy was huge for us early and Swish has hit some big home runs for us and been pretty consistent all year," Zito explained. "We've had a lot of guys contributing at [an All-Star] level, if you ask me."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.