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Giants get big return on investment in Barry Zito

San Fancisco turns to left-handed veteran pitcher, who signed a $126-million contract six years ago, to keep their season alive in the National League Championship Series against St. Louis.

October 20, 2012|By Bill Shaikin

ST. LOUIS — Amid a sea of smiles in the visiting clubhouse, the widest one might have been worn by a silver-haired gentleman who did not play.

His name was Peter Magowan, the former managing partner of the San Francisco Giants. When the Giants committed $126 million to Barry Zito — at the time the richest contract ever for a pitcher — Magowan was the executive who granted the final blessing for the deal.

This is Zito's sixth season in San Francisco. The Giants made the playoffs once in his first five seasons, then left him off the postseason roster and won the World Series.

This time, the Giants turned to Zito to keep their season alive, not as their first choice. Zito delivered 7 2/3 shutout innings.

"This is what we were hoping we would get," Magowan said. "I'm just very, very happy for him."

If the Giants advance to the World Series, the game will live on in team lore, and Zito finally will be remembered for something beyond a dollar sign.

"Any time a player signs a contract like that, it puts a bull's eye on your back," Magowan said. "It's a lot to live up to."

Magowan said, "Everybody felt he was one of the best pitchers in baseball" when the Giants signed him — a point statistical analysts dispute — but said Zito has more than fulfilled the rest of the club's priorities.

"You have to believe in the character of the person," Magowan said. "Is he going to represent the organization well? Is he going to be durable? Can we count on him — for the intangibles, not just the statistics?"

Trending topic

The Giants improvised a Twitter pep rally Friday, encouraging fans to replace their personal picture with one of Zito. The #RallyZito movement gained worldwide attention on Twitter.

Zito said he appreciated the fan support but had not logged on to see for himself.

"I tried Twitter a couple years ago," he said, "and it was a pretty devastating experience for me."

Short hops

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval emerged from the trainer's room with his left knee and left foot heavily wrapped. Sandoval bruised the knee on a slide and fouled a ball off the foot, but he said he would be ready for Game 6. … The last time the Giants faced a 3-1 deficit in a postseason series? That would be 1937, when Lou Gehrig was the opposing first baseman. … For the first time in the series, Roberto Kelly coached first base for the Giants. Kelly suffered a concussion when he was hit in the head by a Buster Posey line drive Oct. 13, the day before Game 1.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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