Zito turns in another uneven outing

Zito turns in another uneven outing

MESA, Ariz. -- It was a tale of two outings yet again for A's comeback hopeful Barry Zito, who cruised through the beginning stages of his Tuesday outing against the D-backs before losing touch of his pitches toward the end of the 2 2/3-inning performance.

The southpaw, pitching in front of a home crowd at Hohokam Stadium, retired six of his first seven batters, including each of his first three on weak ground-ball outs and another on a strikeout with that sweeping curveball. But then Jake Lamb led off the sixth with a home run, the second long ball allowed by Zito in as many appearances, and he next walked Yasmany Tomas and surrendered a double to former Giants teammate Cody Ross.

A shallow fly ball followed, and Zito induced a run-scoring groundout from Oscar Hernandez, his final opponent.

"I felt pretty good today," said Zito, charged with two runs. "I just lost a little focus on a couple of hitters in my third inning."

The scene mirrored his spring debut last week, when he put away each of his first five batters, before boarding three of his final four.

"Just need to see some consistency," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "The first two [innings] good again. He got a couple pitches up in the last inning. Probably the first two innings the best stuff we've seen from him."

Melvin kept an eye on the radar gun, which routinely flashed 86 and even 87 at times during the outing, which concluded at about the 45-pitch mark.

"I feel good. My body's ready for any kind of workload, at least double that, maybe more," said Zito, "so I'm excited to keep getting the pitch count up."

It's unclear, though, if Zito will be given another start this spring. At this point, the club is preparing to line up the starters they see best suited in their rotation in preparation of Opening Day, and Zito's chances of jumping ahead of the younger arms and making the roster appear slim at this point.

"He knew coming in that the odds are a little longer than maybe some of the guys that we traded for," said Melvin, referring to Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, Chris Bassitt and the injured Sean Nolin. "But that's where performance for him comes into play. You never know where it's going to go as far as injuries, too. And with as many guys as we want to see start games against first lineups, it's tough to get consistent starts for him.

"If you pitch well, you have a chance. We didn't bring him in just to bring him in. We brought him in because we felt like the potential was there for him to possibly make the team."

"I'm not schooled on everybody in here," said Zito. "Work hard and do what you have to do, and the rest of that stuff will take care of itself."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.