Coveted lefty Zito meets with Rangers

Coveted lefty Zito meets with Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Snow, sleet and ice hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Thursday.

So did free-agent pitcher Barry Zito and his agent, Scott Boras.

The Rangers are hoping that the inclement weather won't keep Zito from wanting to pitch at Ameriquest Field in Arlington. A source said Zito and Boras came in to meet with Rangers owner Tom Hicks and general manager Jon Daniels. Rangers officials declined comment but are definitely serious about Zito being their No. 1 free-agent target this winter.

As many as eight teams are pursuing Zito, and it's long been assumed that he wanted to pitch in either New York or Los Angeles. The Mets are considered one of the favorites because Zito is close to their pitching coach, Rick Peterson, who worked with him in Oakland.

But Zito also has a strong relationship with new Rangers manager Ron Washington, who spent the last 11 years as a coach with the Athletics. The two spoke right after Washington was named manager and Zito told him that he was strongly interested in playing for the Rangers.

The feeling is mutual. Zito and Boras met with the Rangers on Thursday and were planning to have dinner with Hicks on Thursday night.

Zito was 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 34 starts and 221 innings with the Athletics last year. Since the beginning of 2001, he is 95-59 with a 3.61 ERA. His 208 starts over the past six years are the most by any pitcher in the Major Leagues, and he is third in innings pitched.

The winter weather may have been ill-timed for Zito's visit, but he is well-acquainted with the summer conditions in Arlington. The southpaw has a career record of 11-1 with a 3.75 ERA at Ameriquest Field.

A winter visit by Boras and his client is usually a good sign for the Rangers. Boras brought Kevin Millwood last year, and he ended up signing a five-year, $60 million contract.

The Rangers still have interest in re-signing Vicente Padilla and have talked about other free-agent pitchers, including Ted Lilly and Miguel Batista. But Zito has been at the top of their list, and Hicks has shown a willingness to spend money on the right pitcher this winter. The Rangers submitted a $27 million bid in an effort to win the rights to Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The Boston Red Sox ended up winning that process. The Rangers are serious about winning this one and having Zito pitch for them next season -- and beyond.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.