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Notes: Zito upset about delivery reports

Notes: Zito upset about delivery reports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Zito was miffed.

"Smoke was coming out of my ears," Zito said on Saturday after watching a TV sportscaster state -- without elaborating -- that the veteran pitcher had completely changed his delivery last Thursday during a workout at Scottsdale Stadium.

It was true, to a certain extent, with the new hurler dramatically altering his style in that stint, but Zito indicated that the change wasn't set in stone, that the initial "bounce" on the mound and backward step was an attempt to incorporate new elements in his pitching.

Still, pitching coach Dave Righetti expressed concern that Zito could hurt his arm with a sudden change in style -- "He's gone from one extreme to the other," said Rags -- and that caught the media's attention.

In Saturday's workout, the 28-year-old left-hander looked more as he did the past seven seasons with Oakland, eliminating the elements of his previous bullpen effort.

"It's all a work in progress," he said. "I think what happened there was a cross-section that got blown out of proportion. What you saw today is definitely what you'll see in the [regular season]."

Admittedly, signing a $126 million contract for seven seasons brings more attention and scrutiny, but Zito concentrates solely on pitching, with the showbiz swirl of publicity little more than a distraction.

"It's kind of like a flashlight," he said. "Everyone sees the light and comments on that, but the batteries are essential, and that's my job."

Zito added 10 pounds of core muscles, focusing on his legs, during the offseason to get stronger and decided to tweak his style months ago to improve his delivery, fine-tuning one that won him a Cy Young Award in 2002 for the A's.

"It's hard to make subtle adjustments in a pitching delivery, because you're going to fall back into the groove of what you were originally doing," he said. "If you make a huge adjustment [to test], you might bring 30 percent of the tweaking back into the original format.

"That's progress."

Righetti's initial shock and anxiety over Zito's "new look" has softened, as Saturday's bullpen work showed that the pitcher will mainly feature his normal delivery.

Former Angels and Blue Jays catcher Bengie Molina, who witnessed Zito in action during American League play, caught the southpaw for the first time in camp on Saturday and liked what he saw.

"Let me put it this way -- very simple," said Molina. "I caught the curveball today, and now I know why I couldn't hit it. I won't be as mad now. I don't think anybody throws a curveball like him, top to bottom. It's straight down, and he throws it nice and easy, effortlessly, and the ball get there.

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"He was throwing the ball where we wanted it, low. Now he's just getting his arm loose and [ready] for the games in spring. Today his delivery was about halfway from before, so it was pretty normal."

Skipper's take: Manager Bruce Bochy says it's noticeable that the pitchers are in good shape entering camp -- leaner, stronger -- but the staff won't overdo the workouts.

"Like Armando [Benitez], you have to be careful with them so they won't break down during the season," said Bochy. "Benitez says he feels good and he'll throw tomorrow. The knee is good, but he's somebody we'll check on daily."

Second-year player Kevin Frandsen will play a utility role this season, playing all infield spots except first base, but he's also been taking fly balls in camp. A future outfielder?

"He'll get ground balls and flies, and it's good for him to get some work with those guys," said Bochy. "It gives us a lot of options."

Bochy likes what he sees from Jonathan Sanchez, expected to battle veteran Russ Ortiz for the fifth starter's spot.

"He's an impressive kid with a good arm," he said. "He has an easy delivery, and he's a very confident kid. He's going to have a nice career."

Nen still a Giant: Longtime Giants closer Robb Nen, who retired two years ago with a torn rotator cuff, will rejoin the club as a special assistant. Spokesman Blake Rhodes said that Nen's duties will be officially announced soon.

Nen, 36, is San Francisco's all-time leader, with 206 saves, and he was especially effective in 2002, when his 43 saves and 2.20 ERA helped propel the Giants to the World Series.

Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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