Either way, he's here now and so are the Giants, who steered clear from elimination Tuesday in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Reds with a 2-1 victory in 10 innings.
Now it's up to Zito, who gets the start in Game 4 on Wednesday (4 p.m. ET on TBS), to keep the Giants' postseason hopes alive in another elimination game.
"I'm just happy Barry's going to get a chance to pitch," said Giants righty Ryan Vogelsong, who allowed one run in five innings in Game 3. "Especially after how he was left off the playoff roster two years ago. I'm really happy for Barry."
Say what you will of the success Giants pitchers Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner had in the regular season -- both, however, lost earlier in this series -- but Zito rates as the most successful pitcher these Giants have had since the start of August.
Going into Wednesday's game, the Giants have won each of the last 11 games Zito has started. He's 7-0 in that stretch with a 3.92 ERA.
Better still for the Giants -- who have shown their offensive deficiencies in this series -- Zito's teammates are averaging 7.40 runs per start in that 11-game stretch. For a team that seldom scored runs for him early in his tenure with the Giants, the offense is making up for lost time.
"The pitching gets all of the attention, but after we lost [Melky] Cabrera, even more we stepped up the offense," Zito said. "It's been impressive watching the guys get runs across."
While he's certainly pitched better of late, Zito doesn't have a good track record at Great American Ball Park. He is 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in six career starts in Cincinnati.
Zito won 15 games during the regular season, the most games he's won in a single season since he won 16 with the A's in 2006. This is the first time in his six seasons with the Giants that he's posted a winning record.
"The last month of the season, it's been great," Zito said. "Just personally, I've been able to stay focused and make my pitches and not let things go fast around me.
"When the game goes fast is when we have problems out there. I've kept my focus pitch-to-pitch, been productive, and it's what I look to do tomorrow night."
Don't think that Zito's manager, Bruce Bochy, hasn't noticed.
"He's been doing a better job of pitching, throwing strikes, hitting the spots," Bochy said. "I think more than anything, his confidence has grown. His location has been so much better this year."
And now, after missing the big postseason party of 2010, Zito will get a postseason start, his first since his last season with the A's in 2006.
"It feels great, because being a player in the Major Leagues, we want to help our team the best we can," he said. "It was tough in 2010 watching the boys go all the way and not being able to help out with that. So much a part of the team camaraderie is wanting to contribute."