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Zito: NY suits me

A's lefty agrees with Damon, Giambi that he would like atmosphere





Barry Zito (KRT Photo)

Apr 3, 2006







Newsday Staff Correspondent


April 5, 2006



OAKLAND, Calif. -- Barry Zito's former Athletics teammates Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon said they believe Zito, who's due to become a free agent after this season, would thrive in New York. Zito, while saying he's thinking only about the A's now, agreed.


"They know me," Zito said yesterday. "I like big situations. I like pitching in the playoffs."


Zito has enjoyed his time in Oakland, but in his seventh season, the clock appears to be ticking. "He's been in Oakland a long time," Damon said, "and he knows his days here are numbered." Zito said only that he intends to talk to A's ownership about his situation at year's end.


Zito's friends on the Yankees envision the Yankees and Mets being in the hunt for Zito, understandable in that he's a big winner who doesn't turn 28 until next month. Both teams have expressed interest in the star lefthander, who's 86-54 lifetime with a 3.55 ERA after the Yankees rocked him, 15-2, Monday night in the season opener.


Although yet another Yankee said he believes Zito favors the Yankees over the Mets, when that assessment was relayed to Zito, he didn't pick a favorite.


"New York is New York for me. I haven't thought about which I like better," said Zito, who is making $7.98 million in the last season of a complicated four-year deal that will wind up paying him $17.59 million.


"I haven't given [free agency] much thought. Right now, it's Oakland. I'm worried about focusing on pitching well and getting us to the playoffs."


Although the A's have let several stars leave via free agency or traded them within a year of it, Zito hasn't given up hope for them.


"We have new owners who have been trying to sign guys," he said. It's also possible that if the A's fall out of contention, he could be traded at midseason.


When asked, Zito made clear Giambi and Damon are right that he'd be comfortable in New York. "I like New York," Zito said. "I think it's a great place. Being from Southern California, it's a huge contrast. It's high energy. It's exciting to go there."


His free agency could be exciting, as well. Particularly in New York.


"He loves the city. He's got that mentality," Giambi said. "He knows what he needs to do. He has a good time. But he's pitched some great games at the right time. I think he would fit in well."


Said Damon: "He's a tough kid upstairs. New York would be a perfect place ... But that's something for Brian Cashman."


When asked, Cashman said it's too early to start thinking about it.


Assuming a typical season for Zito, who went 14-13 with a 3.86 ERA last season, he should top the $55-million, five-year deal A.J. Burnett received from the Blue Jays in the offseason.


If the Yankees hold an edge, it's because they consistently reach the playoffs, but the Mets may have an ace in the hole. Giambi and Damon mentioned Zito's close relationship with the Mets' Rick Peterson, of whom Zito said: "Pete's a great pitching coach. We thrived together. It's not something I'm thinking about now. If our paths crossed again, I know he's one of the great minds in the game."

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Guest gallup21

hmmm... zito in pinstripes, i think i can see it if he will pitch better than he did on monday night, which ive seen him do so yes, i think id like that and hes young lefty, something our starting rotation needs because this is randys last year in contract and hes our only starting lefty

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