Barry Zito headed to Triple-A Nashville to continue having some 'fun'

ESPN logo
Sunday, April 5, 2015

OAKLAND, Calif. -- You bet, Barry Zito is accepting his assignment to Triple-A Nashville.

The 36-year-old left-hander didn't work his way back from a year out of baseball only to stop his comeback bid now just because he didn't make the Oakland Athletics' opening-day roster.

"I didn't stay in shape for a year to come back here and go all in and go sit at home. Why should I rush to go sit at home?" Zito said. "A lot of the retired guys that I've talked to that I've played with over the years, I think they ended up bitter in the end and they kind of rushed into that. A lot of the guys I talked to regretted that they didn't just keep going, put your pride aside and go play baseball."

Zito was reassigned to minor league camp Saturday after finishing up a solid spring that opened eyes. He said after the final exhibition game he would head to Nashville -- he's never been -- with his wife and young son.

"Yeah, I'm going to take it," said Zito, sporting a T-shirt that read "Be Your Self."

"I'm going to just continue to go have some fun pitching. That's been my goal all along."

He had already texted a few music buddies and looks forward to returning to the A's if he can. Zito pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning Saturday in Oakland's 2-1 loss to San Francisco, where Zito got a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season to leave his original A's club.

"What a great person. He's just such an unbelievable person," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said.

Zito has spent time around Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson this spring, and uses him as an example.

"I look at what Rickey Henderson did," Zito said. "Rickey was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he didn't stop playing baseball just because a team didn't want him. I think that's really inspiring. All of us non-first-ballot Hall of Famers shouldn't have more pride than Rickey."

A's manager Bob Melvin had never met Zito before he signed a minor league contract this year.

"I can't say enough. I didn't know him. I had never even met him before," Melvin said. "I'm a huge fan now. He works as hard as a rookie does, he prepares as hard as a rookie does. We put him in some uncomfortable situations, whether it's relieving that he's never really done before, and all he did was go out there and perform. You tip your hat to what he's accomplished for us."