SAN FRANCISCO — Before Tuesday's game, manager Bruce Bochy sent pitching coach Dave Righetti to find left-hander Barry Zito and deliver a special piece of news. Zito, nearing the end of a rocky seven-year run with the Giants, would make one final start at AT&T Park.
"He was pumped," Bochy said. "He's excited about this start."
So were Zito's rotation mates, particularly Tim Lincecum, who has turned to Zito while dealing with his own ups and downs over the past two seasons.
"I can sympathize and emphasize with him because of what I've been through, and seeing him always stick with it and never get discouraged was pretty special," Lincecum said. "Obviously, I've had a special relationship with Barry the last couple of years. It's going to be kind of a bittersweet situation to see him pitch this last game."
Zito, 4-11 with a 5.91 ERA, has twice been pulled from the rotation this season. He has not pitched since Sept. 2, but Bochy made the decision to give Zito one last shot in orange and black. The Giants will not pick up the $18 million option on Zito's seven-year, $126 million deal, instead paying a $7 million buyout.
The contract was panned right away, and Zito has never come close to living up to it. He is 62-80 in seven seasons, with a 4.63 ERA. When he takes the mound Wednesday, Zito will have lost his past eight decisions.
That hardly mattered in the Giants clubhouse on Wednesday, as players said they were looking forward to seeing Zito pitch one last time. That feeling is as much because of the way Zito has handled himself off the field as on.
"There's been a lot of stuff he could have complained about and I've never heard him say a negative word about anything," said Madison Bumgarner, who has the locker next to Zito's. "He's a lot tougher than people realize. He's a gentleman in the game, but also a competitor."
Asked for his favorite Zito memories, Bochy talked of informing Zito that he would be left off the 2010 postseason roster, only to hear that the left-hander threw a bullpen session the next day.
"He wanted to keep himself ready," Bochy said, smiling.
Zito stayed ready last season, too, and when the Giants needed a win in Game 5 of the NLCS, Zito turned in the performance of a lifetime. He pitched 7ï»¿2/3 scoreless innings in St. Louis to keep the Giants alive, and gave up just one run over 5ï»¿2/3 innings while winning Game 1 of the World Series five days later.
"That was really special," Lincecum said. "Living up to expectations is one of those things that he hasn't really been trying to worry about. He's been trying to live up to his own, and those are usually harder for most people. He's found the inner peace that you kind of look for in this game.
"The work, that definitely doesn't go unnoticed to any extent. Players definitely look up to him and the kind of player he is on and off the field. He's such a standup guy with all the things he does in the community and with his charities. It's kind of hard not to look up to him."