As the calendar flips into May, the Giants starter with the lowest ERA is not Tim Lincecum. It’s not Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner.
It’s everybody’s favorite overpriced No. 5 starter: Barry Zito.
Zito left jaws on the floor when he authored a complete game shutout in his first start of the season in Colorado on April 9.
He deserves a lot of credit for not letting the wrath of the fans and media break him.
But some of the credit has to go to Giants backup catcher Hector Sanchez, who has become Zito’s personal backstop.
Zito and Sanchez met last year when the pitcher started a rehab assignment in San Jose. Zito, a former Cy Young award winner, was in his 12th major league season, and Sanchez was still learning English. Zito, though, told the OakTrib he saw something special in the 22-year-old catcher:
“Hector reminded me of Ramon Hernandez back from my days in Oakland, and I told him that. They’re from the same country [Venezuela]. I just like how he handled himself, how he called the game.”
Certain pitchers need to throw to a catcher that they trust. That’s not to say that Zito doesn’t trust Buster Posey, but Sanchez said he learned to catch Zito’s “Uncle Charlie” curveball:
“I didn’t know if I could catch it at first, but I found out it was easy because Barry can throw it to any part of the plate. The more I caught him, the more I learned about all of his pitches and how they work.”
Manager Bruce Bochy is a smart man. He’s not going to mess with a good thing. If Zito feels comfortable pitching to Sanchez, Bochy is going to use it to his advantage. The partnership allows him to get Sanchez in the lineup on a consistent basis, and give Buster Posey a regular day off.