Zito's Star Fades In Spotlight

Barry Zito talks frequently about the importance of pounding the strike zone, not fearing the opponent hitters, trusting his stuff.

It's almost as if he needs to remind himself. About a half-dozen times a year, Barry Zito is too fine -- nibbling on the corners, not throwing many strikes -- and the results are rarely pretty.

Such was the case Monday night. Zito went to a 3-2 count to six of the first 12 batters he faced and walked four. The 13th batter was Alex Rodriguez, who unloaded on a grand slam to give the Yankees a 7-0 lead in the second inning en route to a 15-2 rout of the A's on Opening Night.

"You know it in the sense of intellectual knowledge," Zito said.

"But sometimes you get out there and it doesn't go as planned. I just have to be tougher out there."

The 1 1/3-inning outing was the shortest of Zito's career. As a result, manager Ken Macha had to use long reliever Kirk Saarloos and three more relievers, leaving him short-handed in the bullpen after just one game.

Zito is 2-8 with a 5.38 ERA in 14 career regular-season starts against the Bronx Bombers. The losses, which include six straight, and ERA are his worst against any team.

"When you're trying to be too fine, it doesn't matter who the lineup is," Zito said. "I've had some rough ones against Tampa and some teams that are under .500."

REPLAY: Alex Rodriguez's grand slam was one of 17 Yankees hits in New York's 15-2 rout of Oakland in the season opener Monday.
Former A's center fielder Johnny Damon went 3-for-7 in his Yankees debut, and Hideki Matsui added four hits, including a homer, and four RBIs.

Of five Oakland pitchers used, only right-hander Kiko Calero escaped without allowing a run.

Monday's Notebook

--For the second straight year, SS Bobby Crosby left midway through the season opener. A year ago, it was significant pain in his ribs (which turned out to be broken). This year, it was after getting spiked in the glove hand while tagging out Robinson Cano on a steal attempt.

The good news for the A's is this isn't too serious. Crosby missed two months last year. He will be examined by Dr. Jerrald Goldman on Tuesday and probably won't play. But the A's hope he can play Wednesday.

--DH Frank Thomas yanked a Randy Johnson pitch into the second deck, but just foul, then went down and got a low fastball and planted it over the 362-foot sign in left-center in his first at-bat with the A's. Thomas became the ninth Oakland player to hit a home run in his first at-bat and 14th player to homer in his first game. It was Thomas' 449th career home run, which ties him for 28th on all-time list with Jeff Bagwell and Gary Sheffield.

--OF Jay Payton (.261, two homers) had decent numbers against Yankees LHP Randy Johnson, which helped him receive the Opening Night assignment. Payton finished 1-for-4. Manager Ken Macha said 1B Dan Johnson will start Tuesday, which moves Nick Swisher to the outfield.

--3B Eric Chavez made his eighth consecutive Opening Day start, which is one behind Sal Bando (1968-76) and Terry Steinbach (1988-96) for the most in A's history.

--RHP Huston Street is the youngest player on the A's Opening Night roster at 22 years, 244 days. The A's opened the season without a rookie on the roster for the first time since 2001. The A's average age is 28.77 years, the fourth-youngest in the majors, according to Stats, Inc.

--LHP Brad Halsey, who was traded from the Yankees to Arizona in the Randy Johnson deal 15 months ago, made his A's debut in spring training against Arizona. Then he made his A's debut in a real game against the Yankees on Monday night, in a game Johnson started. He hit two batters and allowed a run on a hit and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.

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