SAN FRANCISCO – Tim Hudson said he caught the news on TV right before leaving for AT&T Park on Wednesday: Barry Zito had been called up by the A’s.
The A’s move opened a possibility that has tantalized Bay Area baseball fans for weeks. Hudson, who intends to retire after this season, is lined up to make his last road start when the Giants visit the A’s on Sept. 26. There’s now a chance he could pitch against Zito, with whom Hudson and Mark Mulder formed the “Big Three” in the A’s rotation during the early 2000s.
“It’ll be cool just to be on the same field with him, whether we’re pitching against each other or not,” Hudson said. “It’ll be nice to see him in an A’s uniform again, and if it works out to where we’re competing against each other at the same time, I think it’d be really cool.
“It’d be special. I hope he probably feels the same way.”
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The A’s had said for weeks they did not intend to call up Zito, who last pitched in the majors with the Giants in 2013, but added him Wednesday to bolster their injury-decimated pitching staff. Oakland reportedly plans to use Zito, 37, out of the bullpen, but didn’t seem to rule out the possibility of the left-hander making a start.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he’d already received several texts Wednesday about the possibility of a Hudson-Zito matchup in Oakland – including one that suggested the teams waive the designated hitter for the day, so the two pitchers could bat against each other.
“It’d be a nice moment,” Bochy said of the pitching matchup. “I’m not sure if that can happen. … You’ve got to do what’s right. If it works out, that’s great. But if not, it’s still going to be special to see those two.”
Zito’s last major-league appearance came out of the bullpen with the Giants on Sept. 29, 2013, and was a sentimental occasion as fans stood and applauded the pitcher who made huge contributions to the Giants during their 2012 World Series run. Zito sat out the 2014 season before returning to the A’s on a minor-league deal last spring. He spent the whole season with Triple-A Nashville, finishing with an 8-7 record with a 3.46 ERA in 24 games, 22 as a starter.
Bochy called Zito’s return a “great story.”
“It’s about playing the game because you love it, because you have a passion for it,” said Bochy. “Did he need to go down to Triple A and travel through those rough trips you have to go on, whether it’s buses or getting up at 4 a.m. to catch a plane? No, he didn’t.
“But he loves baseball and still had it in his blood and wanted to give it one more shot, and felt like he still had the stuff to do it. Here he is in the big leagues, so good for him.”
Hudson said he hadn’t talked to Zito yet as of Wednesday afternoon, but that he, too, was “really happy” for Zito.
“It’s something I’m sure he appreciates,” Hudson said. “I think he deserves it, and I think the fans in Oakland will ultimately appreciate it as well.”
Even without Zito’s presence, the upcoming start in Oakland was going to be meaningful for Hudson. The 40-year-old is entering his final few weeks as a major-league player, and pitching at O.co Coliseum will mark a return to where Hudson started his career, which has gone on to encompass 221 wins, tied for 74th all-time.
“It’ll be a special game for me, personally,” Hudson said. “It’ll be really cool to see Zito over in the other dugout. If things work out, some way we were able to compete against each other for an inning or two, that’d be kind of cool, too.”
Hudson experienced some hip discomfort during his last outing Monday, but said it’s just his “old, tricky hip” acting up. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday, but both he and Bochy believe Hudson will make his next scheduled start Sunday against Arizona.
“I haven’t thrown a bullpen or anything,” Hudson said, “but I’m pretty sure things are going to be fine.”