SF@SEA: Zito goes five strong, strikes out seven

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When Barry Zito's in sync, you get the feeling that he could throw his curveball into a teacup. The left-hander showed signs of that precision Tuesday night in the Giants' 6-3 Cactus League loss to the Seattle Mariners.

Zito struck out seven in five innings, both spring highs, while allowing two runs on five hits. He frequently used the curveball, his signature pitch, to get ahead of and put away hitters. This was a conscious effort by Zito, who issued only one walk.

"I wanted to get a feel for it in this game," he said.

By contrast, Zito struck out six batters in his previous three starts.

"My timing was definitely better than it's been, at least for the last couple of outings," he said.

This outing also differed sharply from Zito's most recent appearance here, when he yielded five runs and seven hits in three innings to San Diego last March 31. Of the 69 pitches he threw in that game, just 34 were strikes. That concluded a spring in which Zito posted a 7.91 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .405 off him in six starts.

"Certainly I'm much more confident now," said Zito, the Giants' No. 4 starter who will pitch the April 5 home opener against St. Louis.

Mijares, Sanchez close in on return to action

NLCS Gm1: Mijares perfect in the top of the ninth

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In addition to All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval, whose elbow injury was revealed to also include bone spurs on Tuesday, two other members of the Giants' projected Opening Day roster are striving to recover from injuries, left-hander Jose Mijares and switch-hitting backup catcher Hector Sanchez.

Mijares, whose balky left elbow has limited him to two Cactus League appearances, will pitch batting practice Wednesday.

"This will be a big step for him," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Sanchez, who has a sore right shoulder, took batting practice right-handed Tuesday and will again hit right-handed in a Minor League exhibition game on Wednesday.

Bochy regarded Sanchez's ailment as the most extreme of the three.

"Hopefully by this weekend he'll be close to playing in a game," Bochy said.

The Giants have adequate replacements for Mijares and Sanchez. Left-hander Dan Runzler has performed well this spring, and veteran Guillermo Quiroz could fill in adequately behind the plate.