Zito's back! (Or is he?)

Did you hear the news? Barry Zito's back. No, really this time:

    "It's just a matter of getting fed up with going out and pitching below my potential," Zito said after throwing seven shutout innings in Wednesday's 1-0 win over the Padres. "I'm going to keep fighting."
    Zito's new outlook might be just what manager Bruce Bochy ordered.

    "I think he's put everything behind him, and he's had a different attitude from the get-go this season," Bochy said. "Even after his first game, he came in and said, 'Hey, I'm going to be fine.'

    "I believe that."


    "It's important to have good outings at all times, so I didn't try to come out here and do something different or special, but it's nice to give them a reason to get fired up," said Zito, who knows he has too often given fans reasons to be fired up about the wrong things -- poor pitching, jeans advertisements and late-night Twittering. "You've got to earn respect, and I'm in the process of doing that."

    That process actually started midway through last season, when Zito made some changes in his mechanics. After losing 12 games and posting a 5.62 ERA at the All-Star break, he went 6-5 with a 4.59 ERA in the second half, including a 2-1, 3.15 September.

    It continued during the offseason, when he joined closer Brian Wilson in a new workout regiment. Even after a couple of disastrous innings in Zito's first two starts, he believed that the work would show dividends. Then, came Wednesday's dominance.

From April 16 through May 7, 2007, Zito went 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA.
From August 2 through Sept. 14, 2007, Zito started nine games and posted a 2.61 ERA.

From May 7 through May 29, 2008, Zito started five games and posted a 3.49 ERA.

And yes, last September Zito posted a 3.15 ERA in five starts.

I'm pulling for the guy. Unless you just absolutely hate the Giants, there's no healthy reason to take any pleasure in Zito's struggles since getting his $126 million. It's not like he isn't trying. But let's hold off on the "Barry's back!" stories until he puts, say, two whole good months together. Getting people excited about one good start is almost as cruel as tormenting the guy because a baseball franchise did something patently stupid.