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02/15/07 6:14 PM ET

Zito surprises Giants with new delivery

Lefty ace goes back to collegiate-days pitching motion

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There was a minor shock wave rippling through Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday when new Giants pitcher Barry Zito and his $126 million arm stepped on a bullpen mound and ... whoa.

Completely different style.

The left-hander started the session measuring the distance from the rubber to a line he drew in the dirt, then with feet about shoulder-width apart, bouncing slightly he took a large step backward to gain momentum, pushed off hard using his now-stronger legs and finished off with a much longer stride.

Please explain, Mr. Zito, as this caught even pitching coach Dave Righetti by surprise in what he termed a "going from one extreme to the other" alteration.

"I'm just trying to measure my stride to get out there a little farther," said Zito, who also duly videotaped the stint as he's done for the past 10 years. "With the bounce, I'm trying to take my weight down the mound and use my legs more."

The seven-year veteran has been highly successful using his previous motion -- he won the American League Cy Young Award in 2002 after winning 21 games -- but while striving to always improve, Zito felt this move was a necessity.

Zito called it an old-school style, one he used in college, and while Righetti laughed that watching film of Zito last season in Oakland was a "waste of time," Righetti expressed concern that the new delivery could be problematic, especially due to different, shorter mounds around the National League.

"With that backward step, he could wind up at second base," quipped Righetti. "He may not pitch that way, but we'll find out. That will wear him down on different mounds, and it's going to be tough.

"He's a good athlete, and to me it's all about making his pitches. If he loses his curveball ... which he could because he's throwing from a different angle now instead of straight up as before. Now he's way out there."

"We'll see," added Righetti, "how his groin is tomorrow."

Zito said he's been throwing the new way for a few months and hopes the new delivery will translate into more power, more velocity, pitches breaking closer to the plate after a longer stride.

But why the backward step?

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"That creates momentum," Zito explained. "Before, I used to stop and then go and create momentum from nothing. That's the way I used to pitch, then slowly got into a different thing."

Righetti noted former ace Jason Schmidt "wanted to change something in every game ... and he was one of the greatest pitchers we had," and although Zito told the coach in the offseason he was altering his delivery, Righetti said Thursday's performance was an eye-opener.

"Certainly not to that extent," Righetti said of the change.

New Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the chances of Zito being the Opening Day starter this season were still good, adding ballplayers are always looking to improve, tweak their game.

"Guys tinker with their deliveries and swings," said Bochy. "Tiger Woods changed his swing. It's ongoing, and you never think you've arrived. Barry is going to try this for a bit, and I'll talk with him where he is about this."

Bochy, at least on Thursday, said he doesn't see Zito's style change as an issue.

"He broke it out today and we hadn't seen it," he said. "But Barry has his reasons."

Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.