Zito set for season opener

Zito set for season-opening meeting with Yanks

A's lefty Barry Zito will make the second Opening Day start of his career Monday, when he squares off against fellow southpaw Randy Johnson and the visiting Yankees, and he's expecting the experience to be dramatically different from the first time he worked Oakland's regular-season lid-lifter.

It came last year at Baltimore, and Zito gave up four runs on six hits and three walks over six innings of a 4-1 loss. That day, Zito says, felt like any other day.

"It just didn't have that electricity you're used to feeling on Opening Day," he explains. "For one thing, we're in Baltimore, which was weird because they're not in our division, they're not a rival and we hardly ever open on the East Coast. I mean, you've gotta start the season on the road sometimes, but it would have seemed more like Opening Day if it was at least in one of the AL West cities. And the start time was weird, too. It was, like, 3 p.m., so it's not really a day game and it's not really a night game.

"Oh, and I [stunk] and we lost. So it pretty much [stunk] all the way around."

Electricity shouldn't be a problem Monday night at Oakland's McAfee Coliseum. The opener has been sold out for weeks, it's set for a 7:05 p.m. PT start, and it features the opposing team and player -- former Athletic Jason Giambi -- that A's fans most like to get after.

"It's gonna be nuts in there," Zito said. "I mean, Opening Night at home is cool as it is, but that it's against what some people are saying is going to be the best team in baseball definitely makes it more exciting."

As does the individual pitching matchup. Both hurlers are former Cy Young winners, and Johnson is virtually a lock for a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I really try not to think about who I'm pitching against, but I'm a fan of the game, too, and any time Randy pitches it's kind of an event," Zito says. "He's one of the best lefties of all time."

Zito isn't putting much thought into the notion that this likely will be his last Opening Day with Oakland, either. His contract is up at the end of the year, and the A's have all but annnounced that they won't be able to offer Zito what he'll be worth on the free-agent market next winter.

"Furthest thing from my mind," he says. "I'm thinking about April 3, and when that's over, I'll start thinking about my next start after that, and so on and so on. My focus is strictly on pitching well for the Oakland A's and trying to bring our fans the championship they deserve."

Pitching matchup
OAK: LHP Barry Zito
• 14-13, 3.86 ERA in 2005
• 0-1, 7.59 ERA in 2005 vs. NYY
• 2-7, 4.64 ERA lifetime vs. NYY

NYY: LHP Randy Johnson
• 17-8, 3.79 ERA in 2005
• 1-0, 4.50 ERA in 2005 vs. OAK
• 12-7, 2.83 ERA lifetime vs. OAK

  Athletics probable lineup
 Pos.Name
1.2BMark Ellis
2.CFMark Kotsay
3.SSBobby Crosby
4.3BEric Chavez
5.DHFrank Thomas
6.RFMilton Bradley
7.LFJay Payton
8.CJason Kendall
9.1BNick Swisher
PBarry Zito

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• OAK: KICU-36/Cable 6
• NYY: YES Network

On radio
• OAK: KYCY 1550-AM
• NYY: WCBS 880-AM

On deck
• Tuesday: Yankees at A's, 7:05 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Yankees at A's, 7:05 p.m. PT
• Thursday: A's at Mariners, 7:05 p.m. PT

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.