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You just know that there’s a National Enquirer reporter who is about ready to strap on a vest bomb if he’s assigned one more Britney Spears story. The rest are probably cool with the endless stories and speculation, but there’s just that one guy who can’t…take…another…word…. There just aren’t any fresh angles.

That’s me, except the role of Britney Spears is played in my little world by Barry Zito. Bloated pill-popping and drunken driving = reduced velocity. Seemingly neglectful parenting = $126M. The "Leave Britney alone!"-kid = Mychael Urban. The parallels are there if you stretch them past any reasonable point.

Long story short: I didn’t think I was going to do another Zito post in 2008. I was done. But just when I thought I was out, he pulls me back in. From the moment Zito put on the french-vanilla jersey, he was an average-to-awful pitcher who erred on the side of awful. Saturday’s game, though, was fantastic. It was absolutely fantastic. His off-speed pitch made Dodger hitters look foolish up and down the lineup. It was the first time in a long while that I could actually see how there could possibly be hope for the Zito situation. Before, there were just vague ifs. As in…

You know, if his velocity comes back, or if his control improves, or if he works with Rick Peterson again, or if he goes back to the minors to regain his confidence, or if his breaking balls regain their snap, or if he drinks a concoction of ground rhinoceros horn and mandrake roots and says the name "Tom Glavine" into the mirror three times, or if….

With this start, though, we have a template. The fastball was 86- or 87-mph. The curve and change moved as they were supposed to, and they were spotted well. He got ahead of hitters, and his control was fine. That’s a laundry list of how Barry Zito could be a non-issue – if not an asset – in the future.

Likely? Maybe not. But at least the explanations for how it could be likely aren’t grounded in wishes and unicorn dust. Zito has had low-walk, high-strikeout games before (one in Florida and one against Colorado, for example), but nothing this season.

Zito will never ever ever ever ever be worth the $350M he’s paid for every pitch he throws. But it isn’t greedy to hope he’ll be Kirk Rueter circa ’98. Saturday’s start made me hope that maybe there’s a chance that the possibility isn’t too outlandish that some sort of sustainable improvement is within the theoretical capabilities of Barry Zito.

You know, I’ll take that. Beats the options we had a month ago.