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03/03/2013 6:50 PM ET

This spring much better than last for ZIto

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The difference between Barry Zito this spring compared to last?

"Night and day," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I wouldn't even know where to begin on that."

Last spring's struggles -- which included a 7.91 ERA -- are well behind Zito, who tossed three shutout innings in San Francisco's 5-3 win over the D-backs Sunday at Scottsdale Stadium.

Zito allowed two hits -- a hard-hit single through the left side and a liner off third baseman Nick Noonan's glove -- and struck out two.

"Outstanding. Barry was sharp, had a good tempo out there, hit his spots," Bochy said. "It was a good effort by 'Z' and he's been throwing well since he's been here. He's on track."

Zito agreed, noting he spent last Spring Training experimenting as he looked to rebound from a sub-par 2011. This year, he's coming off a successful season and also said he feels good with his pitches and delivery.

"Last year, I was really tweaking a lot of mechanics and stuff," Zito said. "Right now, it's just more about getting as consistent as I can and not really tweaking -- just getting all my pitches working."

Ross receives warm ovation from Giants fans

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- D-backs outfielder Cody Ross received a warm ovation Sunday at Scottsdale Stadium, as the former Giant and 2010 postseason hero faced San Francisco for the first time since leaving after the 2011 season.

Ross, who signed autographs for a handful of Giants fans prior to the game, struck out looking at a cutter in his only at-bat against Barry Zito.

"I've been around a lot of people and a lot of Giants fans, and they're welcoming," Ross said. "Warm ovation when I ran out. It was a good feeling."

Ross, 32, signed a three-year deal with the D-backs this offseason, returning to the National League West after a one-year hiatus in Boston. The Scottsdale resident said he and his wife were ecstatic to stay at home.

Ross said he was hoping to land with a West Coast team, and even received a call from the Giants early in the free-agent process telling him to keep them in mind. He said he understood he likely was a safety net in case San Francisco didn't re-sign center fielder Angel Pagan -- which the Giants did, to a four-year deal -- but said he was intrigued by the possibility.

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind," Ross said.

Instead, he's with the only other team to win the NL West in the past three seasons. The D-backs clinched the 2011 division title by beating the Giants in late September at Chase Field and Ross remembers watching Arizona players celebrate on the field and later jumping into the stadium's pool.

Now, after seeing Arizona dethrone him and the rest of the 2010 World Series champions in 2011, Ross is hoping to be a part of a similar fate this year against the 2012 champs.

"I'm not going to lie, watching those guys celebrate knowing that we just got beat and we're not going to the playoffs after winning the World Series, that's not a very good feeling," Ross said of 2011. "I definitely want to jump in that pool now."

Worth noting

• Hard-throwing Heath Hembree closed Sunday's game, allowing a single off the mound and a double off the top of the left-field fence before retiring the next three batters. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was impressed with Hembree, the club's No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com.

"With two guys getting on, he showed good poise out there and made some pitches," Bochy said. "That's what you've got to do if you're going to be a closer or a setup guy and he did a nice job. He had good stuff and I liked the way he started mixing in his slider a little more."

• Bochy said third baseman Pablo Sandoval has lost 14 pounds since arriving to camp. He will remain on a program while with Team Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic.

• Buster Posey received his first start at first base on Sunday. The Giants plan to give Posey a similar split to last season, when he caught 112 games and played 29 at first.

• Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens' Netherlands squad lost, 8-3, to Chinese Taipei on Sunday, dropping it to 1-1 in pool play. The Netherlands faces Australia on Monday in the final game of the first round in Pool B.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.