Barry Zito can pitch well this year. He can pitch well next year. For that matter, Zito has the tools to pitch into the 2020s.

That opinion comes not from a Giants public-relations person or a team executive who has his thumbprints on Zito's seven-year, $126 million contract. Nor does it come from the offices of Zito's agent, Scott Boras.

This nervy statement was made by one of the most notable names in pitching over the past quarter-century, a man who has counseled Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Orel Hershiser, Robb Nen, Cole Hamels and other A-list pitchers.

He is Tom House, who pitched for the Braves, Red Sox and Mariners in the 1970s before he became a big-league pitching coach and earned a doctorate in psychology. At 64, he remains a sought-after private coach.

House knows eyes will roll when he or anyone else speaks glowingly of Zito, given the pitcher's history in the five seasons since he moved from Oakland to San Francisco.

"The skepticism is well-deserved," House said by phone from Los Angeles. "In any sport you're only as good as your last pitch, catch or throw. But I'm a firm believer that in today's world you can pitch into your 40s. Barry is 33. From what I know about him physiologically, there is no reason he can't be like Jamie Moyer and pitch into his 40s. What he has to do is optimize what he has as he goes through the aging process.