SAN FRANCISCO Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito?
That was the question on everyones mind, but Bruce Bochywasnt ready to announce a Game 4 starter ahead of Sundays NLCS opener againstthe St. Louis Cardinals.
The Giants manager did confirm that all five members of hisrotation would be on the series roster, however, and that both Lincecum andZito would lace up spikes in case theyre needed to pitch in relief during thefirst two games at AT&T Park.
More on that in a bit.
In other roster news, left-hander Jeremy Affeldt told Bochythat his jammed thumb had improved and there are no current plans to replacehim. The Giants could scale back to 11 pitchers, though, if they decide toreplace right-hander Guillermo Mota with a position player either pinch runnerFrancisco Peguero or catcher Eli Whiteside, whose presence would free up Bochyto use Hector Sanchez off the bench.
The Giants also could merely swap right-handers and stickJean Machi or Clay Hensley in Motas spot.
And what about Melky Cabrera, who has served all 50 games ofhis suspension? Was there any talk whatsoever about revisiting the decision tokeep him away from the team?
No, Bochy said. We crossed that bridge. Thats over.
Bochy pointed out that Gregor Blanco had a terrific series againstthe Cincinnati Reds, going 4 for 14 with a double, a home run, three runsscored and two RBIs. Bochy made it as clear as possible without issuing adictum: Blanco would be the everyday starter in left field. Not that there wasany doubt, since the Cardinals, like the Reds, will send all right-handedstarters against the Giants.
The roster is due at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Now back to the ZitoLincecum question:
Here was my thought: Keep Zito penciled in as the Game 4starter. That way, you reserve the right to use the Timmy tourniquet in reliefwhenever you need it. Having Lincecum in the bullpen gives Bochy a major trumpcard and itll give Cardinals manager Mike Matheny something toconsider as he makes his moves.
Besides, if Zito doesnt start, hes useless on the roster.And its not like the Giants have another difference-making arm that they wouldrelish putting in Zitos place. In terms of utility, this is the best way to line 'em up.
And yes, the Giants should be worried about needing Lincecum to cover innings. Game 1 starter Madison Bumgarner averaged barely five innings while posting a 5.93 ERA in his last six starts, and then survived just 4 13 innings against the Reds in the NLDS. Game 2 starter Ryan Vogelsong, despite pitching brilliantly in Cincinnati, nearly reached 100 pitches in five innings against the Reds, too.
Now, if the Giants werent compelled to use Lincecum in thefirst three games behind Bumgarner, Vogelsong and Matt Cain, then they could revisit the Game 4 decision. Theyd have theflexibility to start either Zito or Lincecum, depending on where the series stands. And theydprobably turn to Timmy, since the Cardinals were 31-17 against left-handedstarters (.276 average, tops in NL) and 57-57 against right-handers (.270,second in NL).
I laid out my plan for Bochy and he said, Yeah, thats beendiscussed, sure. And thats why (Lincecum) will be available the first twogames.
Its about keeping all your options open. Managers like havingoptions.