PHOENIX -- The Giants have taken long looks at Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson. Conner Menez got three starts after barely spending any time in Triple-A. Logan Webb may come up Saturday after just one start for the River Cats.
Perhaps the answer to the rotation's question marks will be a young pitcher. But it might be the one who was a rookie last year, not this season.
Dereck Rodriguez returned to the rotation Thursday night and turned in a gem, throwing seven dominant innings to spark a 7-0 win over the Diamondbacks. The Giants pulled even with Arizona at 61-61, 3 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot. On the first night of a nine-game trip that may define their season, they lined up behind a pitcher who was their best story a year ago.
"He came up very determined to show that this is where he belongs," manager Bruce Bochy said. "And hopefully this is what he can build on."
The staff has been looking for someone else to take off and join Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija atop the rotation. But for Rodriguez, the last few months have simply been about finding any form of consistency.
A member of the rotation out of camp, Rodriguez was pulled from it in May and has bounced back and forth since. He had made 10 starts and nine relief appearances entering Thursday, getting recalled from Triple-A four separate times. The yo-yo has frustrated Rodriguez at times, but his old swagger was shining from the first inning against the Diamondbacks.
Rodriguez didn't allow a hit until the fourth and gave up just three in all. He went seven shutout innings in what statistically was by far his best start of the season.
"I felt good," he said. "Tonight I just wanted to attack and go after them."
Rodriguez's stuff was up a tick and he said he focused on throwing strikes first and foremost. He had all four pitches working as he strutted on and off the mound, one quick inning after the next.
Rodriguez became the first Giants starter in a month other than Bumgarner or Samardzija to pick up a win, and he should get a few more chances to keep it going. The rotation's vacancy sign has been up for several days, and this is the kind of performance that should have Rodriguez back at the front of the line when it comes to the staff's younger pitchers.
This season will always be one Rodriguez remembers for the hard times. But he's trying to end on a high note and keep the Giants in the race.
"I'm not the first or last to have a season like this," he said. "You learn from it, move on, and don't let it happen again."