Countdown to Spring Training: No. 2, Rotation

The Giants enter spring training not really worrying about the starting rotation. It’s set, barring any injury. That’s the only reason they signed Jeff Suppan to a minor-league deal.

Knock on wood, this is the 2011 starting rotation

RH Tim Lincecum

LH Barry Zito

RH Matt Cain

LH Jonathan Sanchez

LH Madison Bumgarner

Now, as much as some Giants fans would love to move Zito down in the rotation, the No. 2 spot is the best place for him. Putting the soft-throwing Zito in between the hard-throwing Lincecum and Cain makes sense.

And please, please, please, can we stop with the questions and comments around moving Zito and his contract. He’s not going anywhere. He’s set to make $18.5 million, $19 million and $20 million over the next three years. He’s got an $18 million option for 2014 that will vest if Zito pitches 200 innings in 2013 or averages 200 IPs over 2012-13 or 2011-13. The only good news is that Zito has not pitched more than 199.1 innings in any of his four seasons in San Francisco.

He’ll never be the kind of pitcher who warrants that kind of salary. But the Giants just need to hope he can be a functional starter.

But the bigger issue at hand is that Zito is the only returning starter who is not coming off a career-high for innings pitched in 2010 — regular and postseason.

So the concern is if any of the four starters will feel the effects of all those innings thrown in October.

Look for the Giants to be conservative with their pitchers this spring and early in the season. What the Giants should consider is treating Bumgarner like a true No. 5 starter in April.

The Giants have five scheduled off days in April, meaning they would only need a No. 5 starter three times in April — the opening homestand, the road trip to Arizona and Colorado, and the end-of-the-month trip to Pittsburgh and Washington.

They could skip Bumgarner’s turn in the rotation and throw him as a long man in between starts.

But we don’t expect the Giants to do this. This has not been Bruce Bochy’s M.O.  Hopefully this philosophy doesn’t come back to hurt the Giants

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