Reason for optimism No. 7: Starting pitching mostly unscathed

San Francisco Giants' Oakland Athletics' during the inning of a baseball game Friday, June 17, 2011, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

With all the struggles and all the injuries the Giants have endured, their core strength — pitching — has largely gone unscathed.

The only starting pitcher to spend time on the disabled list this season is Barry Zito, and that may have been a blessing in disguise. (Some would argue there’s no disguise at all).

Zito was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in three starts before suffering a sprained foot and going on the DL.

That prompted the Giants to call up Ryan Vogelsong from Triple-A Fresno. All Vogelsong has done is go 4-1 with a 1.92 ERA in 10 starts for the Giants since Zito went on the shelf.

Zito is currently on a rehab stint with Fresno. He’ll make one more start next week in Fresno, then likely will be called off the DL to start one game of a doubleheader on June 28 against the Cubs. After that, no one knows.

Zito could pitch in long relief (mostly likely), could pitch as part of a six-man rotation (less unlikely) or could reclaim his rotation spot and send Vogelsong to the pen or Fresno (not likely at all).

While the Giants sort that out, the starting rotation has been great. The starters’ ERA of 3.31 ranks second in the NL behind the Phillies’ vaunted staff. Still, Giants’ starters have a losing record (22-24) because of a lack of offensive support, an inability to work deep into games (Giants starters rank 8th in the NL in innings pitched) and the Giants’ penchant for winning games late.

Still, the Giants have the second best starting ERA in the NL despite Madison Bumgarner’s rough start to the season, Jonathan Sanchez’s control problems and Tim Lincecum’s June swoon.

But they’ve stayed healthy, and that’s good news for Giants fans.

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