PHILADELPHIA – Has Barry Zito made his last start as a Giant?
Perhaps not. There’s two months of baseball to be played, and teams need innings from a lot of sources. Besides, after enduring seven years of his ups and downs, releasing him now would be an unceremonious way to wave goodbye to a pitcher who helped them win a World Series last October.
But will Zito make his next start Sunday at Tampa Bay?
That's an easier question to answer. And all signs point to “not on your life.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy already spoke to Zito on Thursday, telling him to be prepared to pitch in relief if needed at Philadelphia. Right-hander Guillermo Moscoso is available as well.
If Moscoso isn’t used, he’s expected to start in Zito’s place against the Rays, who are 23-11 against left-handed pitchers – the best winning percentage in the majors.
The Giants, as most everyone knows, are 0-9 in Zito’s road starts. He’s got a 9.97 ERA away from AT&T Park.
Bochy said he would announce a Sunday starter on Friday; he also reiterated that Ryan Vogelsong would make his scheduled rehab start for Double-A Richmond on Sunday. If all goes well, Vogelsong would return to the Giants rotation on Aug. 9.
Left-hander Mike Kickham, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning for Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday, is not a candidate, either. But Bochy said he was happy for the 25-year-old.
“It’s been an up and down year for him,” Bochy said. “It should help his confidence.”
What about Zito’s confidence? The left-hander said he would hold off making any comments until he knew what was going on.
In other news, Bochy said he plans to rotate Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Marco Scutaro through the DH slot during the series at Tropicana Field. Posey and Scutaro require regular rest and Sandoval could use a day off his feet after bruising his heel Wednesday night.
Where does that leave Brandon Belt and Brett Pill?
Well, you knew Belt would sit again Thursday against left-hander Cole Hamels. The Rays will go right-left-right with Chris Archer, David Price and Roberto Hernandez in Tampa. It’s possible that Bochy could keep running Pill out there. He’s 6 for 9 in two games since returning from Fresno, where he’s been ripping up PCL pitching all season.
“You have a hot bat and we’re having trouble scoring runs,” Bochy said. “It’s hard to take that bat out. That’s the reality.”
Roger Kieschnick had a hot bat in his debut Wednesday night, too, but he’s on the bench against Hamels in favor of right-handed hitter Jeff Francoeur. No, Francoeur does not represent the future in any respect. But Bochy said Hamels has been tougher against left-handers.
[REWIND: Roger Kieschnick's path to the bigs]
Actually, the difference isn’t all that vast. Lefties are hitting .239 and righties are hitting .261. But when you’re coming off a strong debut, you want to be able to carry over some momentum and confidence. And facing one of the more accomplished left-handers in the game might not be the easiest thing in your second big league start.
Jeremy Affeldt played some light catch in an indoor cage. He’s still a ways away from returning from his strained groin, though.
I finally remembered to ask Hunter Pence about President Obama’s comments on kale, and how it’s OK to have a hot dog every once in awhile. Pence said as delicious as a giant plate of kale might be, he wholeheartedly agrees with the Commander-In-Chief.