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While some teams are still trying to round out their starting rotations, the Giants know exactly who will take the ball for them on the fifth day. Meanwhile, the Dodgers must sort through an embarrassment of spoils to settle on a fifth starter.
Barry Zito was spectacular during two of his three World Series starts, but it would be a stretch to expect him to be ready to pitch like that for an entire season in 2013.
Other than a possible confidence boost from his postseason performance, the only lift Zito could gain would be the fact that he is finally entering the last year of his much-maligned contract. But neither point is likely to translate to a Zito renaissance.
The Giants know what they have in Zito: an unspectacular but reliable pitcher at the back of their rotation.
The Dodgers' situation is not nearly as clear.
If Chad Billingsley’s health holds up, the Dodgers will probably have the best fifth starter in baseball. But that’s a sizable “if.”
Billingsley, a right-hander, missed the last five weeks of the season due to a partially torn ligament in his throwing elbow. He has avoided Tommy John surgery thus far and has looked healthy while throwing to batters this offseason. But relying on a balky elbow ligament to hold up is risky.
If Billingsley stays healthy, the advantage here goes to the Dodgers. If he doesn’t, and the Dodgers turn to Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly or Chris Capuano, Los Angeles probably still has the advantage, since each of these three posted a sub-4.00 ERA last season. Zito hasn't done that since 2006, his last season in Oakland.
Harang was serviceable for the Dodgers last year, and solid for the Padres the year before, but he was terrible for several years prior to that while in Cincinnati. Bigger ball parks and weaker lineups have helped. Lilly is coming off a shoulder injury, though he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. Capuano had a career year with the Dodgers in 2012.
Chances are that one or two of these players will be traded, but that would still leave the Dodgers with plenty of depth.