With Barry Zito relegated to the disabled list with a sprained foot, the Giants have have been tasked with filling his spot in the rotation. The past couple weeks San Francisco has been relying on Ryan Vogelsong, who earned his first major league win in in six years when he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates (his former team) on April 28.
Vogelsong certainly deserves his shot, especially considering his success in his appearances since being called up (he pitched 4.2 scoreless innings in relief before his start), but depending on how long Zito will be out, there are some other options to be considered in determining what to do with the fifth spot in the rotation.
The Giants could put one of their relief pitchers in the starting spot, and the most likely option to come out of the bullpen is Guillermo Mota. Although he will not be able to pitch deep into games, he has had success in past long relief appearances. This may be a short-term solution, but that does not mean it is not viable.
The Giants could call up a starting pitcher from the minors. Some in-house options include Henry Sosa and Clayton Tanner, both of whom are already on San Francisco’s 40-man roster.
Sosa has made appearances in AAA as both a starter and a reliever with acceptable—but not overly impressive—results. Once known for his blazing fastball, he seems to have lost some of the velocity he had in his early minor league career. He was invited to spring training this year, where he threw just over two scoreless innings.
Tanner is currently pitching for the AA Richmond Squirrels. A veteran of two spring trainings, the lefty does not strike out a lot of batters, but he does get batters to ground out.
When Zito initially went on the disabled list, off days in the schedule allowed the Giants to skip his spot in the rotation. The Giants went with a four-man starting rotation and Vogelsong pitched out of the bullpen.
Both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have pitched well this year, but Jonathan Sanchez has been inconsistent, and Madison Bumgarner is still looking for his first win of the season, so this option is not ideal.
More importantly, it is not sustainable, as the four-man rotation only works if the schedule allows it, and the Giants are not blessed with many off days in May. This could be a short-term solution, but if Zito takes much longer to rejoin the Giants, San Francisco needs another option.
The Giants could always trade for another arm. But with rumors recently emerging regarding the Giants making an offer to the Mets for shortstop Jose Reyes and some glaring offensive inadequacies with the current roster, trading for an pitcher does not seem to be a priority for San Francisco.
There is no better option than Barry Zito himself, but the Giants need the Oakland Barry Zito, not the San Francisco Barry Zito. After signing a seven-year, $126 million deal, Zito has been disappointing for the Giants, as the pitcher who won the 2002 American League Cy Young and made three All-Star teams when he was with the A’s did not even make the Giants’ postseason rosters last year.
When Zito went on the disabled list, he had shown little signs of returning to his former self, as he allowed nine earned runs in 13 innings, struck out just six batters and compiled an 0-1 record.
But if somehow Zito comes back and throws the stuff that earned him so many accolades early in his career and the vastly overpriced contract from the Giants, he will be invaluable to the Giants, who need stellar pitching from top to bottom to win if they continue to struggle offensively.