San Francisco Giants Starting Situation: How to Handle Barry Zito's Return

Nadia MishkinContributor IIIMay 25, 2011

Barry Zito
Barry ZitoChristian Petersen/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants are just hitting their stride in the 2011 season.

They have won 12 of their last 15 games and are riding a five-game winning streak coming into Tuesday night.

They're hot. And they've done all that with one of their starting pitchers and their biggest bat on the DL. 

Barry Zito sprained his right foot trying to make a play on a ground ball April 16 in Arizona. He's been on the disabled list since then, however, he is expected to return in a few weeks.

In his only two starts of the season Zito has walked eight batters and struck out only six. He is 0–1 with a 6.32 ERA. 

Meanwhile, Ryan Vogelsong who has taken over Zito's place in the rotation has certainly gotten the job done. He came up in the big leagues around 10 years ago and has had a frustrating career, but in 2011 he just might make a comeback. Vogelsong is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA, and San Francisco has won in all five of his starts. 

The circumstances of the situation is putting Barry Zito's job on the line. Sure, he'll still be getting paid, but if Vogelsong keeps performing, Zito and his $126 million contract might be sitting on the sidelines for some time to come.

Barry Zito is the highest paid player on the team. The Giants owe the one-time Cy Young award winner $57 million more through 2013. Zito has not lived up to expectations. He has gone 40-57 in four years with San Francisco and 2011 did not start off any better.

Bruce Bochy and Giants GM Brian Sabean are not afraid to bench their players, regardless of their salary. Remember that Zito was left off of the Giants roster last postseason. It just might be a tactic that has allowed for this team to have so much success recently and in 2010.

The San Francisco Giants have depth in their organization and they are not afraid to use it. 

Vogelsong has proved his worth in five outings since Zito's injury. It is very possible that he will be given an opportunity to make it a permanent role.

Zito will be taking on a minor league rehab assignment with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. It is likely that if he performs well and shows that the time off has allowed him to find his form, Giants manager Bruce Bochy will give him a chance to rejoin the starting rotation. 

All of these outcomes are contingent on how each player performs in the next few weeks. Zito will have to show that his time on the disabled list has allowed him to recover from his injury, and make the changes necessary to re-establish himself as a threat to other teams, not to the Giants.

Vogelsong will have to continue to prove that he is good enough to be a part of one of the best pitching staffs in the league. His next start is scheduled for May 26 against the Florida Marlins.  

Only time will tell, but don't be surprised to see Zito out of the starting rotation even after he returns from his injury.