Notes: Pitching carrying Giants
Zito feels for Prior; Pittsburgh doubleheader slated for Aug. 13
LOS ANGELES -- Pitching is baseball's currency, and the Giants' recent success reflects the eternal value of this commodity.The Giants were tied for next-to-last in the National League in scoring entering Thursday night's series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, as Giants general manager Brian Sabean reminded, San Francisco's pitching has masked this shortcoming, as shown by the club's 3.21 ERA -- third in the NL -- through 19 games. "The more you pitch from top to bottom and the more you go into games set with the starting pitching, usually you play cleaner games and you can survive," Sabean said before Thursday's game. "The offense is still a work in progress, so the timing of the pitching staff coming together is really key." As Sabean indicated, Giants hitters have plenty of room for improvement. But he's not insistent that they become a latter-day Murderers' Row, as long as the pitching remains consistent. "I don't know that there are many offenses in this league that can score five-plus runs a game," Sabean said. "If you can figure out how to score four, play good defense and finish the game, you have a chance to win a lot of games. We're in a pitchers' park and this is a pitchers' division." Sabean pointed out that the starters' effectiveness has helped the bullpen thrive, which is a predictable link. "I don't want to speak for 'Boch,'" Sabean said, referring to manager Bruce Bochy, "but the bullpen has probably come together sooner than we all might have thought. Some guys have stepped up, but guys are rested. Guys aren't having to go out there as much as they have in the past, so they're going out there with good stuff and confidence." Despite the Giants' admirable pitching, fans have called for right-hander Tim Lincecum to be promoted from Triple-A Fresno. Last year's No. 1 selection in the First-Year Player Draft, Lincecum is 3-0 with an 0.36 ERA while allowing nine hits and striking out 32 in 25 innings. But Sabean reiterated that until the Giants urgently need Lincecum, the 22-year-old right-hander is likely to receive more Minor League seasoning. "I think that's the game plan," Sabean said. "He certainly can force the issue if he continues to be dominant. Conventional wisdom would say how much more does he need to do down there? Or do you want to waste time and the innings with him pitching down there when he could be pitching up here? But there still has to be a fit and a reason to bring him up. He's certainly doing his part." Summoning Lincecum to pitch in the Majors as a reliever, Sabean said, "would be a stretch for me right now." Hang in there: Barry Zito had nothing but encouragement for Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, his former high school teammate and successor as the University of Southern California ace, who underwent season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery Tuesday. "It breaks your heart," said Zito, who was instrumental in convincing Prior to transfer from Vanderbilt University to USC. "We all have our adversity. It's only going to make him stronger in the end. He may not see the good in it right now, but whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. That's an important thing to always remember. It's big for him to know that going along this path." As an example, Zito cited 2004, when he finished a career-worst 11-11 with a 4.48 ERA. "I always knew, even in the midst of being lousy, that a greater good would come out of it," he said. Misfortunes such as Prior's help remind Zito, who has never missed a start, how lucky he is. "I've been blessed to this point," Zito said. "I try to uphold my end, but there are greater powers at work. I just try to do everything in my power to keep my body where it has to be and hope everything else will fall into place." Adjustments later: Hope exists for Kevin Frandsen to rejoin the Giants from Fresno. Articulating what has been assumed, Bochy admitted that the club will need another utility infielder for depth and flexibility. "I'm sure down the road, we'll need another infielder to help out," said Bochy, who didn't rule out trimming the pitching staff from 12 to 11 to accommodate another position player. For now, Rich Aurilia will continue to play different spots. Bochy hinted that Aurilia, who has started 10 games at first base, six at third and two at shortstop, might soon make his first start at second base. That could happen during this weekend's series at Arizona, since Bochy mentioned that second baseman Ray Durham, who has started all 20 games, needs a break. Bochy's aware that moving around the infield can be physically stressful on a player, due to the various throwing angles he must master. "What Rich is doing isn't easy," Bochy said. "That's why he's getting a day off [Thursday]." Circle the date: The Giants' postponed April 15 doubleheader at Pittsburgh has been rescheduled for Aug. 13, although no starting time has been finalized. The Giants are balking at the proposed 5:35 p.m. ET start, since they have to begin a series in Atlanta the next night. Coming up: The Giants travel to Arizona to open a three-game series Friday night against the D-backs, whom they swept last weekend at AT&T Park. For the second series in a row, San Francisco won't face Arizona's top two starters, Brandon Webb and Livan Hernandez.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.