Bochy affirms faith in Zito as fourth starter

Bochy affirms faith in Zito as fourth starter

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants starter Barry Zito and manager Bruce Bochy held a closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon in the wake of a San Francisco Chronicle story that cited a source close to the Giants as saying Zito's spot in the rotation was "definitely not safe" and that his contract could be bought out before Opening Day.

"I told him he's going to be our fourth starter," Bochy said. "You do stay open-minded with the competition that's going on, whether it's in the outfield, infield or with the pitching staff, starting and bullpen. We came up with a game plan, and that's Barry going the fourth game."

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Citing his track record of 10 consecutive seasons with 180 or more innings pitched, his 19 quality starts in 2010 and his 355 games without missing a start due to injury, Bochy made no bones about his faith in what Zito can give the Giants.

"This guy doesn't miss a start. It's a pretty amazing record," Bochy said. "The two starts that he didn't go out there wasn't his choice; we put him in the bullpen."

Zito's first start of the spring, facing Milwaukee on Monday, seemed to rekindle the command issues that "derailed" him last September, as Bochy put it. The celebrated southpaw was inactive during the Giants' postseason run after compiling a 9-14 record, his fourth losing season in four years with the Giants.

Bochy was willing to throw out the first spring start and move forward, eager to check in with the left-hander after his bullpen session Wednesday.

"We go back to when he wasn't on the postseason roster," Bochy added. "You watch how hard he worked, throwing sides, throwing to hitters between the series. He wanted to stay ready. Barry gives you everything he's got. Sometimes he tries a little too hard, but I've never had problems with Barry being there mentally. He gives his best effort."

Zito told Bochy he changed his offseason conditioning program, emphasizing more core work in an effort to regain his fastball command.

"Sometimes we get caught too much in win-loss records," Bochy said. "If you look at some of what he's done here, it's not bad. He may get the lowest run support [on the team], but every year his quality starts are pretty good."