Bochy unsure of Zito's future role

Bochy unsure of Zito's future role

SAN DIEGO -- Manager Bruce Bochy indicated Tuesday that Barry Zito's role with the Giants beyond this season appeared uncertain. In other words, the left-hander whose seven-year, $126 million contract runs through 2013 isn't guaranteed to remain a starting pitcher.

"We'll have to sit down and talk about it," Bochy said when asked about the Giants' plans for Zito. "I can't answer that."

Every team needs starting depth -- even the Giants, whose rotation ranks among baseball's best. But as matters currently stand, Zito, who's 3-4 with a 5.62 ERA in nine starts during an injury-marred season, probably would have to compete against left-handers Eric Surkamp and Jonathan Sanchez for the rotation's No. 5 spot behind Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner.

Zito, 33, is 145-124 with a 3.90 ERA in 12 Major League seasons, including 43-61 with a 4.52 ERA since joining the Giants in 2007. He has started in all but two of his 364 career appearances.

The Giants owe Zito $19 million next year and $20 million in 2013. He'll be due a $7 million buyout if the Giants don't pick up his $18 million option for 2014. San Francisco management proved willing to eat big contracts last Wednesday when outfielder Aaron Rowand, who was due around $14 million through next year, and infielder Miguel Tejada, owed close to $1 million for the remainder of this season, were designated for assignment.

Bochy made his remark after Zito, who has been sidelined since Aug. 1 with a sprained right foot, pitched impressively in a four-inning simulated game at PETCO Park. Despite Zito's sharpness, Bochy expressed doubt that he'll start a game before the season ends, since insufficient time remains for him to regain the stamina to throw 100 pitches -- a prerequisite for starting.