Urban: Giants' lack of rotation depth makes trade tough

June 22, 2011, 4:53 am
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June 21, 2011

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Mychael Urban
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For those among the Giants' fan base in favor of trading Jonathan Sanchez to address the offensive issues so clearly plaguing the defending champs, the Twins on Tuesday offered a very clear and thoughtful reminder of why it might not be such a good idea.In short -- as opposed to the long and painful parade of well-struck spheres that was the top of the first inning -- the reminder went a little something like this:You might think you have rotation depth, but you don't. Not by a longshot.

That Barry Zito, working at Fresno, had by far the best of his string of four impressive rehab starts on Tuesday night, doesn't represent depth.What Zito represents -- yeah, yeah, yeah; other than a bad contract -- is a reasonable and now very attractive option in the event that what we're seeing from Madison Bumgarner, whom the Twins treated like a pinata, are signs of the fatigue brought on by his career-high-by-a-mile workload last fall.Such fatigue typically doesn't reveal itself early in a season. It shows up after a couple of months -- and look at the calendar, boys and girls. Zito, on the other hand, is fresh and riding a Mavericks-sized wave of confidence, as evidenced by the two-hit shutout (two walks, seven strikeouts, 118 pitches) he spun for the Triple-A Grizzlies on Tuesday.So here's the obvious short-term plan the Giants have to put into play: Rather than wait until June 28, when the Giants need an extra starter for a doubleheader against the Cubs, activate Zito to take Bumgarner's next turn. Give Bumgarner the extra two or three days of rest, maybe an extra bullpen session to figure out what went so horribly wrong against Minnesota, and have him work in the doubleheader. No-brainer.But Bumgarner only threw 25 pitches, you say? True. Did you see them? Twenty-two of them were strikes, most of them just begging to be crushed. It's not always about the pitch count. It's about the pitches themselves, and Bumgarner's pitches screamed fatigue. Flat, high, hittable.What's the corresponding roster move? Hey, leave that for the smart guys with offices at 24 Williie Mays Plaza. But if Guillermo Mota's reward for saving the Giants' week with his 4 23 innings on Tuesday is the loss of a roster spot, something's wrong.Now back to the rotation depth thing. Where were we?Oh yeah. The Giants don't have any rotation depth.They have six starters in the organization that you'd truly trust to a regular big-league role. That's it.Tim Lincecum? Scuffling hard in June before flashing some signs of improvement over the weekend.Matt Cain? Typically steady and solid. You simply count on Lincecum and Cain, whether they're going through a funk or not. They'll be there for you and you know it.Sanchez? Maddeningly inconsistent.Ryan Vogelsong? Heck of a story, but can it last?Zito? He killed Single- and Triple-A hitters. Great. But how will it translate?Bumgarner: see Tuesday's box score.Add it all up and you've got two guys you're pretty sure of, with everyone else something of a question mark. And beyond that, in the minors, you don't have much.Ergo, you can't afford to trade Sanchez. You can't afford to trade anyone in the rotation. What if Zito's foot gets hurt again? What if Bumgarner needs an extended shutdown? What if anything happens to any one of the aforementioned six?Then you're down to five, with no help in sight.