Bochy: 'Fair to say' Zito will be on playoff roster

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Bochy: 'Fair to say' Zito will be on playoff roster

SAN FRANCISCO The Giants will wait to make firm decisionsabout their playoff rotation. But manager Bruce Bochy answered one majorquestion amid throbbing heads Sunday morning, saying its a near certainty thatall five of his starting pitchers will be on the postseason roster.

Thats fair to say, said Bochy, adding that one of thefive starters would be used in relief. Thats the plan, for sure.

The most important aspect of that news: Barry Zito, who wasso obviously left off the playoff rosters in all three rounds two years ago,will be a part of the action this time.

It feels really good, said Zito, informed of Bochyscomments. Im not sure whats going to happen. Its tough to process thingswhen Im getting ready for the next game Thursday But the playoffs are themost fun part of the game because all bets are off. Its all about getting itdone in one game, and if things work out, you have another game. Youre goingup against the best teams, the best starters. Thats what its all about.

The Giants are 19-11 in Zitos starts this season. Theyveonly won more often behind Matt Cain (20-10) this season.

Cain is the presumptive No. 1 starter for an NL DivisionSeries against Cincinnati or Washington; Bochy said the opponent wouldnt have muchinfluence on how he aligns the rotation, but a bigger factor could be whetherthe Giants open at home or on the road. If they are the No. 3 seed, they would playthe first two games at AT&T Park before the series shifts east.

The guess here: Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum andthen some combination of Zito and Ryan Vogelsong in the No. 4 spot.

Theres still a chance the Giants could catch the Reds orNats in the victory column, but Bochy said he wouldnt wear out hisroster trying to improve the clubs playoff seeding. (In fact, the advantagewould be negligible; in a one-year quirk to the playoff schedule, thetop-seeded club wont know where its going until its opponent wins thesudden-death wild card game).

Bochy is running out a lineup Sunday that wouldnt be legalin a spring training split-squad, but he said he couldnt pass up the chance togive nearly all his regulars a full, 48-hour break when combined with Mondaysday off. Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro need the rest more than anyone, he said.Bochy thought about putting Buster Posey at first base but he and the cleanuphitter decided the rest would be more beneficial.

Bochy plans to put his regular lineup out there on Tuesdayagainst Arizona, when Tim Lincecum will take the mound. Bochy said the rotationwould continue in the normal order after that, with Cain and Zito.

The manager said he wanted to give extra rest to Lincecum,who was scratched from Sundays start and replaced with right-hander YusmeiroPetit. Its possible that Petit will make another start down the stretch as theGiants slot starters into a playoff order, Bochy added.

And what about Lincecums odd absence from the teams NLWest celebration Saturday night?

Bochy said its customary for the starting pitcher to leaveearly when he is on the mound for a day game the following day. Lincecum wascontacted and invited to return, but the traffic made it logistically tough,Bochy said. The manager said he should have contacted Lincecum earlier to lethim know that Petit would take his spot.

Still, it was more than odd that Lincecum left in theseventh inning, knowing the Giants were just nine outs away from clinching.

Lincecum was back at the ballpark Sunday morning to gothrough his usual routine, but the clubhouse closed before reporters could havea chance to speak with him.

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

TOKYO -- Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani says he could move to the major leagues after the 2017 season.

The 22-year-old right-hander, who has also put up big numbers at the plate, signed a $2.37 million contract for next season with the Nippon Ham Fighters on Monday.

Otani will not become eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season and will need the Fighters' approval to negotiate with a major league club through the posting system before that time.

He says "we discussed the possibility of me going. ... The club will respect my wishes whenever I decide I want to go."

Otani went 10-4 as a pitcher and batted .322 with a career-high 22 home runs this season for the Fighters.

New rules in MLB's collective bargaining agreement make it more difficult for players like Otani to get paid big bucks right away. But there is a definite curiosity about his abilities, even from those who haven't seen him play much.

"I don't know which side you're worried about more: his ability to pitch or hit," former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Hopefully he stays healthy because he's an addition whatever league he winds up with, whether he stays in Japan or comes to the U.S. he's certainly going to be an exciting player for people to look forward to watching."

Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was reluctant to talk about Otani because he's under contract in Japan. But he's intrigued about Otani's ability to pitch and hit.

"We have reports on him," Dombrowski said. "Do I think a player could be a two-way player? Yeah, it could happen. It is very difficult? Yes. But I'm not saying that there's not a player out there that can't do that because some of them are rare, rare guys. Babe Ruth could do it. He was pretty good. So it can be done."

Report: Giants 'among teams that have asked' about lefty reliever Howell

Report: Giants 'among teams that have asked' about lefty reliever Howell

The Giants added a huge piece to their bullpen Monday by signing closer Mark Melancon to a four-year deal. While much of the bullpen is complete, San Francisco's front office is reportedly keeping an open mind with a familiar reliever. 

San Francisco has reportedly asked about lefty reliever J.P. Howell, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. Howell, who turns 34 in April, spent the last four seasons as a Giants rival with the Dodgers.

Last season coming out of the Dodgers' bullpen, Howell tossed 50.2 innings pitched and ended with a 1-1 record and 4.09 ERA. The year before, Howell posted a career-low 1.43 ERA. 

In just 13 appearances out of the bullpen -- 10.2 innings pitched -- Howell has struggled in his career at AT&T Park. The lefty has a 6.75 ERA in San Francisco, to go along with an 0-1 record. 

As a whole, the Giants' bullpen finished the 2016 regular season with a 25-24 record. The group's 3.65 ERA ranked ninth in the National League. 

Howell is seeking a one-year deal, according to Olney.