SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he plans to begin the season with a 12-man pitching staff -- a somewhat surprising announcement, since the club will operate with just a four-man rotation for the first nine games.
The decision has several offshoots. It means an eighth bullpen spot, which would go to right-hander Dan Otero or non-roster right-hander Jean Machi. Both have had solid springs, but the Giants wouldn't need to carve out a 40-man spot to add Otero.
It also means one fewer position player on the opening-day roster, which increases the likelihood that Brandon Belt will begin the season in Triple-A Fresno.
With Emmanuel Burriss the likely starter at second base and outfielder Gregor Blanco assured a place, the Giants would appear to have three spots for six players: Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot, Brett Pill, Hector Sanchez, Joaquin Arias and Belt.
Fontenot played shortstop in a minor league game and Theriot started at short in the night game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise. Although there's an excellent chance both will be on the roster, the Giants would have to act before 9 a.m. Friday to cut either player before their contracts (1.25 million for Theriot, 1.05 for Fontenot) become fully guaranteed. The Giants would pay just a quarter of their salaries if they cut them loose earlier.
Arias is the best defender on the infield other than starting shortstop Brandon Crawford. But the Giants have determined that Crawford will play every day -- against both right-handers and left-handers -- so keeping the best defender might not be as high a priority as having an experienced bat off the bench.
The Giants probably would have to cut either Fontenot or Theriot to carry Sanchez as a third catcher and switch-hitting bat off the bench. Either Eli Whiteside or Chris Stewart will be the primary backup to catcher Buster Posey.
Why carry a 12th pitcher? Well, maybe the decision can be described in four words: Coors Field, Barry Zito.
Zito is going the wrong direction this spring, and because the Giants won't give extra rest to their starters in the first three turns through the rotation, they can't run the risk of an innings deficit or a tired bullpen. Plus the Giants will play in two hitter's yards -- Chase Field and Coors -- on the first trip. Zito is penciled in to start the Rockies' home opener April 9.