Bochy won't commit to Zito, but won't rush Vogelsong

Bochy: 'You've got to keep fighting'

Bochy won't commit to Zito, but won't rush Vogelsong
July 30, 2013, 8:30 pm
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Bruce Bochy refused to confirm that Barry Zito would make his next scheduled start Sunday in Tampa Bay. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

PHILADELPHIA – It was just a year ago that the Giants went 11-0 in Barry Zito’s last 11 regular-season starts – then won behind him three more times in the postseason, including a World Series opener for the history books. 

It seems impossible for the Giants to win behind Zito now, especially on the road. They fell to 0-9 in his starts away from AT&T Park after a 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night.

[RECAP: Phillies 7, Giants 3]

Zito’s next start would end this road trip, Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was non-committal on whether his $126 million left-hander, finally coming to the end of his seven-year contract, would make it.

“We’ll talk about it,” the manager said. “I’m not going to say anything right now.”

By this time tomorrow, who knows? Maybe the Giants flip Hunter Pence or Javier Lopez or both for a starting pitcher they could stick in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Maybe they decide to give Guillermo Moscoso a whirl.

One thing is clear: The Giants won’t activate right-hander Ryan Vogelsong after just one of his two scheduled rehab starts for Double-A Richmond. Bochy made that much clear after the Giants’ fifth consecutive loss and eighth in nine games.

“We’re not going to bring him back till we think he’s ready and gets his pitch count where he needs to be,” said Bochy, after Vogelsong threw 64 pitches in five shutout innings for Richmond. “Obviously, it’s encouraging how he threw the ball. At this point, it’s not worth rushing him until we think he’s ready.”

Those are three powerful words. At this point …

The Giants could have shuffled their rotation so that Zito only had one road start on this trip. But at this point …

They could look back on their success as a comeback team, rally around each other and try to resuscitate themselves over the next two months. But at this point …

The Giants are 13 games under .500 and they’re tumbling toward their first losing season since 2008. The rest of the year will be about preservation as much as anything else, and rekindling a winning spirit that they might be able to carry through to next year.

They could start by hitting some gappers and taters. They’ve been outhomered 10-1 over 11 games since the All-Star break, Buster Posey has their only home run, and he was too green around the gills to play Tuesday.

For Bochy, it was the lineup – not Zito – that drew his consternation.

"We have to get these bats going,” said Bochy, who was unsure if Posey could play Wednesday. “We just couldn’t do damage.”

Zito’s road numbers are beyond the skill of a collision repair shop. He has a 9.97 road ERA and has allowed an incredible 74 hits in 37 road innings. Bochy said he actually thought Zito had better stuff, but he worked so many deep counts while throwing 45 pitches in the first inning.

“Yeah, I don’t feel good,” Zito said. “I’m not keeping the team in the game and I’m putting stress on the bullpen, and that’s not good at all. For me it’s all about making a pitch and I’ve lost focus and I’m not making pitches.”

Could the team’s malaise cause him to lose focus? The trade deadline? Is it hard to be so pitch-to-pitch focused when you’re buried so deep in the standings?

And what, if anything, can Zito do to recapture that 11-0 magic from the second half last season?

“I can’t control what the win/loss record is and really, what the batter does,” Zito said. “The most poignant question is whether I feel good making pitches. The answer is yes. My bullpens have been pretty good. It’s just a matter of putting it out there.”

Zito would have to make all 12 of his remaining starts, and average 7 1/3 innings in them, to reach the 200-inning benchmark and trigger an $18 million option for next season. Otherwise, he’ll get a $7 million buyout.

A golden parachute, then, for a team in free-fall.

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