PITTSBURGH -- The Giants understand they will sink or swim with Tim Lincecum in the second half. So they won't bother throwing him much rope after the All-Star break.
In an unmistakable show of faith, Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced that Lincecum will start the second game out of the break. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who will have the longest layoff among the starters, will pitch Friday's series opener against the Houston Astros. Lincecum will follow and Matt Cain, who is expected to pitch in the All-Star Game, will slot back into the rotation after that.
The coaching staff continued to debate which order to start Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong in Atlanta.
The alignment ensures that Lincecum will make his first start at home, and not in the sweltering heat at Turner Field. But Bochy said more went into the decision than that.
"He's still our guy," Bochy said of Lincecum, who is 3-9 and a 6.08 ERA that ranks 102nd out of 104 major league pitchers who qualify for the ERA title. "He and Matt and Bum, we want to get those guys out there as much as we can in the second half.
"Because we think he's going to have a better second half."
Lincecum is scheduled to pitch Sunday's series finale at Pittsburgh before he goes home to Seattle for the All-Star break. He'd get just one extra day beyond his usual rest. Bochy said he didn't see any point to push back Lincecum, adding that he didn't need to throw any more bullpen sessions.
"Really, Timmy has thrown well in his 'pens," Bochy said.
The manager said Lincecum was throwing better in his last start at Washington, even while giving up a career-high eight earned runs. Bochy chose to see that start as an anomaly because Lincecum "ran out of gas" in hot conditions.
His second start probably won't be in cool climes, though. It'll come at Philadelphia.
Should Lincecum see the alignment as a vote of confidence, especially among so many voices that the Giants should skip him or even pull him from the rotation?
"Really, if that's how he wants to take it, that's great," Bochy said. "But that's how we feel. We want to get him back out there."
As for the final two spots, the obvious move would be to pitch Zito fourth to keep the left-handers split up. But Bochy said Zito and Bumgarner are sufficiently different pitchers so that might not be the way they decide to go.
Bochy added that none of the five starters needed extra rest or time to heal up.