Cain gets Opening Day call as Bochy sets rotation
Bumgarner, Lincecum, Zito and Vogelsong to follow for defending champs
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The regular-season starting rotation that Giants manager Bruce Bochy named Friday is just a sequence. With the possible exception of Matt Cain, it's not a pecking order, a ranking or a show of favoritism.
Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong will follow Cain, who'll start the April 1 season opener at Los Angeles. As is the case with most elite staffs -- the Giants' 3.45 ERA since 2009 is the best in the Major Leagues -- each pitcher is considered the No. 1 starter whenever he performs.
"Each of the guys gives us a chance to win," Bochy said. "I don't want to get caught in [the rotation's order] and I don't want them to dwell on it, either."
Bochy repeated that he could tweak the rotation before Opening Day. If that were to happen, Vogelsong probably would move closer to the front of the line. He led the National League last year in ERA as late as Aug. 12, finished 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA and emerged as San Francisco's winningest postseason pitcher with a 3-0 mark and a 1.09 ERA.
Even if Vogelsong remains in the fifth spot, he's likely to receive as many starts as the others in the rotation. Mindful of their pitching depth and the need to give their starters extra rest, the Giants never skipped anybody's turn last year. Lincecum made 33 starts, Bumgarner, Cain and Zito started 32 games apiece and Vogelsong had 31.
Vogelsong, who's headed for the World Baseball Classic to play for Team USA, will start Saturday's Cactus League opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
As has often been the case in recent years, the Giants will alternate right-handers with left-handers, except when righties Vogelsong and Cain pitch back-to-back games.
Zito's presence in the No. 4 spot was significant, since he'll receive the assignment for the home opener against St. Louis at AT&T Park on April 5 -- when the celebration of the Giants' 2012 World Series triumph is guaranteed to generate plenty of hoopla.
"It's going to be exciting," Zito said. "It's going to be a great vibe with the fans."
Echoes of last year will resonate as Zito faces the Cardinals. His 7 2/3 shutout innings against them in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series launched the Giants' rally from a 3-1 series deficit. Zito's triumph was widely considered the year's biggest game, in retrospect.
"It's a good jump-start to the season, going against one of the best teams in the National League," said Zito, 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA a year ago.
Zito also wouldn't mind duplicating his initial start of 2012. After the Giants were swept in their season-opening three-game series at Arizona, Zito restored order by allowing just four hits in a 7-0 shutout of Colorado.
Attempting to rebound from last year's 10-15 finish, Lincecum relished the opportunity to begin his resurgence against the Giants' archrivals, who have spent a small fortune in hopes of shaping a winning roster.
"Teams are always making pushes," Lincecum said. "The Dodgers have made moves this offseason to better their chances and that'll make it a lot more exciting."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.