Giants circling rotation options with Cain, Peavy

Front office weighing alternatives as veteran hurlers return from injuries

Giants circling rotation options with Cain, Peavy

SAN FRANCISCO -- In attempting to squeeze Jake Peavy and Matt Cain back into the starting rotation, the Giants' baseball hierarchy hopes to fix something it doesn't desperately need to repair yet feels compelled to replace. Thus, members of the club's braintrust were expected to spend Monday's scheduled off-day and maybe part of Tuesday examining the relevant issues and cross-examining themselves to make sure they're sure about the decisions they reach.

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Peavy (back) and Cain (flexor tendon), intended to be two of San Francisco's top three starting pitchers this season, are poised to return from their respective injuries. Most likely, Peavy will resume pitching for the Giants during this weekend's series against Colorado, while Cain throws one more injury rehabilitation game with Triple-A Sacramento to certify his health.

This means that two members of the current rotation will lose their roles. None of them has pitched poorly enough to be reassigned under normal circumstances. However, the Giants could use an upgrade. Though the starters' 31-27 record is the National League's third-best and their opponents' batting average of .254 was tied for sixth in the NL entering Monday, their 3.98 ERA ranked ninth in the league and their 3.3 WAR, according to fangraphs.com, was 10th.

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Still, installing Peavy and eventually Cain is an extremely sensitive task, especially when the men vulnerable to being pushed aside are promising rookie Chris Heston, who has thrown a no-hitter, the charmingly ferocious Ryan Vogelsong, who never quite gets the respect he deserves, the charismatic Tim Lincecum, who remains hugely popular and talented, and the venerable Tim Hudson, who's tied for 76th on the all-time wins list. You try telling one or two of them they're not good enough to start. That's why baseball-operations czar Brian Sabean, manager Bruce Bochy and their close associates will ponder every imaginable variable before they announce anything.

Factors they'll consider include:

The basics. Sabean, Bochy, player personnel director Dick Tidrow and pitching coach Dave Righetti know what they're doing. They can look beyond statistics to determine who's helping the rotation most.

"You always want to go on merit. That plays a part in it," Bochy said.

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Trying a six-man rotation. Bochy seemed to eliminate this as a possibility recently. But, he said Sunday, "I don't rule anything out. That's not the way we're leaning right now. That doesn't mean that does not become an option."

Playing with the schedule. After this week, the Giants have a scheduled off-day on either Monday or Thursday in 10 of the regular season's remaining 14 weeks. Those breaks afford the Giants some flexibility in setting up their rotation so ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner can take his regular turn while the cast surrounding him changes.

"That gives you some options, no question," Bochy said.

Creative use of the disabled list. Somebody might suddenly sustain an injury that nobody seemed to know anything about.

"There have been a couple of guys a little beat up but giving it all they have," Bochy said.

More stalling. Though Bochy said that Peavy's next start probably will be for San Francisco, he didn't rule out another rehab outing for the 34-year-old. That would happen only if the Giants' medical staff examined Peavy and suddenly had reason to doubt his fitness to pitch a Major League game.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.