Fear not, Giants fans, this doesn't mean the organization is thinking about re-signing Zito when his contract fizzles out in October. What it does mean is that the Giants want to "say goodbye in a respectful way" to a pitcher who was instrumental in the club's 2012 World Series victory and who remained professional through some very tough times (see: 2008).
The Giants were hopeful on Tuesday that this "respectful goodbye" could entail putting Zito back into the starting rotation through the end of the season. But after he was walloped for six runs in 3⅔ innings by the Red Sox on Wednesday, manager Bruce Bochy seemed much less certain about keeping the veteran southpaw on the staff:
"I don’t want to go into the choices," Bochy said. "But I’ll talk to the staff before we talk about that."
Zito, 35, owns an unsightly 5.40 earned-run average in 22 starts this year, but has actually fared better as a starter than out of the bullpen. Small sample size caveats abound, of course, but allowing six runs in five innings of relief doesn't make the management's decision any easier.
The Giants are nowhere near contention, so having Zito in the rotation doesn't exactly hurt their playoff hopes, but the club may want to test out younger arms like Mike Kickham instead.
It is now impossible for Zito's $18-million option for the 2014 season to vest -- he needed 200 innings this year -- so the Giants will pay the $7 million buyout and send the southpaw on his way. Whether his final six weeks in San Francisco will be in the rotation or in relief is really the only question still remaining.