It's the $126 million question burning up Bay Area water coolers and sports radio broadcasts: Will megabucks pitcher Barry Zito be sent to the bench for the duration of the San Francisco Giants 2010 playoffs?
It's actually beginning to look that way. In fact, it's remotely possible that the three highest-paid San Francisco Giants might not be included on the team's playoff roster at all.
Bochy is not required to submit the 25-man playoff roster until Thursday morning, the day of Game 1.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy appeared on KNBR's Murph and Mac show Tuesday in a segment available online, and he all but said that Planet Zito would be out of orbit for the playoffs. Certainly as a starter and possibly all-together.
"Tim Lincecum will start Game 1 Thursday?" asked host Brian Murphy, "Is that official?"
"Yeah, yeah, I think you can say that," Bochy answered, about as directly as he usually answers a given question.
"We'll be more than likely looking at Cain -- I mean, it's 99 percent -- on the second one," Bochy continued, confirming Matt Cain as his planned starter for Game 2 Friday night at home.
"Are we assuming Jonathan Sanchez gets Game 3?" Murphy asked.
"I think you can assume it, " Bochy replied. "It's not etched in stone, but I think you can say that's probably what it's going to be."
Then Murphy asked which pitcher would start a potential Game 4.
"You can do one of two things," Bochy explained. "You can go with, say, a (Madison) Bumgarner, or you could bring Timmy back on early rest. And I think where you're at will dictate that move."
"Hopefully we're in a great situation. But if that's not the case, we could bring Timmy back early."
Murphy wanted to nail down Bochy on whether Zito would pitch. "So you just told us pretty much the deal," Murphy pressed, "it would be Bumgarner or Timmy. It would not be Barry Zito?"
"I'm not etching anything in stone," Bochy said, but added, "We all know that Madison's probably throwing the ball a little better than Barry Zito right now."
Want proof? Tim Kawakami posts some damning damned statistics implicating Zito on his Twitter page.
Since Aug. 17, the Giants are 1-9 in games wherein Zito has pitched. In games where Zito did not pitch, the Giants are 24-8.
One of Zito's appearances was in long relief, not as a starter. But you see the point that the Giants are a whole bunch more likely to win when Zito does not pitch.
Zito might not be the only multi-million dollar free agent acquisition the Giants bench for these playoffs. Andrew Baggarly speculates in the San Jose Mercury News over the likelihood that the Giants' three highest-paid players might not make the 25-man playoff roster.
"Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria will make $204.5 million over their tenure as Giants. They rank 1-2-3 in terms of their 2010 paychecks," Baggarly notes. "Maybe none of them will make the cut."
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who forgot that making the MLB playoffs can interfere with your snowboarding.