SAN FRANCISCO // Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito account for nearly a third of the San Francisco Giants' payroll this season, making US$30.5 million (Dh112m) between them.
Now that the Giants are in the play-offs, it is unclear what role, if any, either struggling big-money player will have for the club in their division series against the Atlanta Braves. The opening game is tonight at AT&T Park.
It would be a lot of money on the sidelines if they are left off the roster. Many wonder if the Giants have the guts to send them both away for the best-of-five first round.
Rosters expand in the best-of-seven championship series. Zito looks nothing like his former dominant self from his days across San Francisco Bay in Oakland, where he won 23 games and the AL Cy Young Award in 2002.
The 32-year-old left-armer, signed to a $126m, seven-year deal before the 2007 season, was booed off the field when he left after a season-low three innings in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the San Diego Padres.
San Francisco's rotation is likely to go Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and - perhaps - Madison Bumgarner, the rookie.
There is the question of what value Zito could have coming out of the bullpen considering the Giants already have reliable lefty relievers in Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. Zito, making $18.5m this year, could help out if the Giants were to fall behind quickly and need him for long relief.
San Francisco's bullpen has gone the last 24 innings without allowing an earned run.
"The pitching staff alone allows you to be able to have some adjustments made to your roster along the way," Sabean said. "Depth helps. You can see it, from the rotation, to the bullpen, offensively, defensively."
Zito failed to reach 10 wins for the first time since his rookie season in 2000. His 4.15 ERA is the fourth-highest of his career.
He went 1-8 with a 6.72 ERA over his last 11 outings and 10 starts and only had one victory in his last 15 appearances. The stretch included a career-worst nine-game losing streak from July 21 to September 14.
The 33-year-old Rowand, meanwhile, lost his starting job in centre field midway through the year to Andres Torres, and has not looked like getting it back.
* Associated Press