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Dave Righetti’s hand stacked with aces going into new Giants season

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Dave Righetti’s been around too long to gloat.

Even with four aces in his rotation and an accomplished bullpen, the veteran pitching coach knows the Giants’ 15 postseason games shortened their offseason and lengthened the odds of opponents taking them lightly in 2011.

Righetti lived through an unexpected fall from the top once before while pitching for the New York Yankees that followed a 1981 World Series season with a losing record in ’82, with essentially the same staff.

Not to portend an impending letdown or breakdown from San Francisco’s vaunted arms, but Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner threw an average of 43 more innings last season than their career norms.

To Righetti’s credit, Giants hurlers have stayed remarkably healthy. Among the starters, only Sanchez has ever been on the disabled list.

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In fact, Barry Zito has never missed a scheduled start in 11 seasons. Neither has Cain in his five years in the majors. Lincecum has missed only one start in his four-year career with back spasms in 2009, while Bumgarner threw more than 200 innings — majors and minors combined — for the first time in his life. Will the extra workload take a toll on the hard throwing 21-year-old southpaw? Will the notoriously challenging split-finger fastball put a strain on Lincecum’s $13-million-a-year arm?

The Giants will be closely monitoring their prized mound stars and probably limit their innings in
Scottsdale, Ariz., this spring.

Interestingly, Righetti doesn’t necessarily buy into the practice of alternating lefty-righty starters.

Of course, Tim is the heavy favorite to pitch the season opener at Dodgers Stadium on March 31, but Righetti adds, “Matty’s earned the right to be an Opening Day starter, too. The last two weeks of spring I’ve got to get an order to get these guys right.”

Look for the Giants to begin 2011 with the same pitching order they used last year: Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner and Zito. Why mess with a “Rags”-to-riches formula for success?



Meanwhile, the A’s have a formidable Fab Four of their own in Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez. The quartet led Oakland to a league-high 17 shutouts and an American League-best 3.56 ERA last year. Now if only oft-injured right-hander Rich Harden can regain his top-flight form in vying for the fifth starter job.

New pitching coach Ron Romanick has been working with Harden in Arizona the past few weeks reviewing video of his impressive (10-2) 2008 season with the A’s and Cubs.

Unfortunately, that season, like so many for Harden, was derailed by a sore shoulder. The 29-year-old Canadian has been on the disabled list nine times in eight years with an assortment of arm, back and oblique muscle problems. Harden said he has made some mechanical changes and feels strong and healthy. The first test comes today in Phoenix when the A’s begin formal workouts for pitchers and catchers. No doubt new head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta is on high alert. 

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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