Jeff Chiu/APGiants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is a big reason the Giants have the best record in baseball.

Jeff Chiu/APGiants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is a big reason the Giants have the best record in baseball.

Problems starting to mount up

Problems, problems, problems. The Giants can't seem to shake them. Here are the ones I find most pressing.

The starting rotation. Tim Lincecum had a strong outing on Tuesday night but don't forget, he was pitching against the Toronto Blue Jays, who have the second-worst record in the American League.

Still, the Blue Jays got to Barry Zito, who completely unraveled in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game, reminding us once again that Zito is a mediocre pitcher. The good news is that he's on a path to pitch fewer than 200 innings this season so the player option that would trigger at 200 innings won't be reached. The Giants will probably re-sign Zito next season, but Brian Sabean won't be stupid enough to make it for another $18 million.

For the moment, Lincecum will remain in the starting rotation, but when Ryan Vogelsong returns, the Giants should think long and hard about putting Lincecum in the bullpen. As a reliever, he can concentrate for a short time, which appears to be his limit in most games.

They should also be thinking about giving Michael Kickham another shot. Kickham obviously has the pitches he needs to be a big success. He was overwhelmed in his first start, but that often happens with a rookie. If he settles in, he could be a front-line starter for an extended period for the Giants.

Pablo Sandoval's weight problem. Sandoval may be as much as 50 pounds overweight. He's still nimble in the field and a dangerous hitter but, even at 26, that weight is causing injuries. He may only play about 120 games this season, and his injury problems will only get worse as he gets older. I doubt the Giants will offer him a long-term contract. In fact, I see his future as a DH in the American League.

The lack of bench players. They've kept Angel Pagan off the disabled list, though he hasn't been able to play, because they want to rush him back as soon as he's healthy. They've been playing an outfield that has only one legitimate major league starter, Hunter Pence. Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco are good players but more as backups than starters, good defensively but hackers at the plate. The Giants' lack of outfield depth was especially evident when they played the A's, who have better outfielders on their bench than the Giants have as starters.

They also don't know quite what to do with Brett Pill. They've sometimes sat Brandon Belt to play Pill, which is ridiculous. Pill is nowhere near the fielder Belt is and, though Belt struggled to get going after a serious bout of stomach problems in early season, he's a better hitter, too.

Pill appears to be what baseball people call a “4A players,” too good for Triple-A, but not quite good enough for the major leagues. He'll be 29 in September and baseball history shows that players very seldom blossom if they haven't made it by then.

So, enjoy the two World Series the Giants have won in the last three years. There doesn't appear to be a third on the horizon.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

NEXT GAME

Giants vs. Diamondbacks

WHEN: Today, 6:40 p.m.

WHERE: Chase Field, Phoenix

TV: CSN Bay Area

RADIO: KNBR (680 AM)

STARTING PITCHERS: Matt Cain (4-3, 5.45 ERA) vs. Patrick Corbin (9-0, 2.06 ERA)

Brett PillDisabled listGlenn DickeySan Francisco Giants

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