Two years ago when the Giants won the World Series, we knew their starting rotation for the Division Series. This year the Giants&’ starting rotation has issues.

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SAN FRANCISCO

Here's the news part of this column. Matt Cain will start Game1 at AT&T Park on Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds. That already was known.

Before Thursday's workout, Giants manager Bruce Bochy told media that Madison Bumgarner will start Game2 on Sunday.

"That's where we're going to leave it at right now," Bochy said. "We'll announce the rest of the rotation a little later."

My antennae started twitching at that point. I mean, he wouldn't say who will pitch in Cincinnati.

"Do you mind if I point something out?" I said.

"Sure," Bochy said.

"I like to compare and contrast. Two years ago, we pretty much knew what your rotation was at this point. So what's different?"

Bochy is an old-style gentleman — and that is the highest praise. But he's thrifty with explanations.

"It's really, I think, vital for us to have all hands on deck here for the first two games," he said. "If we want to use some guys in the rotation early here (out of the bullpen), then we'll do that. So, we want to keep our options open for Games 3, 4 and 5, and we may have to switch the order. So, instead of setting it right now, we just decided to announce Games1 and 2."

Here's the compare and contrast part. Two years ago when the Giants won the World Series and pitched like nobody's business, we knew their starting rotation for the Division Series right off the bat: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner. Bochy did not resort to doubletalk, nor did he use the maritime metaphor "all hands on deck."

You know why? This year the Giants' starting rotation has issues. I'll get back to those issues in a moment. First, let's conclude this news conference.

Someone asked if the eventual order of the rotation — and who gets dropped from it — depends on the outcome of Games1 and 2.

"No, it may depend on how we use guys," Bochy said. "We might use Timmy in the pen. We might use (Ryan) Vogelsong in the pen. Or (Barry) Zito. That's what would probably make a difference in how we go."

Would doing bullpen work affect preparation for Lincecum, Vogelsong or Zito?

"Well, it could. That's why we haven't named Game3, 4 and 5, if we have to make an adjustment."

Does he want his best two pitchers to pitch the first two games of a short series?

"Sure, that's what our thinking is. You look at the year Matt and Madison have had, that's why they're going Game1 and Game 2. We feel these two have earned these starts."

Let's bring Zito onto the stage for a moment. Two years ago, Bochy 86ed him from the postseason roster. Nothing like that this year.

Is Zito concerned about mixing the roles of starter and reliever in the postseason?

"No, when you're on the mound, you're on the mound," he said at his locker. "You change your routine going into it. You can't be stupid about it."

Does the uncertainty of not knowing when he will pitch affect him?

"No, I'm just happy to be here, man."

No kidding.

I asked, "Has Bochy told you when he might tell you what game you'll pitch?"

He stared at me like someone asked him to decipher a paragraph from James Joyce's "Ulysses."

"Um, has he told me when he will tell me? No, he has not told me when he will tell me."

I would have asked Lincecum the "tell me" question, but he left before the media session.

Let's just say this. Bochy did not announce his rotation because he doesn't know what to do. Unlike two years ago, he's in a tough spot.

Zito clearly earned the third start of this series. There is something to be said for rewarding good performance - and Zito's 15 wins are a good performance. But the Reds play in a small ballpark and they hit Zito hard in Cincinnati, missiles flying out of that place. Even in pitchers' parks like AT&T, Zito has the occasional game when hitters own him, abuse him, humiliate him. Believe me, the Giants are scared to risk Zito in Game3 even though he's a new and improved Zito.

Bochy and Zito talked on the field, out of earshot at the start of Thursday's workout. Well, Bochy talked and Zito did a lot of head nodding. You'd love to know what Bochy was telling him.

For the heck of it, let's do some speculating. Another reason Bochy hasn't announced his starting lineup is because Lincecum may not be in it, and Bochy doesn't want to insult Lincecum, at least not yet. Lincecum, the Giants best pitcher in the World Series year, has not earned a start in the Division Series. Isn't that an amazing thought?

Bochy has to be fretting double time about Zito, Lincecum and Vogelsong, also not so hot lately. Here's some advice. Give Lincecum and Zito starts. Not because they'll do great. Because they'd do worse coming out of the bullpen. Zito takes an eternity to warm up, and Lincecum gets off to bad starts. Vogelsong could get warm fast and would not feel diminished by relieving.

That is what Bochy should do, but he has to decide for himself. He needs to think things over. And then he needs to think some more.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.