Thearon W. Henderson - Getty Images
The fight for the last spots in the playoff rotation is a two-man scrum, as the Giants' erstwhile ace will get his chance against the Reds or Nationals.
We kinda sorta knew that. Even if Tim Lincecum has an ERA almost a full run worse than the next-highest member of the Giants' rotation, and even if he somehow just walked a batter on four pitches while playing FIFA 13, there's still the hope that Lincecum could revert back to his old self. I'm freebasing faith, and I can see it. From Alex Pavlovic:
Lincecum is no longer the ace of the staff, and he understands that. When he does get specifics, it’s likely that he’ll be lined up as a Game 3 starter, maybe even Game 4. Doesn’t matter to Lincecum, the opening day starter. He said he’ll throw extra bullpen sessions to stay sharp since he might have quite a long layoff.
This could work out beautifully. Or there could be pain. Or there might be a horrible twist ending. It turns out his arm was dead the whole time, or some such. Nothing to worry about. Everybody stay calm.
This sets up the Beat It-style knife fight between Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito. Which is a sentence that would have blown minds away in June, more so than "Melky was suspended for steroids", "Hunter Pence is on the Giants", or "a vast majority of Giants fans somehow agree that Brandon Belt is the team's best option at first." There are people honestly contemplating the Zito/Vogelsong Conundrum. What sort of rift in the space-time continuum ...
But what we know now is that it isn't a three-man race for two spots. Lincecum is in.