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This is the sixth installment of a riveting investigation into how the Giants are shaping up next year. The third base discussion can be found here, catcher discussion here, first base is here, outfield here and the middle infield is discussed here. In the movie of this series, both Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are in talks to play myself.

With Kirk Rueter going to the DL with a pulled suck muscle, the Giants called on grizzled minor league vet Brian Cooper to start a game. He pitched well, but the bullpen blew it for him. It remains to be seen whether he will be voted a World Series share.

The rotation was supposed to be, and stop me if you've heard this one before, a strength this year. With Bonds out, there was concern about the offense. While not setting the world ablaze, the collective offensive output has not been embarrassing. The bullpen had a miserable start, but has pitched much better over the past two months. But the starting pitching, oh, that starting pitching.

Here's how we entered the season:

#1 - A true ace.
#2 - A flame-throwing journeyman who finally put it all together.
#3 - A solid, inning-eating youngster who could take it to the next level any day now.
#4 - A likeable human horseshoe who left his ability to be a good pitcher at his ex-girlfriend's house in the late `90s, and can't work up the nerve to call her to get it back.
#5 - A young lefty who used a plus-changeup to sail through the National League last season.
Here's how we stand now:
#1 - A true ace, Giants style, complete with control issues and high pitch counts.
#2 - A flame-throwing journeyman who finally put it all together, only to step back and realize there were two leftover pieces. Now, what were those for....
#3 - A young lefty who lost his plus-changeup, but found it on his path to becoming a true ace, Giants style, complete with control issues and high pitch counts.
#4 - A young pitcher currently with more heart than ability.
#5 - A young pitcher currently with more heart than ability.

Jerome Williams, an above-average pitcher at every level he has every pitched at, had a bad couple of months. Obviously, he was immediately traded for an expensive reliever on a team that didn't really want him anymore. It stands to reason the Giants could have procured an Alfredo Simon-type prospect, or even the real thing, and packaged him with the closest thing the Giants had to a Ricky Ledee-style player, which they certainly do have in Michael Tucker. That's what the Giants got for an expensive reliever on a team that didn't really want him anymore. You'd think the market had been set. Now, the Giants need pitching, and the free-agent market is going to consist of Jeff Fassero and 42 pitchers who will be paid tens of millions more than they're worth. Williams might have helped. But I digress. The rash caused by that trade is going to need more than penicillin.

Schmidt and Lowry are the only givens in the 2006 rotation. The rest of the staff is up in the air. Kevin Millwood might come cheap enough, but he'll most likely get the 4 year/$32 M contract the free-agent starters from last year found on their hotel room pillow like a little mint. AJ Burnett is a good pitcher, soon to be a multi-millionaire, and will still get the multi-millions even after his elbow goes "sprooooing!" and shoulder goes "ker-floooosh!", which might have happened in the past thirty seconds. (Note: Not true, as ESPN does not have a story about Burnett's serious injury. Please check again in thirty seconds.)

Hennessey is looking better, but has an incredibly limited track record of success in the minors. Kevin Correia combines Tomko's good stuff with Tomko's penchant for gopher balls, and wraps that package up with dodgy control. Matt Cain is 20, and should not be counted on for anything. If he happens to bust out, that's a privilege, not a right. Jesse Foppert is...oh, right. Ahem. David Aard...oh, right. The rest of the farm system would need to produce a major surprise in order to help the rotation more than the above pitchers.

So, where now? Give your best guess as to the rotation of the 2006 Giants, because I give up. Schmidt, Lowry, maybe Hennessey, and?