SAN FRANCISCO A day after taking the first step toward their ultimate goal, the Giants started talking about what comes next.
Manager Bruce Bochy for weeks has refused to discuss playoff roles, often saying that he hadn't even thought about the postseason.
But before Sunday's 6-4 loss to the San Diego Padres, with the Giants having clinched the National League West title Saturday night, Bochy began laying the groundwork for the final days of the regular season as well as the postseason's first round.
Bochy anticipates all five starting pitchers making the postseason roster, with one of them pitching out of the bullpen. That brought a smile to the face of Barry Zito, who was left off the 2010 postseason roster. Zito is 13-8 with a 4.18 ERA this season, and with a strong September, he has put himself in position to get a playoff start.
"It's outstanding," Zito said when told of Bochy's playoff preview. "It's tough to process right now because I've got to be ready for (my final two starts), but it feels really good right now.
"It's been a great ride. I feel blessed to be able to still have a body healthy enough to contribute and to still be having fun playing baseball at the age of 34."
Zito's next start will come Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a day later than initially scheduled. Bochy put journeyman Yusmeiro Petit on the mound Sunday, and with an off day today, the Giants' heavily worked starters will get two extra days of rest.
The same held true for the rest of the lineup. Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias were the only semi-regulars to start Sunday, but Bochy said the "normal lineup" would be back on the field Tuesday.
"The best way you can do this is the way you've been doing it," Bochy said. "You never stop trying to win games."
The Giants still have an outside shot at catching the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds and clinching the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But Bochy said the focus is maintaining momentum entering the playoffs while also getting healthy.
"We want them ready but also fresh," he said.
Bochy plans to scrutinize several of his regulars in the season's final nine games. Angel Pagan has played through injuries all season, and even young infielders Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt are getting treatment for lingering maladies.
Bochy has kept the closest watch on catcher Buster Posey, who said Sunday that this season he has "probably had two or three times where my body has not felt good at all."
But Posey feels strong at the moment and estimated that he'll take only one full day off over the final nine games.
"I think it's a feel thing, and I think every guy is different," said Posey, who often plays first base on his days off from catching. "It's a matter of what works best for you. I'm not sure how it will work out. I've never been in this position."
Most of the Giants haven't. When the Giants clinched in 2010, they did so on the final day of the regular season. This time around, the Giants will have two weeks between their clinching victory and their first playoff game.