In each of the last three seasons, manager Bruce Bochy slotted a left-handers between co-aces Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in the season-opening rotation.
It was Randy Johnson in 2009, Barry Zito in 2010 and Jonathan Sanchez last season. It's Bochy's way of separating his hard-throwing right-handers, an attempt to keep hitters off balance.
The trend figures to continue this year. Another left-hander, Madison Bumgarner, seems destined for the No. 2 slot between Lincecum and Cain.
The hope is for Ryan Vogelsong to overcome a strained back and return to the mound by the time the season starts, so he could assume his No. 4 spot. Zito would be the fifth starter.
If Vogelsong isn't ready for the season, candidates to replace him are left-handers Eric Surkamp and Brian Burres.
Bumgarner won't need to do much to have a better start than last year, when he lost his first six decisions.
Giants' fans prefer to remember the Bumgarner who pitched eight scoreless innings in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series. That he overcame his 0-6 start and finished 13-13 with a 3.21 ERA shows he's deserving of a No. 2 rotation slot.
In his final 10 starts, Bumgarner was 7-2 with a 2.17 ERA.