SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after taking the first step toward their ultimate goal, the Giants started talking about what comes next.
Manager Bruce Bochy has for weeks steadfastly refused to divulge any thoughts about playoff roles, often saying that he hadn't even started thinking about the postseason. But 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 before Sunday's 6-4 loss to the San Diego Padres.
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 has put himself in position to potentially 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 originally scheduled. Bochy put journeyman Yusmeiro Petit on the mound Sunday, and with an off day on Monday,
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 home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But Bochy said the main focus is maintaining momentum going into the playoffs while also getting healthy.
"We want them ready but also fresh," he said.
Bochy plans to closely watch 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.
They don't intend to spend that time sitting around.
"This is the time to build on what you've done," said right fielder Hunter Pence, who was out of the starting lineup for the first time as a Giant on Sunday but said he didn't want another day off.
"It's a time to get better, if that's possible."
By the time the Giants clinched and Bochy had told Lincecum that Petit would start instead, it was too late for Lincecum to get back to AT&T Park, which was surrounded by fans and honking cars.
"I feel bad that we didn't tell Timmy earlier so he could stay," Bochy said. "But it was hard to do that (because of the timing)."
The Giants didn't clinch until about 9 p.m. Saturday. Bochy said it's customary for the Giants pitchers to leave a night game early if they're starting a day game the following day.
The Padres scored two runs in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth, but the Giants threatened in the ninth.
They trailed 6-3 before pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff led off with a single off Padres closer Huston Street. After pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval popped out, Pence drew a walk in place of Emmanuel Burriss. Hector Sanchez walked to load the bases, setting the stage for Posey, who hit for Blanco.
But Posey grounded into a fielder's choice, scoring one, and Ryan Theriot flied to center to end the game.
Arizona (Tyler Skaggs 1-3) at Giants (Tim Lincecum 10-14), 7:15 p.m. CSNBA