SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Zito didn't pitch like a staff ace last season, but he hasn't lost his place atop the Giants rotation.

In a symbolic gesture, manager Bruce Bochy said Zito would start the season opener March 31 at Dodger Stadium and Matt Cain would take the ball in the second game. Bochy didn't provide an order beyond that, but barring a trade, the Giants expect Noah Lowry, Tim Lincecum and Kevin Correia to round out the rotation.

Zito was 11-13 with a career-worst 4.53 ERA in 2007, his first season after signing a seven-year, $126 million contract. But he pitched well while posting a 3.10 ERA over his last nine starts, and Bochy said the 29-year-old former Cy Young Award winner would be looked upon to lead the staff.

"With his experience and past success, along with us having a young staff, that's how we see it," Bochy said. "Barry made great adjustments last year and he's excited about carrying it through."

The Giants discussed giving Cain the honor because of the way he handled adversity last year, but the Giants believe the 23-year-old will have plenty of opening-day assignments in his future -- plus he'll be lined up to start the home opener April 7. And while Zito said his ego wouldn't be tweaked, club officials saw little value in demoting a cornerstone player who is under contract through 2013.

"This is something he's earned," Bochy said. "Barry Zito is accustomed to it. It just makes sense to send him out there Opening Day.


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It will be Zito's fourth Opening-Day assignment, and the previous three haven't gone well. He is 0-3 with a 9.49 ERA.

"It's a great honor and it's nothing I take for granted," Zito said. Last year was a tough year for me but I'm appreciative they're giving me a chance to be a No. 1 guy, and on a personal level, get some redemption for not doing what I wanted to do on Opening Day, the first half and a little more of last season."

Unlike the first day of camp last season, when he pulled out a tape measure on the mound and began throwing with an unorthodox motion, Zito offered no surprises on Thursday. Everything looked smooth and familiar as he threw to catcher Guillermo Rodriguez.

Rule V pickup

The most intriguing pitcher to take the mound Thursday was Jose Capellan, the Rule V draftee who is at least two inches taller and 70 pounds heavier than his listed 6-foot-2, 170 pounds. Capellan, who throws from a deceptive, three-quarters arm slot, must make the club this spring or be offered back to the Boston Red Sox for $25,000.

Giants special assistant Felipe Alou recommended that the club pluck Capellan from the Red Sox. Alou's brother, Jesus, had signed Capellan for Boston out of the Dominican Republic.

"They were not happy to lose him," Felipe Alou said.

Kline is lighter

Steve Kline is the Giants' unofficial "Biggest Loser" of the offseason, which is fitting because he drew inspiration from the television show of the same name while dropping 40 pounds.

"I listened to all their tips about eating right," said Kline, who burns calories while serving as a hands-on high school wrestling coach. "Don't worry, by July I'll be back at 260 (pounds)."

Short hops

Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez made an impression for the opposite reason. He appeared to fill out his uniform and his legs looked stronger as he threw off a mound. "He had a really good outing," Bochy said. "He was consistent with his (arm) slot and command." ... Former big league catcher Brian Harper and utilityman Terry Shumpert have joined the minor league coaching staff as roving instructors. Also, former shortstop Shawon Dunston has agreed to join J.T. Snow and Robb Nen as special instructors for spring training.