SAN DIEGO -- Manager Bruce Bochy indicated Tuesday that Barry Zito's role with the Giants beyond this season appeared uncertain. In other words, the left-hander whose seven-year, $126 million contract runs through 2013 isn't guaranteed to remain a starting pitcher.

"We'll have to sit down and talk about it," Bochy said when asked about the Giants' plans for Zito. "I can't answer that."

Every team needs starting depth -- even the Giants, whose rotation ranks among baseball's best. But as matters currently stand, Zito, who's 3-4 with a 5.62 ERA in nine starts during an injury-marred season, probably would have to compete against left-handers Eric Surkamp and Jonathan Sanchez for the rotation's No. 5 spot behind Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner.

Zito, 33, is 145-124 with a 3.90 ERA in 12 Major League seasons, including 43-61 with a 4.52 ERA since joining the Giants in 2007. He has started in all but two of his 364 career appearances.

The Giants owe Zito $19 million next year and $20 million in 2013. He'll be due a $7 million buyout if the Giants don't pick up his $18 million option for 2014. San Francisco management proved willing to eat big contracts last Wednesday when outfielder Aaron Rowand, who was due around $14 million through next year, and infielder Miguel Tejada, owed close to $1 million for the remainder of this season, were designated for assignment.

Bochy made his remark after Zito, who has been sidelined since Aug. 1 with a sprained right foot, pitched impressively in a four-inning simulated game at PETCO Park. Despite Zito's sharpness, Bochy expressed doubt that he'll start a game before the season ends, since insufficient time remains for him to regain the stamina to throw 100 pitches -- a prerequisite for starting.

Christian earns shot with Giants

SAN DIEGO -- To say that outfielder Justin Christian took a circuitous route to the Giants' leadoff spot would be an understatement.

Christian described his baseball saga as "very arduous," one which encompasses extensive shoulder surgery in October 2009 and nine professional seasons spent mostly in the Minor Leagues.

Yet there was Christian, 31 years young, sitting atop San Francisco's batting order Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres.

Completing what could be their last round of September promotions, the Giants purchased Christian's contract from Triple-A Fresno while recalling left-handers Dan Runzler and Eric Surkamp from Fresno and Class A San Jose, respectively.

Christian hopes his career path will follow that of the late-blooming Andres Torres, who spent his first full season in the Majors with the Giants at age 31 in 2009 after toiling primarily in the Minors for 11 seasons.

"It's very inspiring to see the success he's had," Christian said.

In fact, were it not for Torres' season-long slump, the Giants might not have summoned Christian to PETCO Park. Manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged the organization's curiosity in Christian, saying, "He's certainly going to be looked at" beyond this month.

Christian signed with the Giants in January after a dominant winter season with Los Mochis in the Mexican Pacific League. He led the league with 60 runs scored and 24 stolen bases in 25 tries. He also hit .356 with 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, a .452 on-base percentage and a .561 slugging percentage in 64 games. Christian divided this season between Double-A Richmond (.256 in 73 games) and Fresno (.338, 10 homers and 41 RBIs in 64 games)

Despite spending most of his career in the New York Yankees organization, Christian felt at home with the Giants. A graduate of San Mateo's Aragon High School, Christian grew up rooting for the Giants during the Will Clark-Matt Williams-Robby Thompson era.

Playing for the Yankees' Double-A affiliate in 2006, Christian led the Eastern League with 68 stolen bases. Two years later, he received a 24-game trial with New York and batted .250 with seven stolen bases in eight tries. But the Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster during the 2008-09 offseason. He spent most of 2009-10 in Triple-A with the Orioles' and Yankees' organizations.