SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Kevin Correia bounced between the bullpen and rotation so much in recent seasons he never knew quite where he fit into San Francisco's pitching staff or future plans. It made preparation that much tougher, too.
Now, he's the leading candidate for the fifth starter spot. Though left-hander Jonathan Sanchez is also preparing to be part of the mix.
``I've never come into spring with the kind of opportunity I have this spring,'' the 27-year-old Correia said. ``You can stay on the routine you want to be on. Not knowing your role is hard. I assume I will get a chance to start. That's all I need to know right now.''
The right-hander spent the final six weeks of the 2007 season as a starter after pitching primarily in relief over the past couple of years. He went 4-7 with a 3.45 ERA in 59 appearances with eight starts down the stretch for the Giants, who haven't been to the playoffs since 2003 and are now committed to a youth movement post-Barry Bonds to get the franchise back on track.
ot easier knowing he's the front-runner for the fifth spot,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``It helps your preparation when you know your role is a starter. He's in great shape. With what he did last year, he's earned this.''
The Giants like how Correia has developed as a pitcher to the point of using all his pitches effectively.
Correia would follow in a rotation set to feature Barry Zito, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Noah Lowry. Correia, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, is 8-6 as a starter in parts of five big league seasons - and the Giants have gone 18-9 in those games.
Sanchez, meanwhile, wants to compete for the final rotation spot. He worked out back home in Puerto Rico this winter to add some muscle to his thin 6-2, 190-pound frame and showed up in Arizona on Jan. 6 to start working. He gained five pounds from his 2007 playing and already has noticed a difference so far in camp. He threw several bullpen sessions before his first official outing off the mound when camp opened Thursday.
``He's getting a little weight on, good weight,'' Bochy said of Sanchez.
The 25-year-old Sanchez has spent parts of the past two seasons in the majors, making eight total starts in 60 appearances and getting 98 strikeouts in 92 innings. He started 48 games in the minor leagues, then made the opening day roster for the first time last season.
While Sanchez would prefer to be a starter - and is still being treated like one this spring - he wants to stay in the big leagues no matter the role. Whatever happens, he knows he put in the time during the offseason. It's the hardest he's worked in a winter yet.
``I feel stronger,'' he said. ``I think I'll be more consistent. I'm ready to go and want to fight for the fifth spot. In the majors, it's hard to get a spot. When you're a rookie, you have to establish a spot and it's hard to do. It doesn't matter where I finish. I just want to pitch.''

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