SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants starter Barry Zito and manager Bruce Bochy held a closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon in the wake of a San Francisco Chronicle story that cited a source close to the Giants as saying Zito's spot in the rotation was "definitely not safe" and that his contract could be bought out before Opening Day.

"I told him he's going to be our fourth starter," Bochy said. "You do stay open-minded with the competition that's going on, whether it's in the outfield, infield or with the pitching staff, starting and bullpen. We came up with a game plan, and that's Barry going the fourth game."

Citing his track record of 10 consecutive seasons with 180 or more innings pitched, his 19 quality starts in 2010 and his 355 games without missing a start due to injury, Bochy made no bones about his faith in what Zito can give the Giants.

"This guy doesn't miss a start. It's a pretty amazing record," Bochy said. "The two starts that he didn't go out there wasn't his choice; we put him in the bullpen."

Zito's first start of the spring, facing Milwaukee on Monday, seemed to rekindle the command issues that "derailed" him last September, as Bochy put it. The celebrated southpaw was inactive during the Giants' postseason run after compiling a 9-14 record, his fourth losing season in four years with the Giants.

Bochy was willing to throw out the first spring start and move forward, eager to check in with the left-hander after his bullpen session Wednesday.

"We go back to when he wasn't on the postseason roster," Bochy added. "You watch how hard he worked, throwing sides, throwing to hitters between the series. He wanted to stay ready. Barry gives you everything he's got. Sometimes he tries a little too hard, but I've never had problems with Barry being there mentally. He gives his best effort."

Zito told Bochy he changed his offseason conditioning program, emphasizing more core work in an effort to regain his fastball command.

"Sometimes we get caught too much in win-loss records," Bochy said. "If you look at some of what he's done here, it's not bad. He may get the lowest run support [on the team], but every year his quality starts are pretty good."

Cain scratched with inflamed elbow

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Cain was scratched from his scheduled start against the Rockies on Thursday after an MRI revealed inflammation in his right elbow.

"He felt a little soreness there after his last outing and had a little inflammation," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We're going to let it calm down. He's going to miss a start."

Bochy emphasized that the decision to have Cain skip his start is simply a "cautious" move.

"Honestly we're hopeful it doesn't take more than missing one start," Bochy said. "We'll see where he's at here in a couple days. Now's the time to back him off and let it calm down a little bit."

F. Sanchez gets stronger; Wilson to face hitters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Two Giants appear to be on the road to recovery. Freddy Sanchez started his second straight game at second base Wednesday after a slow start working his left shoulder into game shape. He singled in each of his first two at-bats.

"It's good," Sanchez said of the shoulder. "I'm just trying to strengthen it up. Hopefully as time goes on, it will just get stronger."

Manager Bruce Bochy said Sanchez would get Thursday off after playing back-to-back games.

Closer Brian Wilson says his back is fine, and he'll get a chance to test it Thursday. He has yet to make a Cactus League appearance.

"He's going to face hitters tomorrow," Bochy said after Wednesday night's game. "He'll get a good session in. I'd say eight to 10 minutes. We'll see where he's at after that."

Bochy also reported that Andres Torres (left side injury) is close, but he's not yet ready for game action.

Alou recalls Mays' historic four-homer game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Fifty years ago, Willie Mays had a historic day at the plate, hitting four home runs in five trips to the plate against the Milwaukee Braves on April 30, 1961.

"And his fifth home run was stolen by Hank Aaron," said Felipe Alou, Mays' former teammate and current Giants special assistant to the general manager. "It wasn't really a big play, but the ball was over the fence. He reached and got it. It could have been five."

Alou came into the Giants clubhouse Wednesday laughing to himself with the story of Mays' big day.

"I told him, 'Check the box score,'" Alou said "He checked it. I hit two home runs. I never made the newspaper in that game. Only if you check the box scores: 'Alou, home run, 2. Mays, 4.' It happens all the time. The little guy does something that we think is big, and then one of the bigger guys will triple you."

Just who the legitimate "little guy" is remains unclear, since the box score shows Alou with only one homer, Aaron with two, Orlando Cepeda with one and Giants shortstop Jose Pagan (5-foot-9, 169 pounds) with two.

Worth noting

Marc Kroon earned his first Cactus League save Wednesday after notching 177 in six seasons in Japan. "He has a great arm. He did quite a job in Japan," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was pretty excited about tonight. Even though it was Spring Training, that was his first save ever in the United States -- Spring Training in the big leagues -- so he kept the ball." ... Catcher Chris Stewart made a good impression Wednesday, earning praise for his work behind the plate from starter Jonathan Sanchez and for his big bat -- a triple, a double, two RBIs and two runs -- from Bochy. "Stew put on a nice little show tonight," Bochy said. "He had a big game for us."