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Giants considering unconventional pitching

December 12, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- The Giants could soon join the growing wave of teams embracing openers.President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Tuesday that the Giants are mulling various alternative pitching strategies to deploy next season, one of which is the opener trend popularized by the Rays and A's in 2018.

LAS VEGAS -- The Giants could soon join the growing wave of teams embracing openers.
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Tuesday that the Giants are mulling various alternative pitching strategies to deploy next season, one of which is the opener trend popularized by the Rays and A's in 2018. The concept calls for a relief pitcher to start the game and pitch one or two innings before giving way to a more traditional starting pitcher who navigates the next five or six innings.
"As we look at our pitching staff, I think we have to think a little because of the uncertainty we have from a health standpoint," Zaidi said. "We're going to have to explore different forms of pitching staff construction, whether that's using openers or whether that's having kind of tandem days where you have two pitchers each throwing three or four innings and taking down the majority of the game. I think we're going to have to develop a plan for the pitching staff that fits the personnel that we have.
"We don't have five guys that we can expect 34 starts and 200 innings from. Very few teams have that. Thinking about some of these as an alternative to get through 27 outs every day, I think it's going to be a topic of discussion for us."

Aside from Madison Bumgarner, the Giants have plenty of questions marks surrounding their rotation. Johnny Cueto is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the bulk, if not all, of the 2019 campaign. Jeff Samardzija will be attempting to rebound from a nagging shoulder injury. Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez enjoyed tremendous rookie campaigns, but Zaidi said they could potentially begin the season in the bullpen or in the Minors as a way to keep their innings in check next year.
While Zaidi would like to add to his rotation depth this offseason, he said he isn't as confident about making acquisitions on that front due to the higher demand for pitching around the league. The Giants' bullpen, on the other hand, is quite deep, which would allow them to optimize matchups and take some of the pressure off the rotation next year.
Asked if he's spoken with manager Bruce Bochy about implementing the opener strategy, Zaidi said, "At the end of the day, I think everybody would take a win using less conventional methods than lose trying to overly extend a starter who isn't equipped or best fit to make that 110-plus-pitch outing."
Zaidi cautioned that nothing is set in stone yet, as he will continue to have conversations with Bochy and pitching coach Curt Young about the best ways to maximize the pitching staff's effectiveness moving forward.
"I think we're a long ways away from putting something like this into action," Zaidi said. "I think we'd be doing ourselves a disservice if we don't think about different ways of deploying these guys."

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.