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In place of Melancon, Strickland gets save

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp's single up the middle opened the Los Angeles Dodgers' ninth inning off Hunter Strickland and presented an immediate challenge for the Giants' newly appointed closer. Here would be Strickland's first test.

Strickland aced the exam easily. He preserved the Giants' 1-0 triumph Thursday in assertive fashion, not allowing a ball to be hit out of the infield and mixing in a strikeout.

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LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp's single up the middle opened the Los Angeles Dodgers' ninth inning off Hunter Strickland and presented an immediate challenge for the Giants' newly appointed closer. Here would be Strickland's first test.

Strickland aced the exam easily. He preserved the Giants' 1-0 triumph Thursday in assertive fashion, not allowing a ball to be hit out of the infield and mixing in a strikeout.

View Full Game Coverage

Strickland was the last of four Giants relievers to support starter Ty Blach, who lasted five innings. Josh Osich stranded a runner on second base in the sixth, Cory Gearrin survived a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh and Tony Watson struck out the side in the eighth before Strickland reported for duty and earned the save.

"Strick has the right demeanor to pitch in that situation," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "He doesn't let much faze him."

Before Thursday, Strickland, 29, had saved five regular-season games and another in the 2014 National League Division Series. Though the longest-tenured Giants reliever never has filled the closer's role steadily since breaking into the Majors during that 2014 campaign, he has faced enough pressure to know how to cope with it.

"I just try to remind myself that I've been in this situation before," he said.

Leery of Mark Melancon's inactivity, the Giants assigned the right-hander to the 10-day disabled list prior to Thursday's Opening Day game and replaced him with Strickland, the team's best reliever during Spring Training.

Manager Bruce Bochy stopped short of naming Strickland to the closer's role permanently.

"I feel, on this day, we're better off going this way," Bochy said.

Video: Bochy on who will close for the Giants

However, if Strickland merely approaches the excellence he sustained in exhibition games, he could remain the closer for quite a while. Adding a slider to his pitching repertoire and using it to devastating effect, Strickland recorded 7 1/3 scoreless innings spanning eight appearances. He allowed one hit and struck out eight.

Right-hander Sam Dyson was Bochy's choice last year to replace Melancon and converted 14 saves in 17 chances. Dyson was inconsistent this spring, however, compiling an 11.25 ERA in nine games.

"He's working on things," Bochy said.

Melancon, who went on the DL twice last season and went 11-for-16 in save opportunities after signing a four-year, $62 million contract, continued to feel discomfort in his throwing forearm despite undergoing surgery last Sept. 12 to relieve the compression in there. He hadn't appeared in an exhibition game since last Friday and pitched in only five games all spring.

The Giants also announced several anticipated roster moves, placing left-hander Madison Bumgarner (fractured left fifth metacarpal), Jeff Samardzija (right pectoral strain) and Will Smith (recovering from Tommy John surgery) on the 10-day DL.

Right-hander Julian Fernandez (right UCL sprain) was placed on the 60-day DL, but Bochy said the Rule 5 Draft pick will receive a second opinion on his ailment.

The club also reassigned outfielder Steven Duggar and infielder Josh Rutledge to Triple-A Sacramento and purchased Gregor Blanco's contract. Right-handers Roberto Gomez, Pierce Johnson and Reyes Moronta were recalled from Sacramento to replace Fernandez, Samardzija and Smith.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland