When San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy first exchanged texts with his ace, Madison Bumgarner, following the hiring of new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, Bumgarner texted him back.
“If you use an opener in my game, I’m walking right out of the ballpark,” Bumgarner joked.
Since Zaidi’s arrival, the idea of using an opener has been bubbling in the background. San Francisco’s strength is its bullpen, and the starting rotation, even healthier than it was a season ago, has been a major weak spot. The fact that the Giants have been outscored 42-5 in the first innings of games exacerbated the situation. So, they’ll use an opener in Tuesday’s opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I know the opener’s come up,” Bochy said on Friday. “We’ve tried different things. I just think it was a week of different things happening,even the things we just mentioned, between the bees and everything. We’re looking at [the run differential] more as an abberation than anything.”
San Francisco had initially intended to use Tyler Beede to start the first of two games against the Blue Jays, but will instead use Nick Vincent to try and buck the team’s trend of first-inning struggles. This season, Vincent is 0-1 in 14 appearances, but has a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings, with an excellent FIP (fielding independent pitching — ERA, but taking out defensive variance) of 3.11.
He’s had seven appearances of two innings or longer, and in those appearances, allowing four earned runs in 16 1/3 innings for a 2.20 ERA. If there’s a pitcher on San Francisco’s staff that’s best-equipped to handle the one- or two-inning role, it’s Vincent.
The real question is: Who would relieve him as the long man? It could be Beede, who was initially tapped to start, but it could also be Derek Holland, recently sent to the bullpen after a rough start to his second season with the Giants.
Last season in six relief appearances, Holland sported a 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 innings of work, and it was that work that was one of the primary reasons Zaidi brought him back on a one-plus-one deal this year.
Holland’s starting efforts this year — which may have caused him to act out a bit when he was demoted to the bullpen — have been far below what was a big comeback season for him in 2018. A year after going 7-9 with a staff-leading 3.57 ERA in a staff-high 171 1/3 innings, Holland is 1-4 in seven starts with a 6.75 ERA.