How Could Use of Opener Impact Giants Pitchers and Prospects?

SAN FRANCISCO -- No matter how Nick Vincent fares as an opener on Tuesday, you can bet this isn't just a one-game experiment. A front office that opts for something so untraditional isn't going to base any future decisions on one or two innings.

So the Giants have officially joined the opener era, and they'll do it again, perhaps adding their own twist. They have internally discussed wide-ranging concepts for getting 27 outs, and at the Winter Meetings in December, Farhan Zaidi explained why the idea of using a reliever in the first inning is so appealing. 

"Once you get away from 'this guy is going to throw the first six innings of the game,' it opens up a lot of stuff," Zaidi said at the time. "Even with an opener, is an opener a one-inning guy, a two-inning guy, a three-inning guy? Again, I think the more versatile your pitching staff is and the more kind of multi-inning guys you have, the more kinds of ways you can get through (games)."

Even though they haven't tried it yet, the Giants actually do have a staff with plenty of good options. Here's a look at how the opener could open opportunities for some current Giants:

Derek Holland: Moved to the bullpen over the weekend, he could end up being the "bulk innings" guy if the Giants want a lefty soaking up most of the outs. Perhaps he's even the choice to follow Vincent, a righty, on Tuesday. 

Holland's strikeout rate (10.9) is the highest of his career and he's holding lefties to a .437 OPS. Imagine him coming into a game when the opponent has lefties stacked up for a couple of innings? Holland also did well out of the bullpen last year, so this won't be new to him. 

Trevor Gott: Vincent was the choice for Tuesday's first inning, but Gott could also be a good option down the line. With a fastball that sits 95-96 mph, he would be an uncomfortable way for a lineup stacked with righties to start a game. 

Tyler Beede: There are some in the organization who still feel Beede's best chance at having an impact in the big leagues is as a reliever, and with a 98 mph fastball, good curve and plus changeup, he certainly has the repertoire that would fit in short stints, too. With a lesser load to worry about the fastball would play up, and Beede got bullpen experience last year in Triple-A, so the warming-up aspect wouldn't be new to him. 

Travis Bergen: The rookie doesn't have huge splits so far, but if the Giants are to turn to a lefty in the first inning, Bergen would be the likely choice since Tony Watson and Will Smith are late-innings fixtures. 

Reyes Moronta: Alright, this is a bit extreme, but if you really want to make an opponent uncomfortable, imagine Moronta coming out in the first throwing 98 mph fastballs? Against an opponent with righties at the top -- say, the Trevor Story/Nolan Arenado Rockies -- Moronta could be a good bet to get through a couple of shutout innings and give Bochy just seven innings to figure out. One of the main points of the opener, after all, is to make sure your best pitchers get in while the game is important. 

Ty Blach: He's still on the 40-man roster, and the Giants considered using him to open for Jeff Samardzija last month. Blach ended up getting rocked by the Dodgers, but the Giants may turn to him again as they start getting creative. Blach has the ability to stretch out to four or five innings if he's having one of those nights when a lineup can't figure him out and he's sprinting back and forth from the dugout to mound. 

Madison Bumgarner: Just to be clear, the Giants would never use an opener for their best pitcher. This is something you only do once a rotation, for the most part, so this will never be a concern:

Shaun Anderson: A closer at the University of Florida, Anderson would have no issues figuring out the bullpen part, and the Giants may find that this is a good way to ease their top pitching prospect into the big leagues. The Giants could start someone like Bergen and then bring Anderson in to try and get through a lineup twice with a completely different look. 

Pablo Sandoval: Ok, this is *mostly* a joke. But Bruce Bochy loves rewarding one of his all-time favorite players, and if the season keeps going this way, it would be one hell of a story to let Sandoval take the mound in a September game and then shift over to an infield spot for the final eight innings. Also, keep in mind that Bochy wants to let Sandoval play all nine positions at some point. Why not start that day on the mound? 

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