There's a decent chance that Tyler Rogers leads the Giants in saves this year, and yet, in their final tuneup before opening day, Rogers will be listed as the starting pitcher. Welcome to baseball in 2020.
The Giants have long been planning to embrace The Opener this season, and while Rogers is well-suited for late-innings work and will be a valuable relief piece for Gabe Kapler, the staff also believes he could give them a huge advantage early in games. There might be nights when Rogers is viewed as the best option for the first two innings, and because he hasn't been an opener in the big leagues or over two camps, Kapler wants him to experience it Tuesday night against the A's.
"We think he has the ability to pitch important late innings, we think he has the ability to bridge the gap in the middle innings, we think he could give us back-to-back outings, we think he could probably go two-plus if he needed to if we were able to build him up for that, we think he could open a game," Kapler said.
"Because we think of him as a Swiss Army knife, we want to have him prepare for all of those possible scenarios. We saw (Tuesday) as an opportunity to give him a look there and not be concerned if he goes out and walks a couple batters, not be concerned if he gives up a couple hits."
That last part may be unlikely. Rogers, after years of waiting, finally got his chance last September and held opposing lineups to two runs in 17 appearances. The submariner has been even more dominant this spring and summer.
The Giants have not named a regular season starter beyond Johnny Cueto and at the very least figure to use openers quite regularly in the No. 5 spot of the rotation. Sam Selman, a funky lefty reliever, has started two intrasquad games in front of harder-throwing righties. Rogers would prevent a whole different kind of challenge.
There's nobody in the game who throws like he does right now, and the Giants could back him with someone who is the complete opposite. Imagine a lineup facing Rogers for the first two innings and then someone like Tyler Anderson, a lefty who has a hitch in his delivery and hides the ball well. Or Wandy Peralta, who sits at 95 mph from the left side. The Giants may try this as soon as this weekend when they face a Dodgers team with Mookie Betts hitting leadoff and Justin Turner batting third.
These are the types of small advantages the Giants will try to take advantage of this season.
"The skillset profiles well against left-handers and right-handers," Kapler said of Rogers. "That can be an advantage depending on who the opposition throws out in the first few spots in the lineup."