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Will Giants have set closer after late-game issues in 2020?

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Jake McGee

The Giants played it coy as often as they could last year, holding lineups until the last second early in the season and often waiting until a day in advance to name a starting pitcher for a specific game. Given that penchant for secrecy, you would think one of the last things Gabe Kapler wants to do at any point is reveal his late-game preferences, but that's not necessarily the case. 

After a 2020 season in which five different players recorded a save but nobody got more than four, Kapler said he would like a more set plan in his second season. He has reiterated that in recent weeks. At some point, the Giants hope someone takes a firm grip of that closer job. 

"I think we had some guys last year who were capable of closing games and at times we saw them do really nice jobs of closing games, but it was never that surefire no-brainer closer that some clubs have," Kapler said last week. "I also think there are a lot of clubs out there that don't have one closer. Now, there are a few that are lucky enough to have year-in, year-out established veterans, capable and dominant closers. If the question is 'would you like to have a capable, proven, dominant closer?' the answer is yes."

Heading into the season, Kapler sees two players emerging for that role. Newcomer Jake McGee had a dominant spring, allowing one hit in seven appearances and striking out eight. The 35-year-old who nearly exclusively throws his fastball has 45 previous big league saves. Kapler, as he did last year, has also talked up Tyler Rogers, who had three saves last season and was dominant for most of his first full season, posting a 1.88 ERA after a rough first week. 

 

Kapler said he would be comfortable with either one of those players emerging in the ninth. 

"Very, very different pitchers, obviously," he said. "One of the things that we've said consistently and will maintain is that if somebody takes control of the closer role and kind of earns the title of our closer, we'd be very happy to hand that role to that pitcher and make it official. Look, I think you can make the case that both McGee and Rogers have put themselves in that sort of position."

The Giants felt something similar coming out of camp last year with another pitcher. Right-hander Trevor Gott had a solid 2019, a good spring and summer, and the equipment to excel late in games. Gott received the first four save opportunities of the season and was cruising until the A's stunned him during a series at Oracle Park. A blown save a day later in Anaheim ended his time in the ninth. Kapler said he never quite got to the point of telling Gott, who was DFA'd this spring but re-signed and will be with the Giants as a taxi squad reliever, that he was the bullpen's closer. 

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While players like to know their exact roles, the Giants won't be fooling anyone internally. They have a pretty good idea of which relievers will be pitching the final three innings in some order, and the players do, too. McGee said he doesn't care if the decision is made official. The most important part is communication, and that's a strength for this coaching staff. Fans and the media might have to wait some nights to see who emerges for the final three outs, but the players know the plan every afternoon. 

"I feel like the communication will be there," McGee said. "I'm totally fine with whatever role I'm in. I'm ready for any role, that's what I've told them."

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