Sam Coonrod

Farhan Zaidi says Giants keeping options open in pursuit of new closer

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AP

Farhan Zaidi says Giants keeping options open in pursuit of new closer

The Giants lost an All-Star early in free agency when closer Will Smith signed with his hometown Atlanta Braves last week.

Smith's departure left a clear void in San Francisco's bullpen, as he tied for fifth in MLB with a career-high 31 saves in 2019. Replacing Smith is a clear priority for Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, but he told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on Tuesday that he is in no rush to name a new closer.

"We've got some time to figure that out," Zaidi said on "The TK Show" podcast. "I don't think we need to decide that before Thanksgiving here, but one of the benefits for us of having made some of the trades we made at the deadline is it gave us the opportunity to see some of the younger relievers in our organization. Guys like Tyler Rogers, Jandel Gustave and Sam Coonrod. [These are guys] that could work their way into the picture and work their way into late-inning [situations] in 2020."

Rogers, Gustave and Coonrod were bright spots as rookies last season. None of the trio pitched more than 30 innings, but each showed potential pitching out of the bullpen in August and September. Rogers pitched the fewest innings of the three (17 2/3), but was worth nearly a win above replacement in his appearances, according to Baseball Reference's metrics.

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No matter which of the three emerges, the Giants are going to have a different look in the late innings next season. That could include a free-agent acquisition as well, according to Zaidi.

"Our closer may be in the organization right now," Zaidi continued. "We're going to continue to shop around and see what options are out there, but we at least like the depth that we have in our group of relievers."

Giants taking look at rookie pitchers who might be part of next wave

Giants taking look at rookie pitchers who might be part of next wave

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had five rookies in the starting lineup on Wednesday night, and there wasn't any more experience coming out of the bullpen. Four of the six relievers to follow right-hander Logan Webb were rookies, continuing a late-season trend. 

Trades and injuries have blown up the bullpen, so the Giants are taking a look at guys who might be part of the next wave. The same goes for the rotation, where the 22-year-old Webb is getting an extended tryout. 

Relying on youth can get ugly at times. Webb had a rough one and the Giants lost 6-3 to a Pirates team that has been one of the worst in the National League. The Giants have lost seven of their 11 September games, but the evaluation will go on. Here's a breakdown of the five rookies to take the mound Wednesday: 

Logan Webb 

Making his fifth start, Webb failed to get through five full innings for the third time. He was pulled in the fifth and charged with four earned on seven hits and a walk. The contact wasn't particularly hard, but Webb struggled with his command, particularly with a slider that kept veering towards the left-handed batter's box. 

"It's frustrating," Webb said. "I'm a competitor. I want to put the team in the best position to win and I didn't do that. It's frustrating."

Webb followed Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto in the rotation and has a chance this month to jump to the front of the line of young starters vying for 2020 jobs. So far, Webb has a 6.75 ERA as a big leaguer. 

"It's about executing your pitches," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He had good stuff tonight, he did. He had a little bit of trouble executing the breaking ball early. The kid's got good stuff. He just made some mistakes."

Sam Selman 

The lefty took over in the sixth after the Giants had scored three runs to cut the deficit to one. Selman showed his fastball-slider combo while getting two quick outs, but then walked a pinch-hitter. Cole Tucker, the Pirates excitable rookie, jumped on a hanging slider and yanked an RBI double to left. 

Selman was a revelation for the River Cats this season but has yet to carry that over. He has given up a run in four of six appearances. 

Tyler Rogers 

The most notable part of his evening was the fact that he warmed up to "Yellow Submarine." Rogers faced just one batter, elevating a slider that Kevin Newman harmlessly bounced out. That stranded a runner on third. 

The funky right-hander has allowed just two runs in nine appearances and looks like he could be part of the solution next season. It remains a complete mystery why the Giants didn't feel the need to take a look at him last year or the year before that. 

Sam Coonrod 

He quietly has made the most appearances (26) of any active Giants reliever other than Will Smith, and he should be pretty happy with his body of work. Coonrod got through the heart of Pittsburgh's order to lower his ERA to 3.09. 

At the same time, it'll be interesting to see how an analytics-driven front office views Coonrod's work. He has a 4.71 FIP and the strikeout rate of 6.2 is what you would expect from Ty Blach, not someone with a 98 mph fastball. If the Giants can get Coonrod to miss a few more bats, he could be a real weapon. 

[RELATED: Anderson could be Giants' solution at closer beyond 2019]

Conner Menez 

Giants officials have long gone back and forth on whether his future is as a starter or reliever. Like Shaun Anderson, his quickest path to a consistent big league job will be as a reliever. The 24-year-old made his third appearance out of the bullpen and struck out No. 3 hitter Colin Moran before getting cleanup hitter Josh Bell to take an ugly two-strike swing at a slider down and in. 

Menez has faced 11 batters since coming up to join the bullpen and has struck out five of them. If you're left-handed with pretty good stuff and you pile up strikeouts, you're going to have a job in the big leagues. 

How former Giant Ryan Vogelsong prepared Sam Coonrod for MLB success

How former Giant Ryan Vogelsong prepared Sam Coonrod for MLB success

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong spent years in the spotlight at Oracle Park, but these days his best work for the Giants is done in the background. Vogelsong is a roving instructor for the organization and has drawn nothing but positive reviews. 

It's pretty common for young pitchers to cite something Vogelsong once told them as they settle into the big leagues, and Sam Coonrod did so a few minutes after an eye-opening performance against the Cubs last month. On this week's edition of The Giants Insider Podcast, Coonrod explained how Vogelsong has helped him.

"One of the things he said is that you have to out-focus your opponent," Coonrod said. "He said that's why he was able to last for a while, and it really does work. You notice that things become a little bit slower out there whenever you can out-focus your opponent. Instead of allowing the game to speed up too fast for you, you can focus in on it and it slows it down for you."

Vogelsong was legendary for his intensity and focus on the mound and he has tried to pass that along to the next generation. So far, Coonrod is finding success. He has a 2.08 ERA and 1.08 WHIP and has allowed just six hits in 13 innings. 

Making mental adjustments has been especially important for Coonrod, who was a starter up until he had Tommy John surgery but now is getting used to life as a reliever. He said he's learning how to find that focus on quick notice. 

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"I've definitely gotten better at it since he told me," Coonrod said. "I still need to get better at it, but I think I'm going in the right direction with it."

Coonrod also talked about his big league debut, trusting Buster Posey, and a wild trade deadline for a close bullpen. You can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here.