Tyler Rogers

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.

[RELATED: Former Giants hitting coach Powell takes job in Japan]

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 rookie Tyler Rogers opening eyes with unique submarine slider

Giants rookie Tyler Rogers opening eyes with unique submarine slider

Only jury duty kept Giants pitching coach Curt Young from putting together a summit of submariners this month. Young was with the A's when Chad Bradford dominated hitters with his unique approach, and he hoped to put Bradford in a room with Giants rookie Tyler Rogers.

"He got called in for jury duty," a smiling Young said of Bradford. "But we'll make it happen at some point."

With the way Rogers is pitching, there's no real rush. Nobody is taking greater advantage of a September opportunity than Rogers, a submarining right-hander who has a 1.54 ERA in 12 appearances and has allowed just seven hits. Rogers provides a look that's not seen anywhere else in the majors, and big leaguers haven't adjusted yet.

With every bewildered stare back at the mound, Rogers gets closer to putting himself in position for a bullpen job in 2020. 

"The results kind of speak for themselves so far. I've been able to execute pitches," Rogers said. "Between the two levels, that hasn't changed. If you execute the pitch, more times than not you're going to be successful. And if you don't, you know, they're going to hurt you."

There's been very little pain thus far, particularly on a slider that's become a put-away pitch for Rogers and has fascinated teammates and fans. Because of where Rogers releases the ball -- he's dead last in the majors with a release point of just 1.05 feet above the dirt -- the slider often appears to be rising the entire way to the catcher's glove. It floats into the strike zone and elicits ugly swings. 

"Absolutely, it almost rises even for the catcher," said Aramis Garcia, who caught Rogers in Triple-A. "Depending on how he throws it, if it's high or in the middle of the zone, it gets really good rise. Guys in the batter's box say it all the time. They hate seeing that slider after the fastball."

Rogers' slider isn't a high-spin pitch. At 2,279 RPM, it has one of the lowest spin rates on the Giants' staff, but the results thus far have been impressive. Rogers has thrown the pitch 36 times and allowed just one hit, a single. Seven of his eight strikeouts have come on the slider and it's being hit an average of just 79 mph when put into play. 

The funny thing about the pitch for Rogers is that it didn't even use to be in his repertoire. As a freshman at Austin Peay, he threw exclusively fastballs. 

"I just couldn't figure (the slider) out and it still takes a lot of tinkering in practice," Rogers said. "That pitch has definitely evolved a lot over the years. Now I just kind of let it do what it wants that day. It's not the same day to day. Some days I can really cut it loose and give it what I've got and other days I've got to be a little more about finesse with it."

The pitch, which Rogers throws off of his low 80s sinker, helped him put up eye-popping numbers during a curiously long stay in Triple-A. Rogers had a 3.27 ERA in 179 career appearances in a tough league for pitchers, but the Giants didn't take a look until this September, the end of his fourth season in Sacramento. 

Teammates who were there the day Rogers got called up say the eruption from the clubhouse was as loud as they could remember. They were curious to see how Rogers' delivery would work against big league hitters, and so far the results have helped Rogers grab a more high-leverage role in a shifting bullpen.

That doesn't surprise Garcia, who actually might have learned more about Rogers' slider when an opposing hitter had success against it. Garcia often played first base in Sacramento and said even a hitter who reached would come away grumbling. 

[RELATED: Sacramento River Cats win Triple-A National Championship]

"There were a lot of times where a guy would get to first base and all he would be talking about is how much he hates facing him," Garcia said. 

Big league hitters apparently feel the same way. 

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.