Monday, July 16, 2018

Baseball Squads Feature a Closer...and an 'Opener'

In baseball parlance, an "opener" was historically the season's first game, or maybe the first game in a series against another team. Ya know, I'm skipping work to hit the opener at the Stadium, or, Kershaw is pitching in the opener against the Giants.

These days, opener probably refers to the Tampa Bay Rays' intriguing experiment of going with a cadre of relief pitchers every fifth time through the rotation, with an "opener" starting the game and offering a couple innings, and giving the opposing hitters one less look at the guy picked to hurl most of the innings.

The first true opener, according to The Ringer, was Sergio Romo:
The new terminology itself indicates the novelty of Romo’s weekend role. He started two games after making his first 588 career appearances as a reliever. But he was doing so on consecutive days, with the express purpose of clearing the top of the Angels’ lineup before making way for pitchers—normally starters—who would give Tampa Bay more innings. Romo was technically starting, but not in the traditional sense of the term. He was opening—the games, and, perhaps, a futuristic path to ordering a pitching staff.

The blog Rays Colored Glasses applauded the Tampa Bay squad for upending baseball tradition, only to question, a week later, if it was "Closing Time on Openers." 

The first story--the complementary one--read:

Give Kevin Cash and the Rays organization credit for again trying something different.  There’s no doubt that the Rays must be different to compete.  They will never have the payroll as many other teams in baseball.  But, they seem to have taken an aggressive approach to numbers.  Statistics.  And, that cannot be overlooked.

The whole opener debate took off in a Reddit post May 22. Reddit defines the opener as:

The Opener is basically a relief pitcher used at the start of the game. Like many standard relievers, the Opener has a limited, but important role to play in how teams could win games.