All eyes figure to be on the pregame pitching announcement when the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers meet for the finale of a four-game season-opening series Sunday night at Dodger Stadium.
The Giants did not reveal their starter for either the second or third game of the season until hours before each contest. When those pitchers were announced, it was not Jeff Samardzija, the team’s projected No. 2 starter who still has not appeared in a game.
On Friday, new Giants manager Gabe Kapler went with left-hander Tyler Anderson, and on Saturday afternoon, he sent right-hander Logan Webb to the mound.
The decision to use Webb paid off, as he went four-plus innings in his 2020 debut, allowing just one run, and San Francisco held on for a 5-4 victory
Asked about the Giants tactic of waiting until the last minute to name their starter, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts gave the equivalent of a verbal eye roll.
“It’s a little bit of gamesmanship, we’ll call it,” Roberts said before his team faced the Giants on Saturday. “To each their own.”
Roberts has not been a big believer in the opener strategy for his own club, not with starters he can believe in during his five seasons as Dodgers manager. Roberts will hand the ball to Julio Urias on Sunday for the left-hander’s 2020 debut.
Plenty is expected from Urias, who was 4-3 with a 2.49 ERA last season in 37 appearances (eight starts). Now in his fifth major league season, he is expected to be used exclusively as a starter this year.
“If they give me the opportunity, it could be an important season for my career,” Urias said through an interpreter. “I’m prepared for this. This is what I’ve wanted.”
A major leaguer at 19 years old in 2016, he has made just 28 starts in 63 appearances, with 15 of those in his rookie season when his innings were strictly monitored. The shorter season means he should be free to roam deep into games this year.
Giants pitchers don’t figure to get the same opportunity. Johnny Cueto gave up one run over four innings in the season opener and was surprised the he was not allowed to go further. The Dodgers scored seven runs in four innings off the San Francisco bullpen that night.
“You have to adjust to everything in life, but it’s uncomfortable,” Cueto said Thursday through an interpreter. “It’s the first time I’ve experienced this in my career, and I’ve been in the majors for 12 years.”
Kevin Gausman was the projected No. 3 starter for the Giants, but he pitched four innings in relief Friday and is not expected to be on the mound for the first inning Sunday night. Gausman indicated to the media Saturday that a more atypical starting setup could start appearing in a week or two.
“I’m more of an old-school mentality,” Gausman said on a media conference call. “I think that there should be starters, and there should be relievers. I think the whole opener thing kind of just gets a little tricky. It complicates things more than I think it needs to be. But I have no problem doing it.”
–Field Level Media