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Hypothetical news: Giants avoid fifth starter, don’t set a closer

San Francisco enters the season with neither a fifth starter nor a closer.

San Francisco Giants v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

With the MLB season suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are no baseball games and limited baseball news. So I’m creating a hypothetical season — complete with news and recaps — until baseball resumes. All news and recaps will have the hypothetical tag, so you can at least know when you’re suspending reality.

With opening day just two days away, the San Francisco Giants are finalizing their roster. And while President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi said the team won’t officially announce the 26-man roster that will open the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers until Thursday morning, he did have news on two outstanding questions about the pitching staff.

Although in this case, the news is no news.

Spring Training served as a long audition for two notable roles: Fifth starter, and closer. And when the Giants trot out onto the oddly-brown grass at Dodger Stadium, they’ll have neither.

The Giants have a day off on Sunday, after their three-game series in LA. Zaidi confirmed that the team will use the off-day to keep a four-man rotation for now. The Giants also have an off day next Thursday, meaning they don’t actually need a fifth starter until April 9 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Zaidi noted that a few different Giants could make that start, and that the team might not have a set fifth starter. He also pointed out that the person who makes that start might not even be on the opening day roster, as the team will be moving around roster spots like puzzle pieces once again.

“It’s a fluid situation,” Zaidi said. “We’re going to make decisions based on how players are performing, what roles are best for which players, and what team we’re competing against. We’ll give a lot of different guys a look in that role over the course of the season.”

On a similar note, Zaidi did announce that Drew Smyly will be the third starter, and Kevin Gausman the fourth, pointing to the fact that the Dodgers have struggled against left-handed pitchers in recent years. Smyly will be in line to close the series in LA, and open the Giants series against the Dodgers on April 3.

San Francisco also will enter the season without a set closer. That shouldn’t be too surprising, given that analytics are trending in that direction, but the Giants are still open to having a traditional closer eventually.

“We’re going to use a bit of a committee, depending on how the game is going and who we’re facing,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Obviously, analytically, having a closer isn’t actually important. But it still has some value in the clubhouse, having that guy in that role that other players trust and grow accustomed to seeing come out in the ninth. So if someone stands out and earns that role, the benefit could outweigh the micro advantage gained by just following the numbers in this instance. So we’re open to that.”

Kapler also noted that, even if the team names a traditional closer down the road, they’ll still be open to deploying that pitcher in the eighth inning if the situation warrants it.