The Texas Rangers have announced that lefthanded reliever Jeffrey Springs will start Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels as an “opener.” Springs will be followed by Ariel Jurado, who is normally a starter.
The concept of the “opener” has been popularized by the Tampa Bay Rays this season, who have, over the course of the season, had few traditional “starters,” opting instead to have a reliever start and pitch to the first 4-7 batters, and then be followed by a multi-inning pitcher who takes over and pitches like a starter normally would. With this approach, it means that when the non-opener “starter” is facing batters for the third time in the game, he is facing the bottom of the order, rather than the top of the order. Because there is some evidence of a significant third-time-through-the-order penalty for pitchers, you would rather have a pitcher face the weaker hitters a third time, rather than the opponent’s best hitters.
I had suggested this earlier this season with Doug Fister, when he was healthy, as he was good for around 21-22 hitters before fading. Texas had reported flirted with the possibility of doing this earlier this season, and would seem to be likely to try this in 2019. As things stand now, the team has one starting pitcher for 2019 (Mike Minor), and a bunch of guys who can go multiple innings, but who aren’t pitchers you’d count on to go 6-7 innings every time out. Rather than try to find four quality major league starting pitchers for 2019 to go with Minor, the Rangers may instead look to get one or two solid starters, and use guys like Springs, Jurado, Yohander Mendez, Matt Bush, and Alex Claudio as multi-inning pitchers for the other rotation spots.