Giants' first-inning woes continue, and openers a distinct possibility


SAN FRANCISCO -- When Farhan Zaidi stood in front of a group of Giants season-ticket holders in January, he was asked if he was serious about occasionally using an opener. The new president of baseball operations volleyed the question back, asking the fans if they would still be against an opener if he could guarantee them that the strategy would improve the Giants' chances. 

Zaidi learned a lesson that day. The majority of the fans in the room confirmed that yes, they would still be against the opener, a recent addition to MLB rotations, even if it helped the club's chances. 

Perhaps the question should be asked again. 

After Cincinnati Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig deposited a hanging Jeff Samardzija slider in the Oracle Park bleachers in the first inning of the Reds' 5-4 win Saturday, Giants starters have allowed 40 runs in 39 first innings this season. Puig's homer was the 16th against Giants starters in the first, easily their worst mark in any inning. The staff has allowed just 16 homers in the final four innings combined. 

This isn't just about the pitching, though. Evan Longoria's solo shot in the bottom of the inning was the first homer by a Giants hitter in the first inning this season. They have just three runs in the first all year, as many as the Reds scored in one night at Oracle Park. 

Add it up, and the Giants have been outscored 40-3 in the first inning this year. 

As manager Bruce Bochy likes to say, "if it's not working, change something."

"Some things are hard to explain," Bochy said Saturday. "As a staff we've had a tough time in the first. It's hard to believe how any runs we've given up in the early innings. We've got to fix it."

The fixes so far have been subtle. Samardzija threw more pitches than usual in the bullpen before the game, but it didn't work. Derek Holland, who had a rough first inning last week in Colorado, was moved to the bullpen, and he's not happy about it. 

But bigger strategy changes could be coming soon. The front office has continued to talk about using openers, and on several occasions already the discussions have gotten serious. When Ty Blach was recalled for the Dodgers series last homestand, the Giants seriously considered starting Blach against the left-leaning lineup he previously had always dominated, and bringing Samardzija out of the bullpen. 

The Giants haven't gone that far yet, but they continue to evaluate upcoming series for opportunities to try something different. On Friday, Bochy said the concept is still a consideration. 

"I can't tell you if or when we'll do it, but it's still something that has come up," he said at the time. 

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After Saturday's loss, Bochy said Tyler Beede would start Tuesday but wouldn't name a starter for Wednesday's game. Andrew Suarez and Shaun Anderson are options to come up from Triple-A, but perhaps it's time for the front office to finally turn to a concept Zaidi first floated at the Winter Meetings. 

If it's not working, change something. Right now, the plan in the first inning isn't working. 

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