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Kapler names two ‘important’ relievers — but may not name a closer

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There has been little clarity about both the Giants bullpen’s constituents and hierarchy. Tony Watson, the only member with closing experience and a fatter contract, is a front-runner for the back end, saying he’s accepting the leadership vacuum if not the closing role just yet. His Opening Day slot may be all that’s guaranteed.

There are two more relievers who will have “important” roles in 2020, Gabe Kapler said Friday: Trevor Gott and Tyler Rogers. And the next question becomes whether these roles will have names — closer, setup man — and the assigned innings that come with those jobs. Kapler is open to the openness.

Gott, who is notably out of options, is the second surest bullpen option, and in other camps would figure to be a seventh- or eighth-inning man. But the 27-year-old was challenged, Kapler said, to be available whenever the Giants may need him, which he happily accepted. Gott is coming off a solid season that was ruined late by injury, but he feels healthy after groin surgery and elbow discomfort. He’s also working on a slider with more sweep, Kapler said, to pair with a mid-90s fastball.

“It makes a lot of sense to have you in one-inning bursts,” Kapler relayed of that day’s player-plan meeting with Gott, “but at the same time we want your mindset to be completely flexible. You can be an early-in-the-game guy; you could lock down a spot at the back end of the bullpen and pitch the eighth or the ninth.

“But what we want him going in thinking is that he could be used in any situation.”

Rogers, option-able and also listed as “important” by Kapler, has less security. But the 29-year-old submariner, who was nearly unhittable in his debut last season, brings a different kind of look that looked at home at Oracle Park.

The new pitching minds have Rogers targeting up and in on lefties, wanting catchers to set up there more often, which Rogers said will make “my down and away, my bread and butter, that much better.”

Sinker/slider guys usually live on the outside edge.

“We’re making a conscious effort for him to go after that location [up and in],” Kapler said. “And we’re going to look at it from a pitch-grip standpoint and a pitch-selection standpoint, but also from just a sheer practicing-location standpoint, to get the most out of Tyler.”

Rogers is on board, saying that location induced weak contact last season. He is setting up to make a run at a roster spot, if not a solidified bullpen job.

Kapler left the door open for the Giants to not name a closer at all, instead simply using a reliever when he is needed. It would fit right into the new-school organizational approach.

Veterans usually expect and desire specific roles. Fortunately and unfortunately for the Giants, there are few established veterans on the team.

“I think if somebody grabs hold of that position and makes it unequivocally clear that that person is the right player for that role? Sure, I think there’s some value in naming a closer,” said Kapler, who did have closers in Philadelphia. “If it doesn’t work out that way, it’s interesting: Flexibility works both ways. And we have to be flexible enough to say right now we don’t have to name somebody who’s closer.

“… We don’t have relievers in our pen that are married to any role, and I think that’s fun and it’s unique about our camp.”


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