I am sure there are Mariner fans who wonder what or who is an opener? Last year the Tampa Bay Rays decided to start a reliever because they had a lack of quality starters on their team or in the organization. It wasn’t just depth but injuries happening on their pitching staff as well.
This year the Tampa Bay Rays continue to use the reliever as a starter now known as the opener. Currently, the Rays have Blake Snell, a Cy Young Award winner from last year, and Charlie Morton as their number one and two starters.
Tyler Glasnow was their number three starter, however, he was injured in early May and won’t return until early July at the earliest. Yonny Chirinos is now the Rays third starter though he started out in the bullpen. Ryne Stanek is their opener in the 4th spot. He only goes one inning then the Rays go to the bullpen. He has come into games out of the bullpen as well.
Both the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Angels on occasion have started with openers then have brought in a former starter in the second inning. The different way then what the Rays have done.
The Mariners have just recently done the same thing. So far the opener has only been successful once in three tries while the former starter has been successful. Cory Gearrin was the first opener but he wasn’t successful giving up three runs in the first inning, however, Wade LeBlanc did well coming in twice going six innings and eight innings.
Austin Adams was the opener in LeBlanc’s second duty coming out of the bullpen and then again when Tommy Milone did the same thing. His first outing he gave up three runs but no runs the second time out.
At this point, it is hard to judge whether this will work or not having an opener start, however, if it does this could be a secret weapon. What I mean by this, what if Austin Adams or someone else can be successful as an opener like Edwin Diaz was as a closer last year. Also, the former starter can pitch longer than he did when starting.
How about Felix Hernandez when he comes back from the injured list maybe the opener can help him be successful. Like Wade LeBlanc, Felix would have to buy into it coming in the game in the second inning instead of starting the game. We know Felix has struggled early on in games, what if he could go deeper into games by entering the game in the second inning. Not starting the game may give him extra time to warm up or let his mind be ready to go. It is something to think about.
In the same way, a closer changed how baseball has been played so could the opener. This would allow pitchers who can’t throw five innings or longer still be effective in smaller roles. The Tampa Bay Rays are showing this can happen. This could make the Mariners pitching staff better over the season too. I do hope the Mariners continue with the opener the rest of the season.