Gabe Kapler has two front-runners for Giants closer, wants flexibility

Dalton Johnson
NBC Sports BayArea

Giants manager Gabe Kapler will treat this 60-game regular season like the playoffs, viewing it as a race to the finish line. Which brings us to this: Who will be responsible for the final three outs?

The Giants lost All-Star closer Will Smith, who had a 2.76 ERA and 34 saves last season, to the Atlanta Braves in the offseason. Kapler doesn't have an obvious choice as his closer, but believes the Giants have at least two solid options to end games. 

"During spring training, Tyler Rogers emerged as a guy who can take really important pockets of the opponent's lineups, because he's got through left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters, induce ground balls and get uncomfortable swings," Kapler said Monday on KNBR's on "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. "There's no real stretch in anybody's lineup that would be overwhelming for Rog.

"He's a good candidate."

Rogers, 29, didn't allow any runs over 4 1/3 innings in spring training while striking out seven batters. He finally made his MLB debut last season and made the most of it. The submarine-style pitcher went 2-0 with 1.02 ERA in 17 appearances out of the bullpen. 

As Kapler mentioned, Rogers was able to get batters out from both sides of the plate as well. Right-handed hitters hit .209 off Rogers, while lefties were even worse with just a .136 batting average. 

The other name Kapler mentioned has much more experience at the big league level. Left-hander Tony Watson seems like a viable candidate to step in for the departed Smith. Kapler agrees.

"Having Tony Watson on a roster is a real plus," Kapler said. "Because of the experience, because he's been so effective against left-handed batters for so many years and for various clubs. It's nice to know that if you are facing two or three lefties in a row, he's a guy that you can have take down that pocket of a lineup, but he's also effective against righties.

"Both of those guys are good options."

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Watson, 35, hasn't closed games 2016 and 2017. He had a 4.17 ERA over 54 innings last year, but a 2.59 ERA the year before.

One thing is clear, though. No matter who Kapler chooses as his "closer" after Summer Camp, it won't be a one-man job. It's no secret Kapler is a believer in modern analytics and mentioned Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader, who comes in during any situation, throughout the interview. He wants flexibility, and both Rogers and Watson should provide that.

"The one thing I just want to make clear is while if somebody emerges as a surefire closer option for us, a guy that fits the ninth inning, we'll absolutely put that person in that role," Kapler said. "However, we want these guys to be flexible to take down multiple innings, because as you guys know, we're not going to have our starters built up by the end of camp to take five, six, seven innings. 

"So, we're going to need a little more bulk from some of our relievers."

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Kapler believes Rogers is a reliever who can pitch back-to-back days and possibly multiple innings. Rogers pitched multiple innings three times last season, and back-to-backs days four times. 

Expect the Giants to get very creative with their pitching this season. That certainly includes their so-called closer.

Gabe Kapler has two front-runners for Giants closer, wants flexibility originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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