Astros starters Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander are the latest veteran pitchers to criticize the innovative opener pitching strategy introduced by the Rays last season.
Speaking at Astros camp in West Palm Beach to mlb.com writer Brian McTaggart, the duo had a series of complaints about the plan, which typically calls for a reliever to get the first three-to-six outs, then bringing in a converted starter with the plan to limit him to two times through the order, then going to the bullpen.
First from Cole, on manufacturing the matchups:
“There’s a human element here you start to lose when you start rattling off the best mathematical equation to get the out. I certainly wouldn’t pay for a ticket to watch a math equation. I kind of want to go watch a human interaction, a human competition. There are guys that are really good at this and have been doing this for a long time. I think they should be left alone.”
Then from Verlander, on the residual impact on the bullpen from working so much during the season:
“You can really burn guys over the course of the season, and you get to the playoffs and you have a handful of guys in your bullpen you really want to go to. You’ve been going to them all year and you really overuse them in the playoffs because of that style of play. That’s how you get beat.”
Cole said he would have issues if the Astros tried to use an opener on his day and relayed a discussion he had at the All-Star Game with Rays manager Kevin Cash about his concerns:
“He said, ‘You know Gerrit, if we had starters like you guys, we wouldn’t be running those guys out there that way. I guess I believe him. I take him for his word. I would caution against doing it and taking that opportunity away from guys who have made a living starting the game and carrying it for six or seven innings.”
Last week, Giants veteran Jeff Samardzjia ripped the Rays pitchers for going along with the plan — calling for “anarchy” — and manager Bruce Bochy revealed that Madison Bumgarner told him he’d walk out of the ballpark if they used that strategy on his day.
Verlander and his wife, model/actress Kate Upton, have had previous complaints about Tampa Bay media voting in the Cy Young award.
The Rays and Astros open the season with a four-game series at the Trop. The Rays are expected to use an opener in at least one of those games.