UPDATE, 12:08: Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who worked behind an opener the most of Rays pitchers, said he had no problem with Samardzija expressing his opinion but he was more concerned with helping the team win.
"It's one of those things where there's been some different opinions on it, some guys have come out raving about it and there's been some guys criticizing it. We've kind of seen every angle with it,'' Yarbrough said.
"Obviously I respect him a lot, Jeff Samardzija as a player, and he’s had a really great career. It’s just one of those things for our situation it’s really worked for us and we’re able to win a lot of ballgames with it. I feel like that’s the only thing we’re really worried about right now is just going out there and winning ballgames. And if this is the way we’re going to do it then so be it.''
Yarbrough said he didn’t feel slighted last year when given the opportunity to pitch behind an opener, especially since it was his first chance to be in the major leagues.
"It was an opportunity for me to kind of get your feet wet a little bit and really get some confidence to have some success in the big leagues. What our plan is for this year I’m not really sure. I’ve heard speculation that we’re going to do it, but to what extent I’m not sure. I’m really just worried about going out here and staying healthy and hopefully getting us to the playoffs this year.''
And if that means a similar role pitching primarily behind an opener again, Yarbrough said he’s good with that: "Yeah, I’m just trying to help the team win in any way possible, so we’ll figure it out.''
PORT CHARLOTTE — Since introducing the innovative opener pitching strategy in May, the Rays have received both lofty praise and heavy criticism, including from some big-name starting pitchers.
Now Giants veteran starter Jeff Samardzija sounded off on the Rays pitchers, such as Ryan Yarbrough, who went along with the plan and pitched after the openers rather than being traditional starters.
“Where did the pride go from the players’ standpoint?” Samardzija told the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea. “Where were the guys in Tampa Bay saying, ‘No, no, no, I’m good enough to go seven innings and get all these outs. You don’t need to do this.’ Everybody’s just accepting what they’re told.
“As players, we need a little more anarchy. We need a little bit more self-moxie, a little more pride about your career and about the way you’re being treated. When I came up in this game, I was told by the older guys to value your value. Understand what you bring to the team and let them know that, too.”
Samardzija, who clearly also prides himself on being old-school, made his feelings about the opener plan quite clear.
"I think it’s a load of crap,'' he said. "Listen, if everybody goes to wearing two left shoes in the league, then wearing two left shoes is going to be the cool thing to do, right? What do you value in this game? To me, it’s the consistency of running a guy out there every fifth day and knowing that (star teammate Madison Bumgarner) is going to pitch Tuesday and then Sunday. There’s something to be said for that, and there is value there.”
Bumgarner, no surprise, is also not a fan of the opener.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy shared that when new baseball operations president Farhan Zaidi mentioned during the winter meetings that the Giants were open to using an opener, Bumgarner made his feelings clear in a text.
“ ' If you use an opener in my game, I tell ya, I’m walking right out of the ballpark,' '' Bochy said. "“I text him back, ‘Madison, whoa, it depends on how you’re pitching whether I’m going to do that or not.’ ''
“I can’t show you the next text,'' Bochy said.
Several Giants relievers told the Chronicle they would be on board with the opener if asked.
Zaidi, who worked previously with the Dodgers and A's, certainly sounded interested.
“When the opposition is thinking about using an opener, it makes your life harder,” he said. “Our goal as a team should be to make life as difficult as possible for the opposition.”
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays