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Bochy, Zaidi putting everything on the table for Giants

LAS VEGAS–With no major additions on the board yet this offseason, it’s too early to predict whether the Giants will improve or regress after a challenging 2018 season.

It’s hard to say whether the club will be better or worse, but this much is clear: The Giants will look different.

The personnel may not change drastically, but philosophies certainly will. Under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, the old way of operating is far from sacred.

And Bruce Bochy, the longest-tenured manager in baseball, is ready to adapt.

“It’s nice to have new ideas and new thoughts and hopefully we can bounce things around to where we can get creative to help win a ballgame,” Bochy said Wednesday.

Zaidi dropped a revealing nugget of information in a chat with reporters Tuesday at Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings when he explained that the Giants would consider alternative pitching strategies to maximize their available talent pool next season.

A year after many clubs including the Oakland A’s adopted an “opener” strategy, or the practice of using a relief pitcher to record a limited number of outs at the start of a game, Zaidi suggested the Giants will examine its benefits.

“We’re going to have to explore different forms of pitching staff construction and whether that’s using openers, whether that’s having tandem days where you have two pitchers each throwing three-to-four innings and taking down the majority of the game, I think we’re going to have to develop a plan for the pitching staff that fits the personnel that we have,” Zaidi said.

The A’s, Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers were among the first clubs to test radical new pitching strategies, but there’s a belief that other franchises will follow suit in the coming years. Zaidi explained that with Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija recovering from injuries, the Giants lack veteran depth in the rotation.

Because the organization hopes to protect the arms of young starters like Dereck Rodríguez and Andrew Suárez, the Giants may implement innings limits for certain pitchers. While both Bochy and Zaidi would prefer to have a rotation featuring five starters capable of working 200 innings per year, the duo understands the importance of setting realistic expectations for its staff.

“Farhan and I talked about it last night and I’m all about being creative, too,” Bochy said. “I think any time you can get creative to help win a ballgame, you should do it. I think it’s important that you do stay open-minded. There’s been some changes in the game and of course, that’s one of them. That’s going to be driven by the personnel of your roster. You see where you’re at and in your mind have to do it to give you a better chance to win a ballgame, I’m all for it. That’s why we’re here, to win.”

With several other pre-arbitration pitchers including Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and prospect Shaun Anderson hoping to contribute to the Giants major league staff this season, the franchise can ease the workload for certain pitchers as they acclimate at the highest level.

Though Rodríguez enjoyed one of the best rookie seasons ever for a Giants pitcher, he and Suárez are both under club control for the next five years. If San Francisco does not believe it’s prepared to contend for a playoff spot in 2019, there’s value in preserving their arms and keeping young pitchers fresh.

“These two kids did a great job and they got in an area they haven’t been before,” Bochy said. “It’s going to be important we take good care of them and keep a watchful eye on them. Maybe at times skip them a start or if there’s a spot in the game where I can limit some workload, it’s something I’d like to do for them. For their future and for ours.”

Aside from employing creative pitching strategies, Zaidi has also indicated acquiring multi-positional, versatile assets will be a high priority for the franchise moving forward. The Giants new president of baseball operations wants to have the ability to give all of his starting position players regular rest and ensure bench players have opportunities to receive more time in the field and at the plate.

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