Honestly I was surprised when Padre skipper, Bud Black, announced John Garland as his opening day starter, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more sense it makes.
Sometimes it’s obvious who should get the ball on day one, and hopefully set the tone for the season. Sometimes it’s not, and in those situations usually a manager will look at what’s best for the long hall instead of the politically correct choice for one game. Such was the situation for Black, and I think he made the right choice for several reasons.
- First, it allows Chris Young, coming off off-season shoulder surgery, to not worry about doing to much on opening day, and to get the home opener. Having the home opener shows respect to Chris, and to the fans who want to cheer for a familiar face on day one at home.
- Second, it gives Garland a little extra impetus to be a leader, and take a bit more ownership of this staff other than just preparing for his own outing every 5th day. This will be his first career opening day assignment. He’s not a boisterous leader, but his experience is needed, and can be a good influence on young Richard and Latos.
- Finally, and for me probably most importantly, it allows Black the freedom to use his bullpen more liberally on days that Matt Latos pitches, knowing he has Garland throwing the next day. Garland has a reputation for making all his starts and giving innings.In each of the past eight seasons he has made 32 or more starts, and pitched between 191 and 221 innings. With that kind of consistency, you can have some confidence that you won’t need to burn through the bullpen on a day he pitches. With the Padres looking to control Latos’ overall innings for the season to be around 150, Buddy can use his bullpen more on Latos’ days if necessary with some confidence his starter the next day will be able to give him some innings, and not kill the bullpen two days in a row.It’s a subtle issue, but one that ultimately can make a difference for Latos’ availability later in the year, and the freshness of the bullpen over the course of the season as well.
Truth be told, after the first game, who a team’s opening day starter was means very little. With days off, and rainouts most rotations get out of synch with one another anyway, so “Aces” don’t always match after the opener. All said and done, Buddy’s decision makes a lot of sense for the long haul, not just one game of the 162.