The use of an "opener" in Major League Baseball is a polarizing topic. Fans either love it, or hate it. With more and more teams experimenting with the idea after Kevin Cash and the Tampa Bay Rays saw successful results, it's reasonable to think the New York Yankees could be the next club to start a relief pitcher on the mound.
For one, they've already done it. Right-handed reliever Jonathan Holder started, coincidentally, against the Rays on Sept. 24. He pitched one inning before handing the baton to Stephen Tarpley, Sonny Gray, Chad Green, David Robertson, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and, finally, Zach Britton to cap the game. Given, the Rays were nine games behind the Yankees with no shot of overtaking New York for the wild card spot. So the stakes to use an "opener" were low. But the point is, eight relievers and a 4-1 win later, it worked.
This begs the question, what does the Yankees front office think about implementing the use of an opener?
The idea of bullpenning New York's wild card game last season against Oakland was floating around the clubhouse. Yankees GM Brian Cashman, interestingly, didn't rule it out.
"We are open to all options at this point since we haven't concluded that process," Cashman then said. "Still trying to win home field."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, with less than one week to go before the one-game playoff, was still unsure if a starter or reliever would take the mound come Oct. 3 against the A's. He was leaning toward a traditional starter approach with the crop of starters Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ from which to choose, but the question still hung in the air.
"I don't think we can do something like we did the other day when we started a reliever," Boone then told The Post's George A. King III. "I see one of our three starters starting that game. You could see a situation where one of our starters is pitching real well and comes out a little early because we'd be lined up and rested with our guys ready to go. We could be a little aggressive in certain situations. But it wouldn't be an opening-type situation."
In September, both Boone and the front office left the "opener" door slightly ajar because the Yankees were fully equipped with a terrifyingly deep bullpen. Months later, New York has only gained more weapons.
The acquisition of elite reliever Adam Ottavino, known for his power arm more than his claimed ability to strikeout Babe Ruth, has put the Yankees at the top of the hottest bullpen conversation yet again. As of today, New York enters 2019 with Ottavino, Betances, Green, Holder, Chapman, Kahnle, Tarpley, Jonathan Loaisiga, Chance Adams and Domingo German to represent a ferocious bullpen.
New York also has its five-man rotation ready to do battle with Severino, James Paxton, Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Happ. But if the 38-year-old Sabathia wanted extra rest for his ailing knees that have given him trouble in the past, it would be cautious and logical for the Yankees to start with an "opener" for a handful of games depending on the opponent.
The baseball season is long and grueling. Starters often get tired, injured and unpredictable throughout the course of 162 games. If the Yankees want to make the most of their stacked bullpen while being economical about the use of their workhorse starters, exploring an opener could prove to be an option for the team, whether fans are furious with the idea or not.