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Relief pitcher Scott Alexander will start Dodgers’ opener with Rockies

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Santana‘s major league debut will happen on Friday, just not in a traditional way. The Dodgers announced that reliever Scott Alexander will start the series opener against the Rockies at Coors Field.

This is something the Rays have done recently, with relief pitchers Sergio Romo and Ryne Stanek starting seven of their last 12 games, pitching a total of 6⅓ innings. They were followed in most cases by a more traditional starter (a couple were truer bullpen games), with the idea behind the strategy to combat the highest-scoring inning with a pitcher who is better on a per-inning basis.

MLB-wide, relief pitchers have a 3.94 ERA and starters have a 4.18 ERA in 2018. The further you move down the rotation depth totem pole the more such a maneuver makes even more sense, at least in theory.

This isn’t a revolution. It’s an attempt by teams with decimated starting rotations trying to gain an incremental benefit by switching the timing of the allocation of their innings pitched.

In the case of the Rockies, Charlie Blackmon is normally their leadoff hitter and has started Colorado’s last 13 games batting first. Fellow left-handed batters David Dahl and Gerardo Parra have started 11 of the Rockies’ last 16 games batting second. Hence, the southpaw Alexander to open the game on the mound for the Dodgers.

When Santana enters the game remains to be seen but logically he would replace Alexander, perhaps as early as the second inning.

Alexander will be the 500th pitcher to start a game in Dodgers history.

On the season he has a 4.05 ERA in 20 games, but has been much more effective since returning from a brief stint in Triple-A. In his last nine appearances Alexander has a 1.04 ERA with six strikeouts and three walks in 8⅔ innings, plus an 83.3% ground ball rate, much more on-brand for the sinker specialist.

Game info

Time: 5:40 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA