Tony Sipp pulls double-duty for the Astros

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Tony Sipp was a centerfielder at Clemson, but once he became a pitcher he thought the days of patrolling the outfield were behind him.

Nope.

Welcome back to National League baseball, home of the double-switch and creative substitutions.

The Astros were shorthanded in the bullpen on Monday. Fellow lefty Darin Downs, who pitched two innings the day before, was unavailable and Rudy Owens was the long man in the pen, ready to come in if the one-run game went to extra innings.

“Coming into that situation as a staff we kind of knew that once Cosart came out of the game we were going to have to be creative and try to match our guys up as best we could. Having a guy like Tony Sipp who can play the outfield, it gives you that kind of flexibility.”

So Sipp became a strategic pawn in Bo Porter’s master plan.

“When (Sipp) left the dugout (in the eighth inning) he knew he was going to get the first guy and that Williams was going to come in and get Goldschmidt, and then he was going to have (Miguel) Montero,” Porter said. “So it was pretty much explained to him before he left the dugout, so no one was shocked.”

Knowing and being prepared might be two entirely different things, though. Sipp struck out Gerardo Parra and out came Porter to make his unusual double switch, bringing in Jerome Williams to face right-handed hitting Paul Goldschmidt and sending Sipp to right field.

“I didn’t think it was actually going to happen, though. He gave me a warning, but I’m like, ‘Alright, okay Bo,’” Sipp said.

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Once in the outfield, Sipp started running the possibilities through his head.

“I don’t think I had time to be nervous, I was just more focused more than anything because obviously if I let a guy, if I misplay a ball then I put myself in a worse situation because I have to come back and face Montero, I knew that,” Sipp said. “I joked around with Dexter and told him, ‘Hey, if I have to dive for a ball back me up.’ He was like, ‘Hey, you better not dive.’ Ultimately I would have had to work with whatever situation I had out there so I was fully prepared to dive.”

Williams ended up walking Goldschmidt and Sipp was brought back to the mound to face Miguel Montero, who he also struck out. Kyle Farnsworth then replaced Sipp, who took a seat on the bench to watch Martin Prado strike out to end the inning and preserve the one run lead.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.