Oakland A’s 2014 bullpen preview

The Oakland A’s bullpen is looking stronger than ever going into spring training this year. With some great new additions and reliable favorites from last year, most batters are not going to want to mess with these pitchers. Let’s take a look at who the Athletics will have waiting in the wings, ready to come out and relieve the starting pitcher whenever necessary.

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson

Johnson will the be new closer for 2014, which means he is replacing the beloved Grant Balfour. Even though Balfour accumulated 38 saves in 2013, it does not match Johnson’s success as a closer. Johnson led the AL in saves both in 2013 and 2012 with 50 and 51 saves respectively. In 2013, he posted a 2.94 ERA with 56 strikeouts and only 18 walks.Over his eight year career, he has a 3.11 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP.

Johnson is five years younger than Balfour, so it is almost expected that Johnson be as or even more successful than Balfour in 2014. Manager Bob Melvin told SF Chronicle reporter Susan Slusser that Johnson is a perfectionist and that he is easily upset when he feels as though he did not pitch well. Sounds like Johnson may have some “Balfour Rage” within him, but we will have to wait to see how his emotions play into his pitching once the season begins.

Ryan Cook

Cook is not starting off 2014 on the right foot. A right shoulder inflammation has sidelined this right-handed pitcher for at least a week. However, Cook had already thrown about seven bullpens before reporting to spring training and seems to be on or even ahead of schedule when it comes to his training regiment.

Since Cook is reliever, he can take his time nursing his injury while only making a few appearances during spring training games. Cook played a major role in the Oakland A’s bullpen the last two years averaging a 2.54 ERA in 142 appearances. Additionally, since multiple new pitchers were added to the Athletics’ bullpen, Cook will not be stretched quite as thin as he was during the 2013 season. If Cook takes the time to make sure his shoulder injury heals completely, he should be ready in time for the start of the 2014 season.

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

Until three years ago, Doolittle was an infielder. He had been a starting pitcher at the University of Virginia as well as played first base. After incurring multiple injuries while playing in the minor leagues as an infielder, Doolittle converted back to pitching. So how is Doolittle looking going into his third year of pitching in the major leagues?

Even though Doolittle started off spring training with some left calf issues, it seems as though this minor injury is already a thing of the past. By Monday, Doolittle was already feeling better and was pitching with control and velocity by the end of the week. Since he is still a relatively new pitcher, he will continue to work on varying his pitches and building his arm strength. If Doolittle builds upon his previous success from the past two years, he should have a great 2014.

Dan Otero

Otero is definitely the hidden gem in the Oakland A’s bullpen. In 2013, he split his time between Oakland and Sacramento – where the Athletics’ Triple-A team resides. In the 39 innings he pitched in Oakland, he did not allow any home runs and posted an amazing 1.38 ERA. Additionally, while in pitching Sacramento, he made 15 saves out of 15 opportunities.

While in the minor leagues, he was a closer, so the question must be asked if Otero will one day be the Athletics closer. Johnson will hold that spot for 2014, but if Otera keeps working hard and developing his pitches, it could be a strong possibility – especially since I doubt the Athletics want to pay Johnson more money in 2015. For now, Otero will continue to provide the Athletics with reliable pitching, which includes his sneaky sinker that baffles most batters.

Luke Gregerson

Coming from the San Diego Padres, this All-Star relief pitcher will be joining the Oakland A’s bullpen for the 2014 season. While down in Southern California, he was the Padres’ go-to set-up man and I assume he will do the same for the Athletics this upcoming season.

In 2013, he threw 66.1 innings and was able to earn a 2.71 ERA with four saves and 64 strikeouts. What is interesting about Gregerson is that he rarely throws the ball straight. It always zips, zags, and curls toward the plate until it ultimately finds the strike zone. Gregerson is a good addition to the Athletics’ bullpen because, in 2013, the Oakland A’s only had three set-up men they could count on – Cook, Otero, and Doolittle. By adding Gregerson to the bullpen, Cook, Otero, and Doolittle will not have to pitch as much, which will help avoid injuries and save their arms. With his consistent arm and successful track record, Gregerson will be added to the list of reliable relievers in the Athletics bullpen.

Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty (2008)

Eric O’Flaherty (2008)

O’Flaherty was placed on the disabled list this past week, but this was expected.  Early last season, he underwent Tommy John’s surgery and he will most likely still be recovering by the time the season starts. However, once he is healthy, O’Flaherty will join Doolittle as one of two left-handed relievers.

O’Flaherty has a consistent arm and a great track record over his eight years in the MLB. Before he under surgery in 2013, he had a 2.50 ERA, and a 3-0 record.  Additionally, he has accumulated a 2.85 ERA and 1.24 WHIP throughout his career. If he is able to recover successfully from his injury, O’Flaherty will definitely be a forced to be reckoned with. When he will step back on the mound is still unclear.

The other guys

With such a plethera of strong pitchers in the bullpen, it is unlikely fans will see any other relievers than the ones I mentioned above. However, are the names of some that might pop-up here and there:

  • Joe Savery
  • Jesse Chavez
  • Eric Scribner
  • Fernando Abad
  • Fernando Rodriguez

To see my starting rotation preview, click here.

To see my infield preview, click here.

To see my outfield preview, click here.

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