This past week, Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin told the press that six of the seven bullpen spots are pretty obvious. This probably means that closer Jim Johnson, setup men Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero, and long reliever Jesse Chavez all have secured their spots in the bullpen for the upcoming 2014 season. These decisions seem to be based either on last year’s performances or some wowing spring training performance like Chavez’s 4 ⅔ scoreless innings over his two outings. So who will get the last spot in the bullpen?
It is fairly obvious that because of the current depth the Athletics already have in the bullpen, the leftover starters will most likely head to Triple-A in Sacramento. This includes Tommy Milone, Drew Pomeranz, and Josh Lindblom. These three will be on-call in case something happens to one of the Oakland A’s five starters.
Ideally, left hander Eric O’Flaherty would fill this last spot. However, he will not be ready to pitch until mid-season since he is still recovering from Tommy Johns surgery. Most likely, if O’Flaherty has a successful recover, the pitcher who is chosen for this seventh spot by the end of spring training will just be a fill-in until O’Flaherty is ready to pitch again. And there seem to the three in the running for this last spot.
It would make sense to fill this last spot with a left-handed pitcher since Doolittle will be the only left-hander in the bullpen as of right now. The most likely choice then is Joe Savery. The Oakland A’s recently acquired Savery off of waivers in February 2014. Even though Savery spent the majority of career in the Philadelphia Phillies minor leagues, he did impress when he he had the chance to pitch in the majors.
In 2013, he made two appearances which earned him a 3.15 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 20 innings. In 2012, he struck out 16 over 25 innings and had a 1.38 WHIP. Lastly, in 2011, he pitched 2.2 innings where he struck out two and only allowed one hit. This year could be the year that Savery stays in the major league bullpen for the whole season.
The other left handed pitcher to watch is Fernando Abad, who was traded to the Oakland A’s in late November of 2013. He has impressed in spring training over the three innings he has pitched. He allowed only one hit, struck out four, and did not walk anyone. When he was with the Washington Nationals last season, he earned a 3.35 ERA and had a 1.38 WHIP. Abad is a contender for this seventh spot if he continues to pitch like this throughout spring training.
However, right handed pitcher Eric Scribner also has a good chance of filling that last spot in the Oakland A’s bullpen. He has been with the Oakland A’s since 2012 and was in San Diego for two years before coming to Oakland. Over his four years in the MLB, he has spent a lot of time in the minor leagues. However, he has earned a 2.50 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP over the times he has been able to pitched in the major league. And in those 33 innings he pitched, he struck out 28. If Scribner is able to impress during spring training, he could find himself in the Oakland A’s bullpen for 2014.
It ultimately comes down to what hole the Athletics think they will need to fill in their bullpen. Personally, I think it will be the fact that they lack left handed pitchers. This being said, Savery and Abad have a better chance of making the bullpen than Scribner. This decision will not be made until probably the very last moment, so time will only tell to see who claim the seventh spot in the Oakland A’s bullpen.