During the offseason, the Oakland A’s acquired former Baltimore Oriole and closer Jim Johnson to replace the 2013 closer Grant Balfour. To say Athletics nation was extremely excited about this acquisition would be an understatement. Even though Johnson cost the A’s more money than Balfour, it seemed like a major upgrade. Johnson led the AL in saves in 2013 and in 2012 with 50 and 51 saves respectively. Also, he posted a 2.94 ERA in 2013. Lastly, he was younger than Balfour, which hopefully meant that Johnson would be more successful for a longer period of time.
However, Johnson did not meet the high expectations that had been set for him on Monday night in the Opening Day game against the Cleveland Indians. After starter Sonny Gray battled his way through five innings, relievers Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle came into the game and each threw one shutout inning. So when Johnson walked to the mound in the ninth, he was ready to go out and earn the save for his team with the game still tied at 0-0.
But he looked shaky. In the 1/3 inning he pitched, he allowed two hits and two earned runs. After the Indians racked up Johnson’s pitch count to 17, manager Bob Melvin yanked him from the game. Cleveland now lead 2-0. Melvin told the press that the reason why he pulled Johnson was because it was just too early in the season for Johnson to be throwing a large amount of pitches in one outing. Oakland A’s reliever Fernando Abad ended up coming in and finishing off the inning.
Even though Johnson was suppose to be one of the best closers in the MLB, Oakland fans should not be too worried about this first disappointing outing for a few reasons. First, Johnson has show some inconsistency in the past. In 2013, he lead the American League in saves, but he also lead the league in blown saves with nine last year.
Second, this is the 10th consecutive Opening Day loss for the Oakland A’s. This obviously includes the 2012 and 2013 seasons when they ended up winning the AL West. The Athletics are known as the comeback kids and they will be a figure out how to start pulling out some wins.
Lastly, the Athletics have one of the deepest bullpens in the MLB this season. If Johnson cannot find success this season, there are plenty of other pitchers in the bullpen that can help the Oakland A’s win. Even though there might not be any other veteran closers in the bullpen besides Johnson, there are definitely some pitchers that have closing potential.
Athletics fans and critics seemed a bit nervous about this new closer after the loss on Monday night, but this is just because the hype has been so high. The A’s have only played one game and it was against another strong team. It is too early to start worrying about Johnson’s potential failure. Johnson has the determination to succeed and I am sure we will see a different pitcher when he takes the mound again.