The Oakland A’s have one of the strongest bullpens in the MLB, but they also have one of the most unpredictable and changing bullpens in the league. Since spring training, their starting rotation has been altered three different times. The relievers have had no consistency or structure since early April when the the A’s employed the closer-by-committee approach. And, once again, the Athletics pitching staff experienced more changes this week.
One positive change that occurred was that a closer was appointed. This week, reliever Sean Doolittle was named the Oakland A’s closer thus ending the closer-by-committee rotation. Additionally, Doolittle is probably the best choice for this role at the moment.
Doolittle has been consistent and reliable throughout the beginning of this year. He currently has a 3.13 ERA with 32 strikeouts over 23 innings pitched. Even though he had been part of the closer-by-committee approach, Doolittle already has four saves this season – the most of any A’s pitcher. If Doolittle stays healthy, he will continue to save games for the Athletics throughout the rest of 2014.
With Doolittle now the regular closer, Luke Gregerson will most likely pitch the eighth inning while youngster Dan Otero will take the seventh. Former closer Jim Johnson will fill in when needed, but manager Bob Melvin is concerned about Johnson’s consistency. Now, hopefully, the A’s bullpen will benefit from this structure.
Another change to hit the Oakland A’s bullpen this week was the acquisition of Jeff Francis from the Cincinnati Reds. This left handed pitcher was initially brought in to fill in for lefty Joe Savery who was going to go on paternity leave for a couple of days. However, the A’s then decided to option Savery to Triple-A.
It quickly became clear that Francis would become the Athletics long reliever. This will be Oakland’s third long reliever this season. The first two – Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz – were so successful that they were promoted to the starting rotation.
Like Pomeranz and Chavez, Francis was a former starting pitcher, which makes him an ideal long reliever since he is accustom to pitching for multiple innings. Francis has only pitched one game this year where he allowed five hits and three runs in five innings, which resulted in a 5.40 ERA. However, Francis does bring nine years of major league experience to the A’s young bullpen.
Hopefully, these are the final changes that the bullpen will experience this season. However, knowing the Athletics, they will continue to try and find the best combination of pitchers to create the perfect bullpen. As long as the current pitching staff stays healthy, the Oakland A’s will continue to have one of the strongest bullpens in the MLB.