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A new bullpen coach? How Romanick.

Just finished negotiating rush-hour traffic and, in this one television home, the favored viewing in our house (PBS’ Kids Sprout) with my 5-year-old son. So all I can tell you from what I’ve heard and what little I’ve seen in Game 4 of the ALCS is that both Paul Byrd (Cleveland) and Tim Wakefield (Boston) are doing a wonderful job making the opposing hitters guess wrong in the early stages. More on this game as it goes.

The purpose of this blog, however, is not to discuss the playoffs, but rather to analyze the addition of Ron Romanick to the A’s pitching staff.

And any analysis has to start with pitching coach Curt Young.

Young came aboard in 2004, replacing Rick Peterson, who had forged quite a sterling reputation during his time in Oakland. The A’s pitching staff, for the most part, did not miss a beat during that season, save for Mark Mulder, whose late-season fade cost the A’s a fifth straight playoff appearance. Time has proven that it was Mulder’s shoulder, not Young’s coaching ability, that led to that development.

From 2005-07, Young has overseen the development of Dan Haren and Joe Blanton, and his most recent campaign was particularly impressive, because he a) helped turn Chad Gaudin into an effective-enough starting pitcher that Gaudin fell only two outs shy of reaching 200 innings and b) aided in what became a decent season from fifth starter Lenny DiNardo.

In other words, he’s been darn near as good as Petersen, if not better.

So it is that Young has every reason to be a tad annoyed by the hiring of Romanick to take over Brad Fischer’s spot in the bullpen. Romanick has been the team’s roving pitching instructor in the minors for the past nine seasons — he won 31 games in three major-league seasons — and so he’s had much hands-on experience with pitchers for nearly a decade. In other words, he’s hardly the guy you envision being content answering a bullpen phone.

Now, it may just be that Romanick has had a yearning to be on the big-league staff, and he was willing to settle for any position that was offered to him. The A’s may be perfectly happy with Young, even though the A’s pitching fell off this season, especially in the second half.

But it sure seems like the A’s are using this hire to convey the unflattering message to Young that if the A’s don’t pitch as they have in recent years, his replacement is already on the staff. Again, it’s a pretty cold way to do business, but the A’s already have proven themselves adept at it. It’s not the greatest way to coax the best out of Young, but the man is professional and will try to provide his best anyway. But you can’t make chicken soup from chicken slop, and the A’s staff — particularly the bullpen — resembled the latter for much of the second half.

Incidentally, A’s management is having anything but a vintage offseason so far. The loss of Jay Marshall on a waiver claim to the Red Sox is another example. Not that Marshall is ready to be a dominant reliever — he may nver be — but why do you keep a guy on your roster all year long (at times, manipulating it for that very purpose) — only to leave him open to a waiver claim. Marshall was not having a great year in the Arizona Instructional League, but this latest development suggests sloppiness in the A’s front office. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as the organization goes forward, does it?

rhurd