By Joe Stiglich
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 11:21 am in Spring Training.
We learned this morning that right-hander Joey Devine will open the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury that he really hasn’t shaken since last season. Devine will visit elbow specialist Dr. James Andrews either Wednesday or Thursday of next week to try to decipher how significant the injury is.
Needless to say, it’s a huge blow as the A’s prepare for Monday’s season opener against the Angels. Devine and Brad Ziegler were set to open the season as co-closers, but it was generally thought among baseball observers that Devine’s stuff would allow him to eventually assume the full-time role. It’s a recurring injury that landed Devine on the DL for much of last season. He eventually returned to the mound (his 0.59 ERA was the lowest in major league history among pitchers with a minimum 25 IP). But the elbow was enough of an issue that the A’s had him visit Andrews in October. Devine missed three weeks of action once spring camp started, and his elbow flared up again yesterday.
“I spent the entire offseason and rehabbed it and then it came back as soon as I got to game-ready, the first part of spring training,” Devine said. “That tells me there is something there.”
With Devine out, Ziegler takes over the closer’s role, and Bob Geren said Russ Springer and Santiago Casilla could also be called upon on days Ziegler isn’t available for the ninth. Springer, 40, was signed to be an eighth-inning man and has just eight saves in his 16 big league seasons. Casilla has four saves, seeing just the occasional ninth-inning opportunity in recent seasons with Oakland. “Casilla is definitely throwing the ball right now where I would have confidence putting him in the ninth inning too,” Geren said.
Devine’s absence has a trickle-down effect on how the A’s can handle their bullpen. They’re expected to carry seven relievers. Ziegler, Springer, Casilla, Wuertz and left-hander Jerry Blevins, at first glance, would take five spots. The A’s could also carry two long relievers, as Geren has said might be necessary because of his young rotation. In that case, think lefties Josh Outman and Gio Gonzalez (if Gonzalez is healthy). Or, if the A’s want to avoid having three lefties, they could sub in prospect Andrew Bailey for Blevins. Bailey hasn’t allowed a run in 10 spring outings.
Of course, Outman is starting today’s game against the Royals, and Geren still considers him a rotation candidate. “We haven’t finalized anything in our rotation and probably won’t until after the Bay (Bridge) Series,” Geren said.
The rest of today’s lineup vs. KC: