Brandon McCarthy has won the A’s fifth starter battle, manager Bob Geren said in his pregame media briefing. I’m not surprised by the decision, even after Friday’s poor outing against the Angels. McCarthy has been very sharp the entire spring. His ERA inflated to 4.50 because of Friday’s performance, but the guy struck out 20 and walked one in 26 innings. I don’t think you make a snap judgement based on one bad late-spring start.
Geren said the other two fifth starter candidates — right-hander Tyson Ross and lefty Bobby Cramer — are candidates for a bullpen spot. I’d say it’s pretty certain one will make the team. Right now, I’m penciling in Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Craig Breslow, Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and Jerry Blevins for six of the seven spots. Unless Andrew Bailey proves he’s ready (he hasn’t even started throwing) or Joey Devine convinces the front office he’s sharp enough (also unlikely, though he’s slated to pitch tonight), you figure Ross or Cramer will be kept. The issue is whether the A’s want to use Ross — a highly regarded prospect as a starter — as a big league reliever or let him start at Triple-A.
“That’s a decision we’ll have to make at some point,” Geren said. “I’m just happy with the way he’s throwing.”
Ross has been terrific this spring (0.59 ERA in five appearances, two starts), but something tells me he just needs more polishing in the minors. Having said that, I’m expecting the A’s to keep him for the big league bullpen. He got relief experience last season, and he’s more of a known quantity in the bullpen than Cramer. …
–The first (and only) night game of the season at Phoenix Muni awaits us tonight. I think there’s a little extra life for these, just because it feels like a regular-season game. Fittingly, Geren said his lineup tonight will likely be the opening day lineup Friday against the Seattle Mariners (except Kevin Kouzmanoff has tonight off, w/Andy LaRoche playing third base) …
–Let’s hear some thoughts on this lineup (and the fifth starter decision) …