Doolittle will retain role as lefty setup man

Sean Doolittle, the embattled A’s reliever who has fallen on hard times at the mound, doesn’t have to worry for his job.

Doolittle met Wednesday morning with manager Bob Melvin who told Doolittle he would be remaining in his role as the A’s primary left-handed setup man to closer Grant Balfour.

That came the morning after Doolittle threw four pitches and gave up three runs in the eighth inning, letting a 3-0 Oakland lead slip away. The A’s went on to lose the game to the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in 10 innings.

   “I don’t know that we avoid him today or want to,’’ Melvin said. “He feels good, we still feel good about him. You’re constantly looking to make adjustments when you have tough periods, and he will, and he has. I’m sticking with him.

“Like any pitcher who’s ever pitched, you’re never going to be perfect over the course of your entire career. I think going through something like this gives you experience, makes you better, makes you find out different ways to do it. He’ll be better on the flip side for it.’’

Doolittle, who spent much of Wednesday morning analyzing video of his recent troubles – three games, seven runs after starting the season allowing two runs in 23 games – has made it clear he wants to solve whatever problems he has working in the same role.

Doolittle, a converted first baseman who was one of the major surprises for the A’s last season, throws in the high-90 mph range and has never stumbled like this since moving to the pitcher’s mound.

Because of the success Melvin has had bringing him into games the last two seasons, it was relatively easy for the manager to opt to stay with his closer.

“You take into consideration what kind of guy he is,’’ Melvin said. “Is he a confident guy? Is he someone you need to give a break to? He’s not that type of guy. He wants the ball and he wants it today.’’

Doolittle said that while much of his frustration came from the results, much of it also came from the fact that he was feeling good and strong on the mound and felt like he should be pitching to form.


–The A’s are facing at least three and possibly four left-handed starting pitchers this long weekend in Chicago.

The White Sox are sure to go with lefties Jose Quintana, Chris Sale and John Danks in the first three games, and with Jake Peavy questionable for the Sunday finale, that game could go to a left-hander as well.

That could be good news for Oakland, which is 12-8 when facing left-handed starting pitching this season despite the fact that most of the big names in the Oakland lineup are historically better facing right-handed pitching. A’s hitters average .264 against lefties and only .243 against right-handers.

What that means for the lineup is that first base will go to Nate Freiman over Brandon Moss for the most part and that Derek Norris, who has been on the bench for three days with John Jaso catching while the club faced right-handed pitching in Milwaukee, will be getting regular work.

Norris could even make starters both Friday night and Saturday day when catchers normally get day games off after night games. But Jaso was in the lineup Wednesday afternoon after playing Tuesday night.

“I typically don’t have one of them catch a day game after a night game,’’ Melvin said, “but we’re going to try to maximize our matchups, knowing it could be four left-handers there.

Moss began the season getting starts against left-handed pitching, but his recent troubles (2-for-29 entering play Wednesday) have him starting solely against righties. That’s given Freiman a chance to play, and the 6-foot-8 Rule 5 pickup is hitting .340 with two homers and 14 RBIs against left-handed pitching.

“(Moss) will be getting some at-bats against left-handers,’’ Melvin said. “He’s going to get hot again. There’s no doubt about it. His batting practices are better. He hit a home run here (Monday).

“So there will be times he’ll get some at-bats against lefties, but based on the fact Freiman has done well against left-handed pitching, he’ll get the brunt of the at-bats.’’

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.