Looking at the situation from the outside, it may seem as if they A’s are taking a risk in not finding a way to get Brett Anderson back into the starting rotation for the post-season.
But as things stand now, that is exactly the plan for Oakland, and the A’s seem to think the bigger risk would be to push Anderson into a role he hasn’t filled since the first month of the season.
Manager Bob Melvin indicated Tuesday the club was leaning heavily in the direction of having Anderson pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the season and for whatever portion of the post-season the A’s reach.
Considering that Anderson was the opening day starter and that he was 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA after coming off the disabled list last August, there does seem to be at least a minor gamble on the A’s part.
It was Anderson who stepped up and threw six shutout innings against the Tigers with the A’s down 2-0 in the American League Division Series, allowing just four base runners. That blunted the Detroit momentum at least momentarily. Oakland would pull even in the series before losing Game 5 in Motown.
This year is different than last year in several respects, however. Twelve months ago, the A’s were going with a mostly rookie starting rotation. This year, kids like Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin have the experienced they lacked last year.
Add to that all three are pitching well. Parker, heading into Tuesday, had not lost in 18 starts dating back to May. Straily and Griffin both are 3-0 in his last three starts. The rotation has been so good that Tommy Milone, who started Game 2 of the playoffs last year after winning 13 games in the regular season, has lost his job in the rotation and is pitching out of the bullpen – or he would be if the A’s weren’t getting so much mileage out of their starters. Milone hasn’t appeared in a game since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento a week ago.
Anderson is one of those keeping Milone on the shelf. He’s come off the disabled list (sprained right ankle and stress fracture of the right foot) on Aug. 28 and has pitched four times in relief. Three of those are three-inning saves.
The original idea had been to have Anderson throw three or more innings in relief to build up his arm so he could be a starter. While Melvin said Tuesday “we are keeping our options open,’’ that no longer seems the way things will go.
Anderson has provided days of rest for the remainder of the bullpen with his three-inning saves, and he’s gotten outs, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Melvin.
“The way our rotation is pitching right now,’’ he said, “we feel pretty confident of (Anderson) pitching in the bullpen. And we are pretty confident of our starters.
“He hasn’t started in a while (Aug. 29), and that plays into it too. He gives us added depth in the bullpen, and you can never have too much of that.’’
So looking at the situation from the inside, Melvin may well think the risk would be on changing a pitching system that’s working now.