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There’s nothing evident about the A’s anymore

The additions of Scott Kazmir to the starting rotation and Jim Johnson to the bullpen should have the A’s in good shape heading into the winter meetings.

The A’s will go to Orlando next week, because they have to at least make an appearance, but history suggests they may not do much past taking part in the Rule 5 draft, the same process that brought them first baseman Nate Freiman last year. History may prove to be wrong about that.

Already the A’s have shown a major ability to surprise. And they’d like more, because they need more. Oakland would like to add a bat, but most of the ones they’d want they can’t afford. Many of the one they can afford, they wouldn’t want. Maybe there is one out there they’d like.

    But even when it comes to the new pitching, the A’s need to be careful.

For one thing, they may not want to start Kazmir at the front end of the rotation. The Indians were extremely careful in the way they used the left-hander, who was making a comeback in 2013 after being all but out of the major leagues in 2011-12.

He made 29 starts and threw 158 innings, an average of less than 5.2 innings per start. And because he was unused to the 180 innings-plus workload he’d had when he first came up with Tampa Bay, Kazmir didn’t always work on an every-fifth-day schedule with Cleveland.

In August he made one start between Aug. 9 and Aug. 25. Curiously that was an Aug. 18 start against the A’s when Oakland reached him for five runs in five innings.

“The Indians were aware of his recent history and that he hadn’t had a lot of innings the last couple of years,’’ one American League scout said. “It’s not like they babied him, but they were concerned given his history that his arm might not hold up down the stretch.’’

As it happens, it did hold up. With the Indians in the middle of a pennant race, Kazmir made five September starts, had a 2.57 ERA and went 3-2.

“Was that because they gave him the extra time?’’ the scout, whose team was also making a play for Kazmir, asked. “I don’t know, but you have to wonder if he’s ready to be an every-five-days guy like he used to be. Maybe he is. It’s pretty evident the A’s think he is.’’

Maybe. The A’s aren’t being particularly self-evident about much of anything these days. Long looked on as a money-strapped team, they lost out in the bidding for Tim Hudson to the Giants by just $1 million, then they turned around and offered that same two-year, $22-million deal to Kazmir.

Who would have thought that?

And who would have thought they’d come back the same day and trade for Johnson, who is likely to make close to $11 million in salary arbitration. The A’s have a long history of not minding if they had a chance to lose in arbitration if the stakes were $5 or $6 million. Johnson, however, is likely to get double that after making $6.5 million this year in saving 50 games for Baltimore.

After all, one of the reason the A’s weren’t going to bring their closer of the last two seasons, Grant Balfour, back was because he stood to make about $10 million in arbitration.

So maybe the A’s will surprise us all and come up with the big bat they so badly need for the middle of the lineup.

If Monday proved anything, it’s that Oakland isn’t about to be taken for granted anymore.

John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.