On Friday, Eric O’Flaherty threw an inning of scoreless baseball for Stockton in the California League.
On Saturday, Jim Johnson came in with a man on for Oakland in Baltimore and gave up a two-run homer on his second pitch.
What do those two events have in common?
The A’s are willing to give up on Johnson, who has not come close to being the pitcher he was with the Orioles when he had back-to-back 50-save seasons. It’s not like that was eons ago, either, it was in 2012 and 2013. It’s just 2014 (3-2 with a 6.46 ERA) that has been a problem.
O’Flaherty is on the road back to pitching in relief for the A’s. It’s not unreasonable to expect that his return could be made possible by the A’s moving Johnson, although a deal with the Marlins that fell through last week made it clear the club doesn’t feel it has to wait on O’Flaherty to make a move with Johnson.
The thing about O’Flaherty is that he would give the bullpen a much more left-handed slant if he comes and Johnson goes. Oakland already has three lefties in closer Sean Doolittle, setup man Fernando Abad and long man Jeff Francis, and having four men in the bullpen throwing from the left side is unusual, although not unprecedented.
The promise of O’Flaherty is that he was, before his Tommy John surgery, the best left-handed short reliever in the game. In five seasons with Atlanta he was 13-7 with a 1.99 ERA and allowed just 1.16 base runners per nine innings.
In his last three seasons with the Braves he was, if anything, better. His 8-4 record was good, but his 1.45 ERA was sensational, as was his 1.10 base runners per nine innings.
Will that performance survive the surgery and the change of leagues? The A’s can only hope so.