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Concerns over bullpen issues downplayed by A’s

Jim Johnson is the likely closer for the A's Sunday should one be needed.

Jim Johnson is the likely closer for the A’s Sunday should one be needed.

For a team that came into the season with the consensus best bullpen in the big leagues, the A’s have had more than their share of rocky moments in the first three weeks of the season.

Overall the base number isn’t bad, a cumulative 2.67 ERA, which ranks first among the American League bullpens. Nothing to complain about there.

But relievers have taken six of the club’s nine losses. The bullpen has more blown saves (six) than saves (five). And the man who had opened as the closer, Jim Johnson, is now in a closer-by-committee setup with Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle.

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Moss does Oscar-worthy work in latest A’s TV spots

Brandon Moss talks a good game at first base in A's TV ads

Brandon Moss talks a good game at first base in A’s TV ads

I’m not sure what it says about Vanderbilt University as a steppingstone to stage and screen, but A’s starter Sonny Gray, who took drama there for three years when not playing baseball, lost out in the early Best Actor Oscar nominations in the batch of A’s TV commercials to be released Thursday via social media.

Gray was fine, it should be pointed out, in doing his parts the five (of an eventual total of eight) commercials screened for the media Saturday (Raw footage of some of the other three bits also were shown). But first baseman Brandon Moss was flat-out hilarious in his spots, although some of the best bits, seen in outtakes and bloopers, may be left on the cutting room floor.

Put together by Hub Media and shot over the course of three days, the ads follow the path of “Green Collar Baseball’’ that the A’s have used as a general backdrop to their promotions the last few seasons, winning major awards in the sports advertising world the last three years.

Moss was seen in two bits, one where he chatters to runners at first base to distract them during pickoff throws and the other in which he crashes a group of his teammates doing “I’ve got a Secret’’ and veers the conversation from baseball secrets to improvised personal ones like “I’ve got three nipples.’’

If the bits survive the editing process, a star will be born.

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Parker had natural reluctance to letting pain slow him down

Jarrod Parker facing the Dodgers in his last spring start before injury problems cropped up

Jarrod Parker facing the Dodgers in his last spring start before injury problems cropped up

The uneasy balance between healthful prudence and competitive drive showed itself in spring training in the person of A’s starter Jarrod Parker.

Parker had forearm problems in September and October that he had checked out after the season. Rest was the prescription, and for the offseason Parker did as prescribed, and he didn’t feel any discomfort in his arm.

The early days of spring weren’t bad, but the more he threw, the more he had trouble getting comfortable or even throwing without pain.

He tried to pitch through it hoping things would clear up, but on Thursday’s side session, both pitching coach Curt Young and manager Bob Melvin noticed his struggles. Melvin called him into his office, and it was then that Parker admitted the pain was back.

Does it mean that the diagnosis this winter to rest was wrong? Not necessarily. For one thing, until Parker is checked out by Dr. James Andrews, there’s no knowing what the problem is. For another, while the discomfort is in the same area, it’s not the same pain, at least in Parker’s thinking.

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A’s approve of Griffin taking charge of his pitching future

A.J. Griffin is going back to an old friend - his changeup

A.J. Griffin is going back to an old friend – his changeup

Managers and pitching coaches would much rather have a young pitcher come to them and say “I need to develop a pitch’’ than have to suggest that kind of move themselves.

The idea is that if the prompting is internally generated, the pitcher is more likely to do the little things that go into the making of a pitch.

So the A’s are happy that starter A.J. Griffin has decided he would rather go back to throwing his changeup, a pitch he used to master, while ditching the cutter he’s thrown with mixed success since picking it up in 2011.

“What it says to me is that the player knows his strengths and weaknesses,’’ Oakland manager Bob Melvin said, “and he wants to work on his weaknesses. You want to see that in all your guys.’’

Melvin’s pitching coach, Curt Young, said that Griffin is on the same quest every other young starting pitcher (Griffin is 26) is on.

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Doolittle ahead of schedule even after calf problem; A’s pick up Savery from Phillies for bullpen depth

Monday was a good day to be Sean Doolittle.

The left-handed A’s reliever came in having been pain-free for three days in the wake of suffering a right calf strain Tuesday. Then he went on the mound and threw as if he’d never missed any time at all.

He showed good velocity, if not pin-point command.

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Davis could be appealing to M’s as next skipper

The A’s have had a rather easy time of it this year.

The players have been happy with the manager and the front office. The manager has balanced the players’ needs with the front office’s desires. And the front office has had no reason to complain about much of anything.

It’s not like that in much of baseball, however. The A’s are going to the playoffs. Two-thirds of Major League teams won’t be. One of those is Seattle, and the Mariners made the kind of news Friday that losing teams make entirely too often.

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Game 144 wrapup: Melvin gives Parker added respect; A’s pen still among best despite slump

It was the kind of thing you see in the middle of a playoff chase that you don’t see in the middle of a season

A’s starter Jarrod Parker had given up a run, then loaded the bases with two out in the sixth inning. Oakland still had the lead at 3-2, but Parker was looking vulnerable.

It was time for a visit from the pitching coach. It didn’t happen. Instead, manager Bob Melvin exercised his prerogative and took the walk to the mound.

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Game 112 wrapup: What’s next in A’s rotation?

Twice in the last four games the Oakland starting pitcher hasn’t made it to the fifth inning.

The last time Wednesday’s A’s starter, Bartolo Colon, pitched in Cincinnati, he gave up four home runs.

But there is no kidding that Wednesday’s start for Colon is a big one. He has thrown at least six innings and given up three or fewer runs in each of his last 15 starts. With the A’s offense on the rails, it figures that Colon is going to have to pitch to that standard for the A’s to come out of this series with a split.

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Game 17 wrapup: Lowrie a monster at cleanup; Anderson has trouble beyond ankle; Crisp on a tear

A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie has a spot in the Rays’ hearts.

Used in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series as a pinch-hitter by Boston, Lowrie grounded out as the potential tying run.

It’s just as well for the Rays that the Lowrie that showed up Friday night wasn’t the one on display that night, because if he had, Tampa might not have made it the World Series that year.

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A’s Anderson on track for opening day start

PHOENIX – The A’s almost had a bit of news this morning.

They posted the first starts for three expected members of the starting rotation, including Brett Anderson, who pitches against the Cubs in Mesa Thursday after A.J. Griffin faces the Diamondbacks today in Scottsdale and Dan Straily throws Wednesday at home against the Padres.

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