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Otero had bigger things in mind for first homer allowed

Dan Otero had never allowed a big league homer before Sunday.

Dan Otero had never allowed a big league homer before Sunday.

One thing Dan Otero knew for sure was that he hadn’t ever allowed a home run in a major-league game.

Now he knows a second thing for sure.

“I never should have thrown the pitch,’’ Otero said of his first throw to Jose Altuve in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Astros.

Altuve, all 5-foot-5 of him, took a big hack and launch the ball 346 feet, about one foot farther than need to record his first home run of the season.

It ended Otero’s major-league best streak of 63.2 innings to start his career without having allowed a long ball.

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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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For one night, Johnson was set to be A’s closer again

Jim Johnson was in position to get the save Friday, only the A's scored too many runs.

Jim Johnson was in position to get the save Friday, only the A’s scored too many runs.

In case you were wondering, yes, Jim Johnson was going to get the save opportunity in the ninth inning Friday.

For that to happen, Oakland would have had to score one, two or three runs. Instead they scored seven runs and Johnson wound up not pitching at all.

But the one-time closer would have gotten the call, manager Bob Melvin said.

“It was set up for Johnson tonight,’’ Melvin said. “It was his game to close.’’

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Sooner or later, Johnson will move back into closer’s role

Jim Johnson would like nothing better than to be the A's closer again

Jim Johnson would like nothing better than to be the A’s closer again

Is Jim Johnson the closer of the A’s future?

Probably. Almost certainly.

And when would that future be?

Well, it could come as early as Friday when the A’s play host to Houston to start a two-team homestand in the Coliseum.

Johnson, deposed as closer about two weeks into the season because of his inconsistencies, has pitched five innings of scoreless baseball in his last three games and has won two of them.

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Doolittle takes blame for ninth inning, but isn’t bummed

Sean Doolittle loves A's ability to win as a team

Sean Doolittle loves A’s ability to win as a team

Sean Doolittle has never had great success in closing games, although the sample size (11 games) is so small as to be irrelevant.

He had a chance to lock down his fifth career Tuesday night when he was handed a 9-7 lead, but he was taken down by a Kole Calhoun double and a Mike Trout homer.

Doolittle blamed no one but himself.

“That was a thigh-high fastball over the middle of the plate,’’ Doolittle said, indicating that Trout could not have asked for a better location. And when you put the leadoff guy on, you’re just asking for it.’’

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Johnson’s perfect innings won’t change closer situation

Jim Johnson would like nothing better than to be the A's closer again

Jim Johnson would like nothing better than to be the A’s closer again

One day after his demotion from the closer’s role with Oakland, Jim Johnson gave the A’s a tantalizing look at what he could offer as the closer.

Johnson pitched two innings of relief in a game that wasn’t close when he came in and retired all six batters he faced. He struck out four of the six.

“That’s the best we’ve seen him,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.

That came a day after Melvin said that he was going to go with a closer by committee. And when it seemed the A’s might need a closer after whittling their deficit to the A’s from 6-0 to 6-4, it was Sean Doolittle who was warming up in the ninth.

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Jim Johnson taken out of the closer’s role for now

To the surprise of almost no one, the A’s are taking the closer’s role away from Jim Johnson for the time being.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Thursday morning that he would use a number of other relievers – Luke Gregerson, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Dan Otero – in that role while the club focuses on helping Johnson find his 50-save stuff of the last two seasons.

For the third time in five appearances Wednesday Johnson struggled with his control to the point where he couldn’t hold the 4-2 lead he was given in the ninth inning. He faced five batters, got just one out, and had to be replaced by Otero, who allowed a sacrifice fly but otherwise pitched well enough to get the win when Derek Norris homered in the 11th inning.

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Donaldson, Perkins ninth-inning scuffle is pretty shortlived; Otero appreciates Melvin’s faith in him to finish up

Josh Donaldson thought he’d hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning Wednesday, only to watch it go foul.

When he subsequently struck out, he flipped his bat away and was suddenly confronted by Twins’ lefty reliever Glen Perkins, pointed an index finger at him and saying some things Donaldson didn’t much care to hear.

So as such things go in baseball, both benches emptied. No real damage was done, several of the Twins, including coach Paul Molitor and infielders Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe, got between the two at-odds parties.

“He struck me out on a pretty good pitch,’’ Donaldson said. “I flipped the bat and then I heard him barking. He was dropping some (expletives).’’

Donaldson said he didn’t feel that he’d disrespected Perkins, and Perkins mostly seemed content to go with the no-harm, no-foul defense and move on, although he wasn’t happy about the way Donaldson stood near the plate and watched his foul homer.

“I’m up there trying to win a game for my team,’’ Donaldson said. “He’s trying to win a game for his team. Juices are flowing.’’

 

–Dan Otero has saved games in the minor leagues.

And he’s not saved games in the minor leagues, too, so he knows a little about what closer Jim Johnson is going through.

With the A’s holding a 4-2 lead in the ninth, Johnson gave up one run and loaded the bases with one out. Otero took over, allowed a sacrifice fly that let the tying run come home, then hung on for the win by pitching 2.2 scoreless innings.

Otero was in position to be replaced himself when he put two men on base with one out in the 11th after Derek Norris’ three-run homer in the top of the inning had given the A’s back the lead.

But with men on first and third, two out and Twins’ All-Star Joe Mauer at the plate, manager Bob Melvin decided against going to Fernando Abad, his lefty in the bullpen. Instead, he let Otero pitch to Mauer. Which he did, carefully, ultimately giving him an intentional walk to load the bases.

Trevor Plouffe then lined out to end the game.

“I knew they had a chance to bring in a lefty (to face the left-handed Mauer),’’ Otero said. “I could tell they had the confidence in me to get the job done. It was all about making good pitches. I expanded the strike zone, and if I walked him, that was OK. You don’t want their best player to beat you.’’

There’s no telling yet if the A’s are going to give Johnson some time pitching somewhere other than the ninth inning. If they do, Otero would have to be one of the fill-in candidates.

Melvin wouldn’t go there, but he was unstinting in his praise of Otero, even in the face of the Mauer challenge.

“It was a decision with Mauer to bring in Abad,’’ he said. “But Otero’s been so good, he’s closed games before. That’s how good we feel about Dan Otero.’’

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A dozen innings in 36 hours for bullpen, but situation not dire

Drew Pomeranz threw the 12th inning for the win Thursday and could be ready to pitch again Friday.

Drew Pomeranz threw the 12th inning for the win Thursday and could be ready to pitch again Friday.

In the space of 36 hours, the A’s have played 30 innings of baseball.

The good news is that the club has won two of three games, including Thursday’s 3-2 win over Oakland on the strength of Coco Crisp’s first-ever walkoff homer, a solo shot to start the bottom of the 11th inning.

The bad news is that they’ve had to use a ton of relief pitching. The A’s got six almost-perfect innings of relief Thursday, four A’s relievers combining to allow one hit and one walk.

That’s as many innings as the bullpen had to work in Wednesday’s day/night doubleheader against the Indians. The question now is how the bullpen sets up for Game 2 of the A’s-Mariners series Friday.

The answer is that even after those 12 innings of bullpen work, the relievers aren’t in bad shape. It seems unlikely that the A’s will feel pressured into bringing up some relief help for Friday, which will see Dan Straily get his first start of the season.

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Scribner at head of scramble for jobs in A’s bullpen

If Ryan Cook isn't ready to pitch out of the bullpen come Opening Day, A's could have three bullpen decisions to make

If Ryan Cook isn’t ready to pitch come Opening Day, A’s could have three bullpen decisions to make

Don’t look now, but there’s space for new faces in what a month ago was a relatively closed A’s bullpen.

The A’s won’t have Jesse Chavez in the bullpen now that he’s been moved into the rotation. There was a 50-50 chance that Tommy Milone was going to be the long man in the pen, but he’s in the rotation, too.

So what had been a set seven-man staff now has a couple of openings, with at least one of them likely to go to a left-hander. Closer Jim Johnson, right-handed setup men Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero are set, as in lefty Sean Doolittle, although even there, Cook might not be ready to start the season in the bullpen because of shoulder issues.

The non-left-handed slot is likely to go to Evan Scribner, who has been on top of his game since the start of spring training and who has put up good numbers in five of his six appearances.

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