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A’s: Trading Jim Johnson remains high priority

The A's have been looking to trade former closer Jim Johnson, now the man at the end of the A's bullpen.

The A’s have been looking to trade former closer Jim Johnson, now the man at the end of the A’s bullpen.

There are 11 days before the trade deadline, and one of the top jobs for the A’s brass is to find a new home for reliever Jim Johnson.

Actually, it’s been something the A’s have wanted to do for a while now, but the A’s don’t want to eat the remainder of Johnson’s $10 million contract and Johnson has done little to entice other teams to go after him.

“They would prefer to move him before the trade deadline,’’ a source said of the A’s. “They’ve been trying. So far, nothing’s happening.’’

Johnson came to the A’s after back-to-back 50-save seasons with the Orioles, but instead of being the closer to replace Grant Balfour, he hasn’t been able to get any level of his former consistency.

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A’s: Starters Gray, Kazmir and Chavez earn extra time off

Sonny Gray will get extra time off thanks to the All-Star break, as will Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.

Sonny Gray will get extra time off thanks to the All-Star break, as will Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.

The A’s have asked much of their starting pitchers in the first half.

Between then, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez have averaged 119 innings per man in the first half, during which they’ve gone 28-12 with a combined 2.77 ERA.

They are using a rejiggered rotation after the All-Star break to maximize the amount of time each will get off. To do that, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young have gone with newly acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to handle the first two games after the All-Star break Friday and Saturday against the Orioles in Oakland.

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Drew Pomeranz tentatively slated to start Game 2

pomeranzDrew Pomeranz is slated to start Game 2 of the A’s double header on Wednesday, provided that he’s not needed in relief in the first game.  If Pomeranz is called on in the twin bill opener, A’s manager Bob Melvin said rookie Arnold Leo will make his major league debut.

The A’s and Mariners are playing twice Wednesday as a makeup for the April 4 game that was cancelled due to poor field conditions when a bad weather report led to the grounds crew not placing the tarp on the infield.

Melvin said he expects to have all of his relievers available Wednesday, although “some guys who threw a little more may be targeted for the night game.”

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Pomeranz could start for A’s, but probably not Wednesday

Drew Pomeranz may have a future as a starter with A's

Drew Pomeranz may have a future as a starter with A’s

Drew Pomeranz threw 56 pitches on Friday, so he was judged not rested enough to be able to pitch in relief for the A’s Sunday.

The bigger question is whether the left-hander might be a consideration for the doubleheader the A’s have coming up on Wednesday against Seattle, the makeup for the rainout the first Friday of the season.

Technically, the A’s aren’t ruling anything out.

But in a practical sense, Pomeranz is unlikely to get the call because his arm hasn’t been stretched out. A starter his expected to need to throw in the neighborhood of 75 pitches at a minimum, and Pomeranz has only been over 40 pitches twice this year, including a 41-pitch effort on April 15.

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A’s learn they will be minus surgery-bound Griffin for 2014

A.J. Griffin will have season-ending elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.

A.J. Griffin will have season-ending elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.

(UPDATED)

The A’s have lost a second member of the 2014 starting rotation to elbow surgery with the news that A.J. Griffin will undergo elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.

Griffin was in Houston Tuesday to see Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff for a second opinion on the state of his elbow. Dr. Mehlhoff will perform the elbow surgery, with a typical recovery time of about 12 months, depending on the type of surgery involved.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said he wasn’t sure of the type of surgery that would be needed (Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery is considered the likeliest option) but said he’d talked to Griffin and said the right-hander was taking the news in a positive way.

“He’s a happy-go-lucky guy,’’ the manager said. “This means he can see the light at the end of the tunnel to be able to pitch next season.’’

Griffin and Jarrod Parker both were supposed to be members of the rotation this year, but both found they couldn’t go forward pitching in pain mid-March, and Parker had surgery shortly thereafter. Griffin was told that three weeks of rest might get his right elbow back in form, but it didn’t happen.

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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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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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It’s no stretch to say Pomeranz making big impression

Drew Pomeranz is firing bullets for the A's these days.

Drew Pomeranz is firing bullets for the A’s these days.

Drew Pomeranz may not make the A’s pitching staff to start the season.

But it’s no stretch to say that he could do so, especially after his last two games, five innings of relief in which he’s struck out eight and allowed one hit. Three scoreless innings Wednesday gave him the win in the A’s 13-3 blowout of the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.

And it’s his stretch that he credits with helping him get command of his 95-mph fastball and breaking pitches, all of which have looked dynamic in the last few days.

“I’m just here trying to pitch well,’’ Pomeranz said. “Lots of strikes.’’

He’s done that, opening eyes with both his fastball and his breaking pitches, all of which have been basically unhittable the last few days.

He came to the A’s as the big prize in the trade of left-handed starter Brett Anderson to the Rockies over the winter. When the A’s made the deal they were perhaps thinking of future potential, but Pomeranz’s time could be closer than you’d think.

“I wanted to simplify things for myself,’’ he said in explaining why he now throws exclusively from the stretch rather than going through a full windup.

“I did it at the end of last year (with the Rockies) and it seemed to work for me,’’ Pomeranz said. “And I’ve found that the simpler I can make it, the easier it is to pitch.’’

Pomeranz is making decision making tough on manager Bob Melvin, who’d’ been thinking that Pomeranz might be a good fit as the first starter recalled from Triple-A Sacramento. Now, the A’s have to consider if Pomeranz is instead the A’s best fit as the long man in the bullpen and spot starter.

“As long as he’s throwing the ball over the plate,’’ the manager said, “he’ll be fine.’’

The manager was impressed that Pomeranz went two innings the last time out and three innings this time. And the fact that he’s been dominating hasn’t hurt.

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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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Lindblom, Pomeranz get second shot at A’s bullpen

The A’s have talked plenty in the last 36 hours about the depth of their pitching.

And while it’s true that they can promote someone like Jesse Chavez to fill in as a member of the rotation to start the season, that kind of move necessarily weakens them in the bullpen.

Chavez has only made two big league starts in 191 career games. The A’s have never seen him go more than 5.2 innings, and that was in relief in an 18-inning game. He was terrific in that one, throwing scoreless relief and getting the win.

Chavez, at least early on, can’t be expected to go more than five innings in starts because he doesn’t have the track record. If it was any other pitcher, the A’s could weather that, because they’d have Chavez in the bullpen to come in the game in the fifth or sixth inning.

With Chavez in the rotation, that luxury is gone unless they can come up with Chavez Lite.

So for the final couple of weeks, the A’s may stretch out Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz with the idea that one of them will take Chavez’s role as the man who eats innings in the bullpen.

Lindblom, acquired from Texas in the Michael Choice deal that brought outfielder Craig Gentry to Oakland, could have a chance to make the opening day roster now that wasn’t there just a couple of days ago. The Rangers started him five times last year, but they seemed to have liked him in bullpen. His overall numbers weren’t great (1-3, 5.46 ERA overall, but he allowed no runs in 4.1 innings in three games of relief.

Pomeranz, a lefty picked up from Colorado in the Brett Anderson trade, falls into much of that same situation. He pitched in eight games for the Rockies last year, starting four. He had an 8.10 ERA as a starter, but in five innings of relief over four games, he, too, didn’t allow a run.

Until this week, both men seemed likely to be heading to Triple-A Sacramento. Now, with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin opening up jobs, they have a chance to start in Sacramento.

To this point, Lindblom seems to have the edge. Both have pitched in four games, but Lindblom’s 3.32 ERA is about half of Pomeranz’s 6.23. But Pomeranz is scheduled to pitch in relief today in Scottsdale against the Giants, so he has a chance to bridge the gap.