Evan Scribner is finding there’s a certain freedom in being able to focus not on the where of baseball but on the how.
Scribner is out of options, meaning the right-handed reliever either makes the A’s bullpen or the A’s have to put him on waivers with the likely possibility that another club would pick him up. That’s the where.
The how is simple.
R.J. Alvarez brings explosive fastball and dreams of being in A’s bullpen in 2015.
When you hear that a baseball player was just born to play the game, metaphor is in play.
In the case of A’s relief pitcher R.J. Alvarez, it’s true.
Roy and Susie Alvarez both are baseball fanatics. When their son R.J. (Roy Jr., of course) was born on June 8, 1991 in West Palm Beach, Fla., Roy Sr. met him for the first time with a gift – a baseball glove.
“I think Susie kind of expected it,’’ he said. “We dated in high school, and it was always about baseball.’’
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.
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.
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.
If you were in Safeco Field on April 21, 2012, you may have thought, as Philip Humber did, that he had it all going.
Humber, then starting for the White Sox, threw a perfect game against Seattle in his second start of the season
“I thought, `Is this really happening?’ ’’ Humber said. “Then I thought I can continue to dominate in this league.’’
Dan Straily as Wolverine
This is perhaps an odd time to concern oneself with the Oakland offense, but the A’s have gone from scoring early and often in game after game to having scored one run in the last two starts.
That in itself wouldn’t be too miserable if it were not for the fact that the A’s face Felix Hernandez in Seattle Friday and they haven’t scored a run off the King in two starts this year.
Having three of the final five games before the playoffs start be games in which they haven’t been able to score much is not the tone the A’s want to set.
A’s right fielder Josh Reddick may have played his way back into a start or two in the near future.
Talking before the game, manager Bob Melvin said he was finding it difficult to put Reddick, who hasn’t played in over two weeks thanks to a wrist injury, into the lineup. Brandon Moss and Daric Barton both are doing well in Reddick’s absence and the A’s were 11-4 since Reddick’s injury.
The A’s made it 12-4 Wednesday, but the scope of the win, 18-3, and the fact that the A’s scored early and often changed the dynamics for Reddick.
Brett Anderson doesn’t know yet if he’ll be able to make his next start Wednesday against Boston in Fenway Park.
The A’s left-handed starting pitcher does know that he’s not feeling the kind of pain he’d experienced after limping off the field with a sprained right ankle after the first inning of Friday’s 8-3 loss to the Rays.
“I’m feeling better about it today,’’ Anderson said. “I’m getting around OK.’’
Anderson didn’t stretch or take part with his A’s teammates in the pre-game workout Saturday in Tropicana Field. For the most part, he stood at the dugout steps and watched.
“The idea is to come in tomorrow and throw a little, maybe have a bullpen session,’’ the lefty said. “We should know then about the next start.’’
Anderson wasn’t as depressed Saturday as he’d been Friday, when he said his season so far has been talking about injuries and not about pitching. At the same time, he was taking a little of the blame on himself that reliever Evan Scribner was sent down Saturday and Jesse Chavez was called up.
Scribner was the first man out of the bullpen Friday, and after 65 pitches, he was done. He would have been unable to pitch for at least a couple of days, and the A’s couldn’t afford that shortage, so he was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento.
“If it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t have been sent down,’’ Anderson said. At the same time, “that’s baseball.’’
The one facet of the A’s game that has been almost unswervingly productive this season is one facet that tends to get overlooked.
It’s the bullpen, which comes into Sunday against the Tigers with a 1.64 ERA that is far and away better than the (but still very good) 2.08 turned in the by the White Sox. The A’s are one of four teams whose relievers haven’t lost a game (2-0).