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Will A’s wait for O’Flaherty’s arrival for changes in bullpen?

Jim Johnson had another tough day coming out of the A's bullpen Saturday.

Jim Johnson had another tough day coming out of the A’s bullpen Saturday.

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.

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A’s level of respect for Abad continues to soar

The A’s had been perfectly delighted with what Fernando Abad has done for them this season.

That level of respect skyrocketed Wednesday with the way he pitched the A’s out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam against Tampa Bay with the A’s clinging to a 3-2 lead over the Rays.

It’s true that Abad came in with men on first and third after Luke Gregerson gave up back-to-back hits with one out and walked pinch-hitter David DeJesus to load the bases. And it’s true that Abad induced an inning-ending double play from Yunel Escobar, leaving Sean Doolittle the one-run lead to protect in the ninth.

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Doolittle doesn’t let his guard down, saves the day

Sean Doolittle is back on a roll for A's.

Sean Doolittle is back on a roll for A’s.

It would have been easy for Sean Doolittle to figure he wasn’t going to get into Monday’s game.

Through eight innings, A’s starter Jesse Chavez had a 5-1 lead over the Chicago White Sox and he was going to get a chance for his first career complete game.

And if he wasn’t going to get the complete game, Chavez’s replacements were lined up to be Fernando Abad and Jim Johnson.

Doolittle said he never thought about not going through his whole preparation cycle starting in the sixth inning.

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Abad’s performance demands more significant innings

It wasn’t as if Fernando Abad had never faced David Ortiz before.

He’d faced him once when Abad was with an also-ran Houston team a few years back. He struck Ortiz out.

This time was different, though. This time he was pitching against the defending World Series champions and pitching for the team with the best record in the American League.

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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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Abad won’t remain A’s secret for long pitching like this

Two years ago, Fernando Abad was a little-known 28-year-old left-handed relief pitcher from the Dominican Republic trying to hang on in the big leagues.

He had a 1-11 record, a career 5.10 ERA and not particular prospects. He threw hard, but that wasn’t enough.

Then he and Rafael Soriano landed in the bullpen of the Washington Nationals at the same time in 2013. Soriano, who had closed for the Braves, the Rays and Tampa before landing in D.C., showed the then-28-year-old a few things.

“Soriano showed me how to throw the sinker,’’ Abad said. “I’m a 100 percent different pitcher now from two years ago because of that.’’

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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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With options gone, Gimenez, Taylor may move on

With under two weeks to go in spring training, the A’s have more roster decisions to make before opening day than they would have believed even a few days ago, thanks to news that Jarrod Parker (Tommy John surgery) and A.J. Griffin (elbow/forearm) won’t be available when the Indians come to town March 31.

It’s not all about the pitching, however, even if it seems like it sometimes.

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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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