September 2010

State of the Bullpen

Last night’s wacky (and long) series of events included an interesting use of Justin James and Ross Wolf in the later innings, hinting at a very thin bullpen. Geren confirmed that thinking after the game, when he said Michael Wuertz, Henry Rodriguez, Boof Bonser and Vin Mazzaro were all unavailable. Wuertz was battling that sore right thumb again, but Geren — when speaking about the state of the bullpen this afternoon — said he was going to test it out today to determine his availability tonight. Wuertz (who has not allowed a run in nine career outings against the Angels) would lend the A’s a stable righty, and the team also has Rodriguez and Bonser available again. Craig Breslow never came in yesterday, so he’s also in the mix. Nevertheless, this team should be in much better shape in the bullpen — an especially important facet of the A’s game right now considering the way they seem to always duke it out with the Angels.

Dribblers: The A’s enter tonight’s contest trailing the season series 8-9. … Mark Ellis hit the 191st double of his career yesterday, tying Miguel Tejada for 10th place in Oakland history. He’s batting an American League-leading .407 in September. … The A’s have been between two games over .500 and three games under .500 every day since the All-Star Break.   

Geren without top four relievers today

The A’s won the series with the White Sox, but I think today’s loss just goes to show that not even a series win is that significant when you can’t close in on games you should have won. I’ve already heard from many people who are ragging on Bob Geren for letting submariner Brad Ziegler face two lefties there in the ninth. The A’s were without a left-handed reliever today, so Geren had no options there. So you get Michael Wuertz warming up then, right? Not if Wuertz is unavailable, which Geren informed us after today’s game. He’s battling that sore right thumb that kept him out of some recent games again, and there’s really no timetable for his return. Same for Jerry Blevins, who isn’t even throwing because of a shoulder strain. Craig Breslow wasn’t available because of his recent workload (maybe he shouldn’t have been used Tuesday?), so Geren — also without an ailing Andrew Bailey — was without his top four relievers today. Still, I think in today’s situation, you maybe pull Ziegler after he walks Quentin and let Henry Rodriguez or even Vin Mazzaro have a go at Mark Kotsay. Your thoughts?

Nevertheless, it was a tough loss and the A’s are going to need their starters to go very deep over the next four games against Texas. Otherwise, they’re going to be hurting in the later innings and lose any chance at whatever shot they still have at catching the Rangers. If, by weekend’s end, the division has been decided or is close to being decided, it’s probably best to simply shut down Bailey, Blevins and Wuertz — and be cautious with Breslow — for the remainder of the year to allow them the opportunity to get 100 percent better.   

Crisp fractures finger

Coco Crisp has done it again. He’s fractured that left pinkie finger, the one that kept him out nearly a month and a half at the start of the season after he broke it while sliding into second base in an exhibition game with the Giants. This time, he did it while sliding into third, at which point he was tagged out after coming around from first in the sixth inning yesterday. He managed to stay in the game, though, and Geren is hoping he’ll only be out a couple days. Crisp will see a hand specialist tomorrow to determine whether he can continue playing with the fracture or not, and the team will know in the next day or two about his availability.

In the meantime, there’s a grab bag of outfielders here ready and willing to get some playing time. Remember Gabe Gross? And Matt Carson? Jeff Larish? Geren has Carson in right today, with Carter in left and Davis in center.

Postgame tidbits

A handful of quick notes from Target Field:

  • Coco Crisp was tagged out trying to go from first to third in the sixth inning, when he made his way to second on a throwing error by Kevin Slowey before pausing to look back to find the ball and continuing on to third, where he was tagged. Pausing rather than just focusing on third base coach Mike Gallego, Geren said, led to the out.
  • The Twins are now 6-2 against the A’s and 24-11 against the AL West this year.
  • A’s starting pitchers have recorded a decision in each of their last 25 games, which is the fourth longest streak in Oakland history. It marks the longest since Aug. 21-Sept. 29, 1979, when A’s starters had a record 36 straight games with a decision.
  • Aki Iwamura‘s seventh-inning double was his first extra-base hit since June 15, when he was with the Pirates.
  • Chris Carter extended his career-opening hitless streak to 29 at-bats. It is the longest hitless streak to start a career by a non-pitcher since Texas’ Vic Harris went 0-for-36 in 1972. Carter has compiled 13 times in those at-bats.
  • Carter’s attempt at Drew Butera’s ball to left field that resulted in a double in the fifth had Geren saying his outfielder would likely make that play 8 out of 10 times. “It just didn’t stay in his glove,” Geren said. “He catches that more times than not.”
  • Henry Rodriguez has not allowed a run in 15 of his last 16 appearances. He has 17 strikeouts over that span.
  • Brad Ziegler made his first appearance since Monday, tallying two strikeouts in the eighth inning. He has appeared in just 12 of the club’s 44 games since July 31.
  • Daric Barton is 1-for-16 on the road trip and didn’t reach base for just the second time in his last 32 games Saturday. He still has a Major League-leading 102 walks for the season.
  • Gabe Gross has endured a stretch of 21 games without a start. On Saturday, for a second straight day, he entered the game late but did not get an at-bat.
  • Landon Powell joked before Saturday’s game that he was going to need to hit doubles with Rajai Davis batting behind him. He not only got a double, but a homer too. It marked his first home run since May 28 at Detroit.

Geren, and more Geren

The club’s decision to pick up Bob Geren’s option for next season isn’t as surprising as some might think. In fact, it was very much expected given Billy Beane’s praise this year for the job Geren’s done as manager of a youthful, injury-prone team. Beane believes it’s important to offer the younger guys consistency in multiple forms, management included. He mentioned the development of Pennington, Suzuki and Barton, among others, have all come under the leadership of Geren. I know many have pointed blame on Geren at times when the team has struggled this year, and, while I don’t agree with every single decision he’s made, you have to figure there’s only so much you can do with a team lacking any sort of power threat. Pitching, defense and speed can only take a team so far, and I don’t even think Geren was expected to take this team into a second-place standing, where they happen to still be flirting with postseason thoughts.

Whether those playoff dreams become a reality is one thing, but right now I think the main focus should be staying above the .500 mark and claiming victory to as many series as possible. That will hopefully lead to Geren’s first winning season as manager. And, if the club can add a bat or two this offseason to go along with a superb pitching staff, Geren and Co. are looking at an exciting team to watch in 2011.

That being said, I realize several thoughts have already been made about Geren, so feel free to comment away…

More on Mazzaro

I don’t think this was the way Vin Mazzaro envisioned spending his Labor Day. And, really, I don’t think it was the way any of us thought he would. Upon arriving at the clubhouse this morning, I had heard Geren was going to have some news to share. Then, when the lineup card was posted, Landon Powell was nowhere to be found, so it was easy to assume he was part of a transaction, although it didn’t make much sense, especially since he was sitting at his locker — a full locker. But about 15 minutes later, after a new lineup had been posted with Powell’s name (he had simply been forgotten on the first one), I saw Mazzaro packing up his things. That scene was followed by Geren confirming the news, that Mazzaro had indeed been optioned to Triple-A.

The move, says A’s assistant general manager David Forst, represented nothing more than an effort to help both the club and Mazzaro. Thus, the A’s — despite standing 7 games back of Texas with just a few weeks remaining in the season — still see themselves having a fighting chance at the AL West crown it seems. So, despite it being an odd time to option someone, Forst said the move was not meant to send a message to Mazzaro or anyone else on the A’s staff. 

“It’s not,” Forst said. “If it ends up being that, fine. It’s really designed to give us the best chance every five days and to give him the best chance to get better from a performance standpoint. We didn’t sit around and say, ‘We need to send this kid a message.’ It just didn’t happen.”

From what I’ve gathered, it seems likely the A’s will simply skip the next fifth spot with Thursday being an off day and then possibly move Boof Bonser into a starting role. Bonser’s done well in long-relief work for the A’s, most recently a 4 1/3-inning scoreless outing at Yankee Stadium.

Your thoughts on Mazzaro’s departure?