Melvin talks De Los Santos, plus more

I think most everyone would agree that one of the more intriguing pitchers to watch develop on the A’s roster is Fautino De Los Santos. He’s obviously got a lot of talent and, with continued grooming, he’s sure to position himself as one of the premier relief arms in the league soon enough. His blazing fastball generates plenty talk — and for good reason — and he stands to move up the pecking order in the A’s bullpen given improvements with his control. De Los Santos has been mentioned frequently in talks regarding the closer job, but I’d suspect the A’s start the season with some else — think Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour or Joey Devine — in that role, simply because there’s obvious work left to do and no need to rush him.

Bob Melvin spoke extensively about De Los Santos this morning, noting he’d like to see a bit more consistency from his breaking ball.

“That’s something he’s working on,” Melvin said. “He’s a guy for us now, so this is a big year for him. He goes from a guy that was kind of a surprise last year and worked his way up really without the spotlight on him … and now there’s a little bit more of a target on him and we expect big things out of him.”

As for his fastball, Melvin acknowledged how it will likely dictate his career:

“Typically closers have one special pitch. Rivera has the cutter, Hoffman had the changeup, and for him it’s the exploding fastball. For him to get better, he’s got to work on the other things — quicker to the plate, bring the walks down some, concentrate on getting ahead of hitters, making sure two of the first three pitches are strikes. Where that 1-1 count goes … it’s something we’re going to stress once we lead into games.”

Other notes from Melvin’s early session with reporters:

  • Lefty Jordan Norberto is penciled in as a relief option, but Melvin said he could very well work as a starter should he not make the team out of camp. That role may be better suited for Norberto, “so he’s able to ease into some things, because he’s a jumpy, high-strung kid,” Melvin said. Norberto was a starter for the first three years of his Minor League career, before making the transition to a relief role in 2009. Said Melvin: “The trick for him coming out of the bullpen is going to be throwing the ball over the plate early. If you’re coming in and facing one left-handed hitter in a specialist role, you have no room to settle in. I think the fact he has started now, maybe lends itself to him maybe being a long guy for us too, not just a short guy.”
  • Melvin said he really has no preference when considering how many right-handers and left-handers to carry in his rotation. The decision, he said, always comes down to performance, meaning he’ll go with five right-handers if those are the best five guys out of camp. That scenario could very well happen, at least at the start of the season before southpaw Dallas Braden returns. With Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon slated for the No. 1 and 2 spots, all the candidates that follow them are also right-handed — except Tommy Milone. But should he not make the cut, the A’s will be deciding from a handful of righties: Graham Godfrey, Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and Tyson Ross.

Be sure to check the newsstands Friday for ESPN the Magazine. McCarthy and his wife, Amanda, are gracing this week’s cover, as seen below.

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