Johnson could regain ninth-inning duties soon

ARLINGTON — Jim Johnson may be nearing a return to the closer’s role he lost less than two weeks into the season.

The right-handed veteran allowed at least two runs in three of his first five appearances while absorbing two losses and a blown save, after collecting 101 saves over the previous two years. He’s since gained two wins while pitching in innings not named the ninth and hasn’t allowed a run over his last six outings.

Opponents are hitting just .179 against Johnson over that stretch, numbers that may very well suggest he’s back to old form. His sinker sure looks like it is.

In the meantime, the A’s have been utilizing a closer-by-committee approach and playing to match-ups, with Sean Doolittle and Luke Gregerson mostly splitting ninth-inning duties. But Johnson’s continued success could change that.

“It has certainly elevated the potential for him to close,” manager Bob Melvin said Monday. “He’s pitching really well.”

Melvin had Johnson warming up in a save situation in Houston on Friday, but his services weren’t needed after the A’s scored seven runs in the ninth inning.

The All-Star righty entered Monday riding a streak of 20 consecutive saves against American League West competition dating back to Aug. 6, 2012. He has a 0.64 ERA over that 27-game span.

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