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Some Optimism

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: Some Optimism
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By simplefan on Friday, February 18, 2005 - 08:37 am:

http://www.insidebayarea.com/sports/ci_2576765

A's let out a sigh of relief
Stronger bullpen boosts team's optimism this year
By Josh Suchon, STAFF WRITER


PHOENIX The trademark for all the winning teams in Oakland Athletics history is starting pitching, whether it was the 1970s dynasty, the late 1980s teams or the 21st century teams led by the Big Three.
Sure, those winning teams could hit, played great defense and had solid bullpens. But it was Catfish and Vida; Stew and Welch; then Hudson, Mulder and Zito who set the trend.

Economic realities and the fact that last year's bullpen blow 28 potential saves prompted A's general manager Billy Beane to rebuild the roster.

Starters won't be needed to pitch seven to nine innings a game anymore. Now, a young rotation just needs to get through five or six innings and hand the game over to a hard-throwing bullpen with the potential to be the best in team history.

"I love the new bullpen," third baseman Eric Chavez said. "We've always had pretty decent guys at the end. But nothing like this. It's deep. It's a lot more even. If somebody needs to come into the game in the sixth or seventh, we've got a good guy for it. We haven't had that here in a long time."

While many players have already arrived, reporting day for A's pitchers and catchers is Saturday, when the following story lines will

start taking shape this spring:

Jobs on the line


Second base: Reading between the lines last week, the A's want Keith Ginter's bat in the lineup, and he'll have the edge at second base. Mark Ellis said his shoulder is healthy to compete for the job right away.

"You can't miss a year and not expect to compete for a job, unless you are Sammy Sosa or Eric Chavez," Ellis said. "You have to compete for your job. Competition will only make you better, for our team as well. Keith and I will both benefit from the situation."

Left/right field: It doesn't appear Eric Byrnes will be traded, so he'll arrive in Arizona for the first time as the incumbent in the starting lineup. Rookie Nick Swisher has the edge in right, although Charles Thomas will see playing time at both positions and challenge for playing time.

"In my mind, if I'm playing my game and playing well, I'll be in there every day," Byrnes said. "I think this is my first year where I have that lead in the beginning. Every other year it was like, 'even if I have a great spring, it doesn't matter.' I started on the bench anyway."

Fourth/fifth starter: The A's hope they end the season with rookies Joe Blanton and Dan Meyer in these rotation spots. But they don't want to rush the kids and have other options they can plug in, such as Japanese import Keeichi Yabu and minor league free agent Seth Etherton.

"I'm looking at it like I have to win a job," Meyer said. "I'm going to work hard and do my best. Hopefully, I can win it."

The A's have a history of starting a rookie in the minors for a couple of weeks or a couple months. This gives the player more seasoning, but more important, it delays the start of his service time, so they can get six-plus years of a player before free agency, instead of six years.

Most to prove


Bobby Kielty: In a year, he has gone from starter to fifth outfielder. Kielty needs a big spring to remind the A's what they thought they were getting last year for Ted Lilly, especially from the left side of the plate.

"I'm definitely still going to switch hit," Kielty said. "All I did this off-season was hit. I hit from both sides, but a lot from the left."

Chad Bradford: One of the best middle relievers in baseball from 2001-03, Bradford never quite found his groove in 2004. He posted a career-high 4.42 ERA and wasn't used in as many crucial situations as previous years.

With the additions of Kiko Calero and Juan Cruz, Bradford will have stiff competition for the important late innings. The groundball specialist needs his back to stay healthy. If so, his submarine style could be more effective as a complement to the flame throwers in the bullpen.

Worth keeping an eye on


It's doubtful they will make the team, but infielder Bobby Smith and outfielder Jack Cust are veterans who could see time in Oakland before the season is over.

Smith, a product of Oakland's Fremont High, played in 258 games for Tampa Bay from 1998-2002. Smith can play second, third and shortstop, giving the A's depth in the event of an injury.

Cust is a longtime favorite of Beane's, a power hitter who walks, but he doesn't have a natural position and strikes out a lot.

Five questions


1. How quickly are the young starters ready for the majors and how quickly do they develop?

2. Is Swisher the next Rookie of the Year?

3. Will Octavio Dotel be available for four-plus outs to close out games or will elbow tendinitis limit him to one inning?

4. Can Barry Zito regain the form as one of the league's elite pitchers?

5. Will shortstop Bobby Crosby continue to improve or endure a sophomore jinx?

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By orangeman on Friday, February 18, 2005 - 08:44 am:

"Will shortstop Bobby Crosby continue to improve or endure a sophomore jinx?"

I'll say this much, he'd better not, or else it's going to be a very rough year. Let's not forget, Crosby only hit .241 and struck out a lot. I love the guy, but he basically won the Rookie of the Year by default.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By deajay on Friday, February 18, 2005 - 09:32 am:

Yeh, and he hit only .218 at home; .258 on the road.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By steve on Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 06:08 pm:

Bobby Kielty: "All I did this off-season was hit."

This isn't what I wanted to hear from Bobby Kielty. All the swings in the world from the left side aren't going to help that much. What, had he never taken so much bp hitting left previously? This is something new for him? I don't think so. Geesh.

You think Byrnes doesn't have a strong arm? Did ANYONE watch this Kielty guy last year? Ha. He cannot throw - at all.

What I would have liked to have heard - "All I did this off-season was hit right and work on my defense/arm-strength. I'm a big boy now, and can even reach the cut!"


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