With a weeks worth of games now in the books, our hometown heroes head to Seattle to start their first road trip of the young season. As the state of the bullpen seems to be solidifying with the spotless work of closer Grant Balfour and newly minted set up man Ryan Cook, questions remain such as the role of second year reliever Fautino De Los Santos. To the surprise of A’s fans, manager Bob Melvin has left De Los Santos whom many pegged as a sleeper for the closer role largely ignored as the last man in the bullpen. Throwing just one shutout inning in the seasons first week, his absence has aroused questions to his health and his managers confidence in him to handle the late innings.
Coming off a season where he racked up a nifty 11.6 strikeouts per 9 innings in just over 33 innings, FDLS as he’s known amongst the Athletics Nation showcased a mid 90’s fastball, a sharp curve, and a biting slider in his arsenal in 2011. He also showed a propensity for extreme wildness as evident by his 9 wild pitches in limited work. While there is no debate to his talent, the hesitancy to put him into late, close, pressure packed situations is understandable… if it was September and the A’s were in a pennant race.
However it’s early, and so far Melvin has gone to the combustible Andrew Carignan twice in extra inning games, and twice he has been battered around and surrendered runs that have led to a loss on opening day to Seattle and nearly led to another yesterday against Kansas City.
If an injury is the reason behind the neglected use of De Los Santos, then it has not been made apparent to the fans. Reliable A’s beat writers Jane Lee and Susan Slusser have yet to mention an injury or a reason why he has been the least used member of the Athletics bullpen. If he was injured I see no reason why Oakland wouldn’t place him on the disabled list and look to fill their ranks with options like Erick Threets, Travis Schlichting, or 40 man roster member Neil Wagner.
It goes with out saying that there will come times this year where the A’s bullpen will be tested, and as the old saying goes your only as good as your last man. Sooner or later De Los Santos will have to be unleashed. Until that day, you can find him patiently waiting in the bullpen ready for his number to be called.