The A’s bullpen was outstanding last year finishing 4th best overall in all of MLB. They completed the 2012 regular season with a 2.94 ERA and 512 innings pitched. The problem with the latter number is that was the 10th most innings pitched in baseball for a bullpen. With a group, outside of Grant Balfour, who hadn’t pitched in the postseason before (or for Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle seeing their first Major League season) the A’s may need to prepare for some let downs due to overworked arms. Simple additions such as Brian Gordon will provide depth while Pat Neshek, Evan Scribner and Jerry Blevins who did not pitch an exceeding amount of innings in 2012 will be counted on more. With most of the Major League roster already set, however, let’s take a look at how the bullpen will shape up heading into an exciting 2013 season finally full of expectations.Closer: At the beginning of last season Brian Fuentes filled this role. After a disappointing run he was let go, and a trial run of Ryan Cook at closer, Grant Balfour got the reigns and never looked back. He has the experience, tenacity, and overall craziness to be the closer the A’s need.
Set-up: Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle saw their first Major league time last season and they did a rather unexpectedly important job last season filling in the closer’s role in Cook’s case and being a hard throwing set up man in Doolittle’s case. If Doolittle can tweak his delivery to make it harder for left handed hitters to see the ball out of his hand this could be a devastating duo of shutdownedness (yes, I just made up that word). These two were crucial to the A’s success later in the season when every pitch seemed to be more important than the last. The only concern with them is the amount they pitched in their first Major League time. This could become a problem so A’s fans might want to monitor them closely early in the season to see if there is any residual effect.
Seventh Inning: Jerry Blevins and Pat Neshek will assume this role. Blevins and Neshek complement each other perfectly shutting down their side of the plate enough to be able to call them specialists in the department. Neither of them pitched over their usual amount in 2012 thus making them an important safety net for Cook and Doolittle.
Other Role players: Travis Blackley was an important pitcher for the A’s in 2012 as he was their long man as well as their spot starter. Evan Scribner pitched multiple innings in some cases and was extremely effective last season. Pedro Figueroa started to come into his own and should continue to get better into next season. Jordan Norberto was terrific before injuries slowed him down at the end of last season but expect him to rebound and be another strong contributor to the bullpen next season. Lastly, the addition of Chris Resop will help out immensely in the depth department. He is a quality reliever who came to Oakland via trade on the cheap.
Other potential role players: Bartolo Colon, yes Colon, will have an impact in some way for the A’s in 2013 barring he doesn’t get caught for steroids again. Brian Gordon, Jesse Chavez, and Arnold Leon could also see some action for the A’s in 2013.
All in all the A’s are pretty well set in the bullpen department for 2013. With another small addition the Green and Gold can be confident they have the quality and depth in their bullpen to help make them a contender again next season.