There’s something missing in the A’s bullpen.
Or rather someone.
Like the inadequate concoction of the cocktail of your choice, the construction of the bullpen is lacking a key ingredient that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. You can’t quite place what it is, but you know the omission of the essential additive is imperative to the completion of the drink. In the realm of the Athletics bullpen, everyman has a job. There’s the closer (Grant Balfour), right-handed setup man (Ryan Cook), left-handed setup man (Sean Doolittle), LOOGY (Jerry Blevins), and middlemen (Pat Neshek and Chris Resop). What the A’s don’t have is an effective longman.
There really isn’t a suitable reliever capable of giving the Athletics multiple innings, while Jesse Chavez may give it the old college try he is not a long-term answer. Neither was Evan Scribnerfor that matter. Although Scribner won a place in the hearts of A’s fans everywhere for his multi-inning game saving effort in game 162 last season, he proved to be much more effective pitching limited innings at a time.
Ideally, the Athletics need someone who can come into a game on short notice and effectively shut down the opposition over a prolonged period. As unsexy as the job sounds, the duties involve much more than simply tossing garbage innings in blowouts. This candidate may also add to their value, by becoming an emergency starter and filling in when necessary over the course of the season. If these qualifications sound familiar, you may be reminiscing about that certain tattooed Australian southpaw, Travis Blackley. The fan favorite filled in admirably last season, but was unceremoniously cut loose before the start of the season in favor of Scribner.
As unpopular as the move was at the time, it now seems all the more ill-advised. With the Athletics left scrambling to fill innings on numerous occasions, thanks to multiple poor outings from the likes of Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker the time is now for someone to step into the role and round out the bullpen.
There are candidates, both internally within the organization and outside the system. If the A’s were to look for help from Sacramento, there are a few candidates of note to choose from. Amongst the River Cats collective, one will find pitchers Justin Thomas, Brian Gordon, and Bruce Billings. All three have major league experience, and Billings and Thomas are currently slotted in the River Cats rotation, with Thomas in particular pitching well posting a 3.32 ERA and 9.5 k/9 in four starts in the hitter-rich PCL.
Outside the organization, the underachieving Toronto Blue Jays recently designated southpaw Aaron Laffey for assignment. When not sharing a similar name with a member of Thor’s villains gallery, the former Indian has pitched serviceably over a 6-year career. Most recently, Laffey served as a swingman in Toronto last season starting 16 games and appearing out of the bullpen for 6 appearances. In 100 2/3 innings, he posted a 4.56 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP and held lefty hitters to a .239 AVG.
The longman. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. I’ll take another, bartender.