Apr 10, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view of a baseball on the field during pre game batting practice before a game between the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Athletics WiR: Departures, Returns and Demotions


Oakland Athletics

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The past week for the Oakland Athletics went about as well as one could have hoped. The A’s went 5-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of Felix Hernandez, and that game even became close towards the end. This week also saw the return of Ryan Cook to the bullpen, Craig Gentry to the outfield mix and the A’s opting to remove Jim Johnson from the closer role in favor of a closer by committee for the foreseeable future.

The Athletics sit in first place, at 1.5 games above the Mariners, and 2 games over both the Angels and Rangers. Outside of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Athletics have the best run differential in the majors at 19. This is significant because it shows the mix of both pitching and run scoring that the team is showcasing thus far this season.

The offense is in the middle of the pack in MLB with 51 runs scored, ranking number 14 overall. The A’s pitching staff ranks 2nd in MLB with a 2.17 overall ERA, and an astounding 10 Quality Starts through 12 games. The Athletics pitching staff has been remarkable. There will be some regression over the course of the season, but ideally that will coincide with the offense getting hot. But that’s down the line. Let’s get back to this week.

The return of Ryan Cook solidifies an A’s bullpen that has been lights out, minus Jim Johnson. Nothing against Evan Scribner (who was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Cook), but he is more of a long reliever. The bullpen already had one long reliever in Drew Pomeranz. The addition of Cook adds another arm capable of pitching in any situation. He can set-up the closer, or close the games himself.

Craig Gentry represents an upgrade over Sam Fuld, or even Josh Reddick the way he has started this season. Gentry hasn’t started a game in an Athletics uniform yet, but look for him to start Monday night with lefty Hector Santiago on the mound. Gentry is a speedy player that hits for average and also in big situations, something the Athletics have lacked on a regular basis the past couple of seasons. Sam Fuld did a good job of filling in with Gentry on the DL, but only managed to hit .200. Gentry is a career .279 hitter.

As we look ahead at the coming week, there is no reason the A’s shouldn’t at least go 3-3. Pitching probables this week are as follows:

Monday: Chavez (0-0, 1.38) vs. Santiago (0-2, 7.71)

Tuesday: Straily (1-1, 2.77) vs. Richards (2-0, 0.75)

Wednesday: Milone (0-1, 5.40) vs. Skaggs (1-0, 2.40)

The Angel offense has been putting up runs this season, plating 67 thus far. On the flip side, their pitching staff has given up 54 runs. Josh Hamilton was recently put on the DL after injuring his hand while sliding into first base. He will be out 6-8 weeks. This series will be the first true test for the Athletic pitching staff.

As for the weekend series, the Athletics return home and welcome in the Houston Astros, currently sitting on a 5-8 record. Last season the Athletics went 15-4 against Houston, and while the Astros have improved, they are still not on the same level as the A’s. Slated to pitch in this series, starting Friday are:

Friday: Cosart (1-1, 4.00) vs. Gray (2-0, 0.95)

Saturday: Oberholtzer (0-3, 3.50) vs. Kazmir (2-0, 1.40)

Sunday: Harrell (0-2, 11.05)  vs. Chavez (0-0, 1.38)

The Athletics are sending their top 3 starters to the mound in this series, and given how they’ve performed this season, one has to like their odds of coming out with a series win. This week will be big for our boys in the green and gold. A successful week of divisional games can bring the team some momentum moving forward, and also widen their lead over the division. After this coming week, the A’s will face-off against the rival Texas Rangers in 6 of 10 games. The division can’t be won in April, but the Athletics can go a long way to building up a sizable lead to finish out the month. It all begins Monday night against the Halos.

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