Notes: Gaudin shows his stuff
Setup man has stepped in nicely for injured Duchscherer
DETROIT -- Righty Chad Gaudin didn't appear in Oakland's three-game sweep of the Twins in the American League Division Series, but his work in the AL Championship Series through the first three games has been one of precious few bright spots for the A's.
Gaudin, 23, took over for Oakland's starter in each of the three losses and stranded all three inherited runners while working a total of 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and walking three with a strikeout.
"It's been a lot of fun," Gaudin said before Game 4 of the ALCS at Comerica Park on Saturday. "It'd be a lot more fun if we were winning, but getting to pitch in this environment at all is just great."
Gaudin has benefited from the absence of righty setup man Justin Duchscherer, who was unavailable for Games 2 and 3 as the result of spasms near his clavicle, and done a pretty good impression of the 2005 All-Star.
"He's kind of taken Duke's place, really," said A's manager Ken Macha. "He's been tremendous."
Gaudin, who went 4-2 with a 3.09 ERA over 64 innings in 55 regular-season appearances, opened the season as a starter at Triple-A Sacramento. He was 2-0 with a 0.52 ERA in three starts for the River Cats when he was called up to Oakland for the first time on April 21 and moved into the bullpen.
He allowed an earned run in three of his first four appearances with the A's, and though he collected his first big-league save on May 4, he allowed three runs over four innings while earning it and was optioned back to Sacramento the following day.
He made one more start for the River Cats, striking out 10 over seven innings, but despite his 3-0 record and 0.37 ERA as a starter, he was used exclusively in relief after being called back to Oakland for good May 13.
"I think he's got enough of an offspeed game to make it as a starter," said A's pitching coach Curt Young. "And at his age, you can't discount what he's done in the Minor Leagues in that role."
Drafted out of Crescent City High in Metairie, La., by the Devil Rays in the 34th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, Gaudin was traded to the Blue Jays in December 2004 and acquired by the A's in December 2005. Sixty-four of his 83 appearances in the Minors entering this season came as a starter, including all 23 of his 2005 outings at Triple-A Syracuse, where he went 9-8 with a 3.35 ERA.
With A's lefty Barry Zito presumed to be leaving as a free agent this winter, there will be at least one spot in the rotation up for grabs during Spring Training. Young said no decisions have been made regarding the opening, but he did mention lefties Brad Halsey and Joe Kennedy, righty Kirk Saarloos and Gaudin as potential candidates.
"If the roster does remain the same, and that's never a lock with us, there's definitely some options as far as the rotation goes," Young said.
Asked specifically about Gaudin's future role, Young expertly positioned himself on the proverbial fence.
"Chad's power fastball/slider combination is what makes him successful as a reliever," he offered, "and the confidence he's gained coming into tough situations is really the area he's improved the most. But he has some other pitches, too, and you always like a power arm, whether it's in the bullpen or the rotation.
"I don't think you could go wrong either way."
Asked about the possibility of returning to his rotation roots as opposed to growing into a larger role out of the bullpen, Gaudin went down the middle with it, too.
"I'm just growing to like being in the big leagues, period," he said with a smile. "Whatever the team needs, you know? Right now, I'm not even close to being in a position where I feel like I can tell somebody what I want to do.
"I'm still learning, still growing, still trying to improve every day."
Two hours before Saturday's game, Macha said Duchscherer had improved to the point that he could lift his arm, but his availability wouldn't be determined until after Duchscherer tried to play catch during batting practice.
A blow too many: Oakland's emphasis on adding depth served the club well during the regular season, when it used the disabled list 15 times and managed to plug its many holes well enough to win the AL West. The wave of late-season injuries to middle infielders, however, has proven costly in the ALCS.
Marco Scutaro, filling in for shortstop Bobby Crosby (back), was one of the heroes of the ALDS, and his defense has been solid throughout the postseason, but he went 1-for-11 in the first three games against Detroit. D'Angelo Jimenez, in for second baseman Mark Ellis (broken finger) only because backup Antonio Perez (broken finger) is also out, was 2-for-13 in four playoff games through Friday and had made two errors.
"There's no way to measure it," Macha said, "but there's probably been a couple double plays we'd have probably gotten [with Ellis]."
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Macha also mentioned that the A's were in the wrong "coverage" when Jimenez broke to cover second base on a hit-and-run with Craig Monroe at the plate and leadoff man Curtis Granderson at first base in the first inning Friday. Monroe singled through the opening created by Jimenez's absence, leading to Detroit's early 2-0 lead.
Ellis, Macha noted, would have been responsible for setting that coverage had he been in the game.
That said, Macha conceded that "hindsight is always 20-20," and didn't want to sound like he was using the backup keystone combo as a scapegoat for the 3-0 loss.
"We had two hits last night," he said. "It doesn't matter what kind of defense you play when you don't score any runs."
Streaking: Macha kept alive his streak of snapping off at least one very funny line during each of his playoff press conferences with his response to being asked if he'd ever seen a group of young arms like the Tigers have "come of age" at the same time.
After a brief pause for effect, Macha coughed into the microphone and whispered, "Hudson, Mulder, Zito. ... That's pretty good."
Macha was the A's bench coach in 1999, when Tim Hudson splashed onto the big-league scene by going 11-1 as a rookie. Mark Mulder and Barry Zito joined the club the following year, and within three years, each of them had finished first or second in the AL Cy Young voting.
Dribblers: The only change made to the lineup was to move third baseman Eric Chavez from sixth to fifth in the batting order and drop left fielder Jay Payton from fifth to sixth. "At this particular point, there's not a whole lot of options or different lineups or shuffling the deck or whatever," Macha explained. "That lineup won three games for us against the Twins." ... Though Macha conceded that "nothing to lose" mindset that comes with being down three games to none had the potential to loosen up his club, he disputed the notion that the A's haven't been loose all along. "I don't think these guys have been tight," he said. "Far from it." ... Asked if he considered pulling back Bobby Kielty, a switch-hitter who killed lefties this year, as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning Friday when Jim Leyland replaced lefty starter Kenny Rogers with righty Fernando Rodney, Macha said he'd already told Kielty he'd be his guy no matter who was on the mound. "I watched Kielty in batting practice [Friday] very closely, and he absolutely lit the ball up from both sides of the plate." The other left-handed options available were backup first baseman Dan Johnson and backup catcher Adam Melhuse, also a switch-hitter. ... Told that Chavez had referred to the Tigers as "a better team" than the A's after Friday's loss, Macha said, "They've played better than us, absolutely. But that doesn't mean we can't play better than them today and tomorrow."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.