Outman sent down to Sacramento
McCarthy, Ross and Cramer remaining fifth-starter candidates
PHOENIX -- Josh Outman has found that a healthy dose of perspective comes along with 18 months of rehab.
So when the A's lefty was sent to Triple-A Sacramento to be stretched out on Sunday morning and, thus, removed from the fifth-starter competition, he reminded himself of that very outlook, grabbing hold of the positive in an otherwise disappointing situation.
Outman wasn't the only fifth-starter candidate sent down to the Minors on Sunday. Guillermo Moscoso, whom manager Bob Geren considered to be a rotation possibility early in camp, will start the season with Outman in Sacramento, subsequently leaving Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer as the three remaining fifth-starter options.
"My main goal for the spring was to stay healthy," said Outman, his packed bags sitting by his side. "It looks like I'm going to be able to hold on to that goal. Everything else is secondary. Making the team would have been great. Making the rotation would have been fantastic. In the meantime, I've been given the opportunity to continue being a starter and I know that, at some point, I'll be back with the Major League team, helping them win."
The 26-year-old southpaw, who hasn't pitched in a big league game since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2009, struggled with mechanics in his five Cactus League appearances and ultimately gave up 12 runs, 23 hits and seven walks in 11 combined innings of work.
"Mechanics come by being out there regularly," Geren said. "It's like a hitter. If a hitter is out for 18 months, it takes awhile for them to repeat what they were doing before.
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"I just told Josh that he's come a long way in the last 18 months, and that he's been improving and he needs to keep on that track in order to pitch at this level. He's healthy and he's feeling good -- those are all positives. It's just a matter of time until he gets back to where he was. He was obviously very encouraged that he's healthy and that he's out there pitching. The last 18 months or so for him had to be very difficult. I told him I experienced a lot of things in the game, but I never experienced being out for 18 months and how difficult that must be."
Outman finds comfort in knowing that the organization still views him as a starter -- the role he's fulfilled for the majority of his life -- and admitted he wasn't all that surprised by the move, despite a week's worth of time remaining in camp.
"There aren't enough innings over here right now," he said. "They want me to be a starter, so it makes sense. I'm not sharp enough right now to warrant any starts here. I can get my innings in over on the Minor League side, so I'll take the opportunity to go down there and sharpen up, and I'll be back with the team at some point. I'm a Major League pitcher when I'm healthy and I'm right.
"I can't be mad. I didn't perform like I should have. I should have performed the way some of the other guys who have been competing for spots are. It's just the way it works."
Geren insisted Sunday that he has not decided on a fifth starter, but noted that the candidates who are not chosen will still have great potential to remain on the team in a long-relief role. Outman, once stretched out, will also give the A's skipper some flexibility when the season starts.
"It's a pretty common-sense philosophy that you can always make your starter a reliever," Geren said. "It's really difficult to make a reliever a starter that quickly, so we'll keep [Outman] stretched out and, when the need arises, he'll be ready either way. He's had some big league time, and we obviously like his arm, like what he's done."
Outman posted a 4-1 record with a 3.48 ERA in 14 games -- 12 starts -- in his 2009 rookie season with the A's, who watched him transform into one of the biggest surprises of a young starting rotation before his injury. He knows he's close to regaining that form, and has accepted the fact that he'll be completing the process at the Minor League level.
"Given the choice," he said, "I'd like to start, and given the fact they have the confidence in me to continue being a starter is motivation for me to get right as a starter."