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08/07/10 4:40 PM ET

Braden earns veteran status on A's staff

Left-hander is elder statesman of young group at only 26

OAKLAND -- It's come faster than he could have ever imagined, but 26-year-old Dallas Braden is the old man on the A's pitching staff. When Ben Sheets went down with a season-ending elbow injury three weeks ago and Brett Anderson joined the rotation, baseball's youngest staff got even younger.

"Never do you think you are going to assume that veteran role at 26," Braden said. "It's not like I'm so weathered and grizzled that these guys look to me for advice or anything like that. We talk about stuff, but never did I put myself in this position this early in my career."

Braden said he feels a bit more responsibility to serve as a leader being the rotation's oldest member, but said it's more a case of leading by example, rather than words. Among the other members of the A's staff, Braden has clicked best with Saturday's starter Gio Gonzalez.

"Gio and I are very similar in our passion and our intensity for the game," Braden said. "When he got here early, he had some trouble trying to harness that emotion and channel it in a matter that wasn't showing anybody up -- that was still respectful of the game, respectful of himself, teammates. He's kind of leaned on me to help him through that."

With Braden, Gonzalez and Anderson, Oakland's rotation features three southpaws. In fact, Braden said he learns more about himself by watching the 24-year-old Gonzalez and 22-year-old Anderson pitch.

"All three of us are different pitchers and have different repertoires, but we're all looking to get outs," Braden said. "I think we can all sit back and watch each other and pick each other's brain on what worked against this guy, what worked against that guy."

While Braden said he enjoys the lefty companions, A's manager Bob Geren said he's more concerned with the quality of pitcher he gets to use, regardless of which way he throws. Oakland's rotation also has the benefit of working with Curt Young, one of eight left-handed pitching coaches in the Major Leagues.

"All that means is that there's another weirdo in the woodpile," Braden said of Young.

Watson gets thrown right into fire

OAKLAND -- After a five-year hiatus, Matt Watson's return to the big leagues is still going strong.

The 31-year-old outfielder was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on July 5 and has become a regular presence in the lineup this week. Watson hit eighth as the starting left fielder on Saturday and has started five of the last six contests.

"That's all you can ask for," Watson said. "Like I said when I got up, there's a lot of guys that can play and play at this level. There's a lot of guys in Triple-A and the Atlantic League that could be successful, it's just finding your niche and finding somebody that will play you. I owe a lot of that to [A's manager Bob Geren] for getting me in there the last couple of days."

Watson picked up a hit in three consecutive games earlier this week and has been hitting pitches with consistent authority lately. Entering play on Saturday, Watson was batting .188 (5-for-27) in 11 games this season.

"I feel fantastic defensively, knock on wood," Watson said. "In my career this is probably the most comfortable I've felt out there. I'm getting settled in the corner outfield positions."

Geren usually uses a defensive replacement for Watson in the late innings, but said he's been happy with the production from Watson and fellow outfielder Matt Carson, who was also promoted from Sacramento on July 5.

"They're both giving me some good at-bats, they really are," Geren said. "That's what you want, is to give you a quality at-bat and they both play pretty well defensively."

Bailey may throw on Sunday

OAKLAND -- A's closer Andrew Bailey, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a rib muscle strain, could resume throwing on Sunday.

Bailey played catch on Wednesday but felt a bit of discomfort on Thursday, as Oakland manager Bob Geren said the session didn't go quite as planned.

"Andrew is feeling better [Saturday]," Geren said. "We'll see where he's at [Sunday]."

Geren said Bailey could play catch on Sunday if his body feels up to the task, but said the team hasn't decided on whether Bailey will need a Minor League rehab stint. Bailey hasn't pitched in a game since July 20.

Geren also said reliever Joey Devine is on the eighth day of a throwing program and will be stretching it out to 120 feet on flat ground.

Lefty Josh Outman, who went 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 appearances -- 12 starts -- for Oakland last season, is in a similar spot as Devine in his rehab, according to Geren.

Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.