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09/26/10 5:20 PM ET

Geren totes Barton's, Gio's significant growth

Young talent develops into reliable starters over 2010 campaign

OAKLAND -- With the 2010 season coming to a close, A's manager Bob Geren discussed the development of two of his young regulars this season -- southpaw Gio Gonzalez and first baseman Daric Barton.

While Trevor Cahill has evolved from a 10-game winner as a rookie to one of the league's top arms, Gonzalez has made an arguably greater transformation. In his first two seasons of big league service, Gonzalez went 7-11 with a 6.24 ERA. This year, Gonzalez is 14-9 with a 3.35 ERA.

Though stuff has never been an issue with Gonzalez, he was finally able to harness his emotion on the mound this year. In years past, Gonzalez would often be undone by his fiery temper.

"He's improved that composure aspect of his game by 100 percent," Geren said. "He still has a way to go, but I think that with time and more experience, he's going to continue to get better at that. Stuff-wise, his command is better with all of his pitches."

Geren said he thought Barton made the most significant improvement this year. The 25-year-old first baseman, who shuttled between the big leagues and Triple-A last year, leads the American League in walks (106) while toting a .273 average and .394 on-base percentage.

Geren also tabbed Barton as a potential Gold Glove winner while praising him for being among the league leaders in games played this year. But Barton has yet to become a consistent power threat, something often expected from an everyday first baseman. Barton has just eight home runs and 51 RBIs in a full season of work.

"The best hitters that I've seen were ones that used the entire field when they're young, then learn to hit home runs when they get older," Geren said. "He could be on that type of track, it's a possibility."

Ziegler proud of positive signs from 2010 club

OAKLAND -- Less than 24 hours after seeing the Rangers celebrate the American League West title on their field, the A's wrapped up their 2010 home schedule in Sunday's matinee. With Saturday's deflating 4-3 defeat, the A's extended their playoff drought to four years.

"For me, there's a lot of positive to come from this season," said A's reliever Brad Ziegler. "But it's also one of missed opportunities. When you finish this close to the playoffs, you look back and realize there are games that I personally could have pitched better. If I had executed a few more pitches, it might have made a difference in two or three games, and maybe even more. I'm sure everybody kind of looks back and feels the same way."

While Oakland should be proud to lead the AL in team ERA (3.57) and shutouts (16), it was never able to stray far from the .500 mark this season. But the team did form a new identity as a scrappy team that relies on pitching, defense, situational hitting and stolen bases.

Manager Bob Geren said he expects the team to keep the same offensive philosophy next season, while also saying the current pitching compares favorably to the A's vaunted staffs of the last decade. The way it looks now, the A's have another burgeoning big three in Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Brett Anderson, who have an average age of 23.

Alas, the team also went through its usual rash of injuries, using the disabled list 23 times this season, two trips short of the Oakland record set in 2008. The overwhelming sentiment within the clubhouse is the A's are close to becoming an elite team, but that they need to add some more pop to the lineup.

With no new stadium in sight, the A's will remain at the archaic Oakland Coliseum for the time being. The 2010 season was marked with consistently sparse crowds. Entering play Sunday, the A's ranked last in MLB attendance, averaging 17,467 fans a game.

"It's always tough to leave our fans here," Ziegler said. "Our fans are so passionate and our fans are so supportive -- the ones that come out."

Worth noting

A's top power-hitting prospect Chris Carter was held out of the starting lineup on Sunday with a sore left thumb, the same one that sidelined him for a couple of weeks earlier this month. Carter hit safely in the initial six games of the homestand, starting in left field each time and going 7-for-18 with a home run, two RBIs and three runs scored. He went 0-for-32 on the road to begin his career.

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