05/26/12 8:10 PM ET
Blevins settling in as key piece in A's bullpen
By Jane Lee and Ben Estes / MLB.com
Oakland's relievers have allowed just two earned runs over 10 1/3 innings in two games against the Angels and one against the Yankees, picking up the slack twice when starters Graham Godfrey and Tyson Ross had to be pulled early.
Overall, the bullpen has posted a 1.40 ERA in the A's last 11 games, lowering its ERA to 2.42 -- good for third in the American League -- after a bit of a shaky start to the season.
Left-hander Jerry Blevins has been a big part of that success. He threw a career-high-tying 2 2/3 innings of relief in Friday night's 6-3 loss to the Yankees, allowing no hits and striking out three. After allowing two earned runs in his first three games this season, Blevins hasn't allowed an earned run in 12 of his past 14 games, recording a 1.45 ERA in that span and getting both left- and right-handed hitters out.
Indeed, the 28-year-old has seemingly solidified his spot in Oakland's bullpen, and manager Bob Melvin said as much before Saturday's game. Though Blevins was on the team's Opening Day roster last season, he bounced between Triple-A Sacramento and the big leagues.
But last season marked the end of Blevins' option years, meaning Oakland can't send him to the Minors without exposing him to waivers. Having options last year made Blevins an easy choice to send down when the team needed to clear room. Blevins said his new status has made for an easier year mentally, knowing that he has more of an established place in the Majors.
"It's a lot easier to just show up to the park every day knowing that your ability to pitch is the only factor that plays into whether or not you're going to be there," Blevins said. "It's [nice] knowing that it's performance-based, instead of a little of the business side and fitting in."
Blevins has already made 17 appearances this season, nine fewer than he made for Oakland in all of 2011.
Cespedes nears rehab stint after taking BP
OAKLAND -- A's fans can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that Yoenis Cespedes is back to hitting home runs without pain.
Cespedes proved that much during batting practice Saturday in his first session since going on the disabled list May 12 with a strained muscle in his left hand. He's slated to hit again with the team on Sunday before potentially embarking on a short rehab stint in the Minor Leagues on Monday.
"My guess is he'll need a few at-bats," manager Bob Melvin said.
Cespedes believes he won't need more than two games before being ready to join the A's on their six-game road swing through Minnesota and Kansas City that begins Monday. They'll likely come with Triple-A Sacramento.
"For me, I haven't seen live pitching for a long time, so those games are going to mostly be about seeing pitching," he said. "Maybe four, five, six at-bats -- depends on how I feel."
Cespedes used a new bat on Saturday, one that is tapered to help him make a grip adjustment to prevent further harm to his hand. He knows a successful change can't happen overnight, so he'll initially use the new bats just during batting practice, before introducing them into game action.
Cespedes is eager to return.
"For me, for my team, for my family, it will be nice to see this nightmare over," he said.
Blackley, not Godfrey, to get start on Monday
OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin gave positive reports all week on the health of Graham Godfrey after the right-hander was bothered by soreness in his right middle finger in his start on Tuesday, indicating that Godfrey would likely make his next scheduled start on Monday.
But when Godfrey appeared in relief in Oakland's 9-2 loss to New York on Saturday, it was evident that wouldn't be the case. Melvin announced after the game that left-hander Travis Blackley would instead get the nod on Monday at Minnesota.
Melvin said the decision was based partly on Godfrey's struggles and partly on Blackley's success with Oakland. Godfrey has a 6.43 ERA in five appearances this season and was roughed up by the Yankees for three runs (two earned) on five hits on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Blackley has been spotless since being claimed off waivers from San Francisco on May 15, allowing no earned runs in his three appearances. He was particularly solid in relief of Godfrey on Tuesday, throwing 3 2/3 innings -- the most for an A's reliever in a game this season -- and allowing no earned runs while impressing Melvin with his ability to throw four quality pitches.
Blackley has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for San Francisco and Oakland this season but was groomed as a starter in the Minor Leagues. He made three starts for Fresno, the Giants' Triple-A affiliate, in April, allowing one earned run over 19 1/3 innings.
"I don't really mind what I do, I'm just thankful I have a job up here at the moment," Blackley said. "I'm doing everything I can to try and establish myself and help the team, obviously, to win games, because we need some wins right now. However I can help out -- if it ends up that I stick in that [starting] role, then hopefully I run with it and do awesome."
A's being patient amid struggles for Crisp
OAKLAND -- Coco Crisp's defensive miscue that led to three unearned Yankees runs in Friday's loss came during a frustrating set of struggles at the plate for the outfielder.
Since being reinstated from the disabled list Monday, Crisp entered Saturday with just one hit in 17 at-bats. On the season, he was hitting .167 with no home runs and five RBIs, contributing to the A's overall woes. They rank last in the Majors with a .210 average.
"I feel good up there," Crisp said. "It's definitely a grind mentally more so than physically. I just try to keep on going out there and give 100 percent and, hopefully, turn a corner. We're out here working -- we all are. We're doing a good job of pushing and grinding, before and during the games, which makes it that much harder when you're not succeeding."
"I'm sure he'd like to get a few more hits, but it takes a little time sometimes," manager Bob Melvin said. "It looks like he'll have a good at-bat, and then one that's not so good. We feel like, any time now, he'll get a few hits and be on his way."
The performances of Crisp and fellow table setter Jemile Weeks are vital to the team's production, with team RBI leader Josh Reddick (25) taking swings behind them. Weeks, like Crisp, is also mired in a slump, going 4-for-27 over his last seven games.
Third baseman Brandon Inge, rehabbing his strained right groin in Triple-A Sacramento, went 1-for-2 with a walk for the River Cats in six innings Friday and was scheduled to play a full nine innings on Saturday.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.