9/14/2013 2:05 A.M. ET
Key bullpen trio rested for A's stretch run
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- While expanded rosters ensure plenty of bullpen options for the A's this month, the club will still need to rely heavily on its core trio to secure late innings down this pivotal stretch.
This particularly holds true for this weekend's three-game set in Texas that began Friday.
"Sometimes there's some runs scored here," manager Bob Melvin said, smiling. "You usually have a full bullpen, with some added pieces in September, but it's always nice to have your key guys ready to pitch in a key series."
Closer Grant Balfour and setup men Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook are ready.
Balfour not only utilized just 11 pitches in a one-inning appearance in Minnesota on Thursday, but was going on five days' rest. Overall in September, he's been used only three times. Doolittle and Cook, meanwhile, each haven't appeared in a game since Tuesday.
They've combined for 15 2/3 innings against the Rangers this season, allowing 14 hits but just three earned runs with 15 strikeouts for a 1.72 ERA.
None of those runs belong to Balfour, who has pitched five scoreless innings vs. Texas this year, perfect in three save opportunities in five outings against the division foe.
Outside of Balfour, Doolittle and Cook, the A's have eight other relievers in tow, including a rested Brett Anderson who hasn't pitched since Sunday, but none figure to be seen as much in the late innings this weekend as them.
Not when so much is at stake.
"We try to play every game like it's the last game of the season, and the game we have to win," Melvin said. "That shouldn't change, but there does seem to be more intensity when we do play these guys."
Back spasms force Anderson out after two batters
ARLINGTON -- A's lefty Brett Anderson faced just two batters in Friday's 9-8 win over the Rangers before exiting with back spasms, but the hurler isn't expected to miss much time.
"He's day to day," said manager Bob Melvin, "and we'll probably know a little bit more tomorrow."
"The only solace is it's just a back spasm, and guys come back from those in a day or so," said Anderson. "But it's just something else to deal with, disappointing myself."
Anderson already missed four months of the season because of a stress fracture in his right foot, having also been limited to a month of play last year after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The 25-year-old lefty, who hadn't pitched since recording a three-inning save on Sunday, walked his only two batters on Friday, which marked the beginning of Texas' six-run eighth inning.
"It wasn't one pitch or one thing," Anderson said. "I tried to fight through it, but every time I landed, it kind of progressively got worse."
Young starting to reward A's patience
ARLINGTON -- Of the many attributes the A's believed Chris Young brought to the table when they acquired his services from the D-backs last offseason, hitting for a high average wasn't among them.
Still, Young boasted a combination of power and speed, along with exceptional defense. So when his average kept slipping for the better part of the first half -- and continuing in the same fashion at the start of the second half -- the A's stuck with the veteran, who had averaged 24 home runs and 21 stolen bases in seven seasons in Arizona.
Finally, in the last month of the regular season, they're being rewarded for their patience. And the timing couldn't be better for an A's team closing in on a second straight postseason berth.
Young entered Friday's series opener in Texas riding a season-high five-game hitting streak. He's 7-for-18 in that span, his average finally above the Mendoza Line -- barely -- at .201 through 96 games, the first time he's been over .200 since May 25 (.207). In June, it dipped as low as .173.
He has 11 home runs and 36 RBIs to go along with eight stolen bases.
"As a guy who's an everyday player, you almost to an extent fight it. You don't want to accept the fact that you're playing in a certain role," said manager Bob Melvin. "But he's an everyday guy that's playing in a role, and he's doing really well right now. He's going to be big for us."
Young drew the start in right field on Friday against Rangers lefty Derek Holland, and he figures to get plenty of playing time down the final stretch, as the A's are set to face almost as many southpaws as right-handers.
Keeping Young in play, and on a hot streak, could pay dividends for a surging A's offense, batting .284 over its last 33 games.
"We envision him being an important piece, and you have to keep a guy like that going," Melvin said. "You have to stay supportive of him, because you know he's going to get it going at some point, he's going to acclimate, and he's going to end up playing potentially a big role for us.
"It's easy to do, because he works so hard and prepares and is great in the clubhouse. He's one of the leaders in the clubhouse with his experience, so when you're struggling some and having trouble finding your niche, you have to stay supportive of guys like that."
• Despite his hot-hitting ways, even against left-handed pitching, Brandon Moss remained out of the A's starting lineup for Friday's series opener vs. Texas, as Melvin stuck with his platoons and played Nate Freiman at first base and Young in right field against southpaw Derek Holland.
Moss has made 12 of his last 13 starts in right field, as the A's adjusted without a healthy Josh Reddick, but now that Reddick is back in the mix, with first baseman Daric Barton also swinging the bat well, Melvin said Moss will "probably do a little of everything." He's batting .344 with eight home runs and 21 RBIs over his last 22 games.
"He can play left, he can play right, he can play first," the manager said. "And against right-handed pitching, he's going to be in there. Things transpire during the course of the game, he's going to be in there. Just not sure of the position. Could be DH too."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.