2/17/2014 6:59 P.M. ET
Back end of A's bullpen is loaded
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Don't be surprised if Bob Melvin is picking names out of his hat when the later innings roll around this year.
Not that he actually would. But he could. The A's manager has that many setup options -- four, to be exact -- ahead of new closer Jim Johnson in what should be one of baseball's best bullpens.
When asked on Monday at A's Spring Training who he sees as true setup guys, Melvin pointed to lefty Sean Doolittle and right-handers Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero. This group could even grow to five come July, when lefty specialist Eric O'Flaherty is due to come off the disabled list.
"It's a nice problem to have, with the quality and the depth," said Melvin. "We'll figure it out once we leave here, and then guys will know for the most part who is supposed to get up at certain times."
Doolittle and Cook served the A's well in this role last year, while Gregerson has been one of the best eighth-inning specialists in the National League. Otero, a waiver claim by the A's late last spring, simply pushed his way into the mix with an impressive 2013.
In 33 games for the A's, spanning 39 innings, the right-hander allowed just six earned runs and struck out 27 to six walks.
"He definitely deserves to be in there, based on what he accomplished last year," said Melvin. "We will have, for the most part, defined roles, but those change, too. And with workloads, it allows me to use a guy like him in a setup role if Cook or Doolittle or Gregerson isn't available on a particular day. I don't know exactly how it will play out yet, but I know there will be times he's in a setup role."
These interchangeable pieces are a luxury for any manager to have, but it goes beyond that, with this kind of flexibility allowing the A's to spread out the workload and prevent late-season fatigue. Moreover, Johnson won't often be needed for more than an inning.
"With our setup guys, hopefully very rarely we're in a situation where we're using him one-plus, which means he starts an inning," said Melvin. "But even if you do, usually closers have that one pitch, and he's got the sinker ball, and he can keep it on the ground. He can get two outs out of that, so you don't just have to be a strikeout pitcher, and he's shown that over the last couple of years."
Pomeranz hopes to cash in on new life with A's
PHOENIX -- Drew Pomeranz is finally feeling like himself again, confident that his battle with mechanical issues has come to an end.
For too long, he says, they slowed his career, and what better way to show off his new plan of attack than with a new organization?
The A's took a big chance on Pomeranz this winter in acquiring his services from the Rockies at the expense of trading Brett Anderson, and the southpaw is eager to battle for a job on the pitching staff, likely as a long reliever, with a more consistent delivery in tow.
Pomeranz, who was selected fifth overall by Cleveland in the 2010 Draft, was a highly touted prospect when he was traded to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez in July 2011. The lefty never got on his feet with the Rockies, though, posting a 5.20 ERA in 34 big league appearances from 2011-13.
"I think if I would've come into camp like I did last year, there'd be a lot more to change," Pomeranz said. "I don't expect to change much this year. I actually feel better this year than I have in a long, long time. Probably better than I did the whole time with Colorado, which is a good thing, because I was struggling to find myself there.
"I have a better plan with my mechanics. I feel like I know what I'm doing a lot more now. I was just searching last year to feel right. Repeating my mechanics was difficult. I was always trying to do something different to make it click."
Pomeranz has already had seven bullpen sessions this Spring Training, but his eighth -- and first in front of the A's brass -- has been delayed a few days, after an infected ingrown leg hair had to be lanced on Saturday.
"Not what I was hoping for the first day," he said, smiling. "The day before I got here, it was bothering me a little bit, and I thought it was something that was going to go away. When I went in for my physical, they said it was something that needed a look at. It was miserable."
Pomeranz was limping badly and even became ill and got a fever from the infection. On Monday, he felt better and said, "It's healing like it's supposed to." In the meantime, he's been playing long toss, hopeful that he can get on the mound as soon as Tuesday.
The A's are eager to see him do so, knowing full well just how much of an asset he has the potential to become.
"He has a lot of upside still," said manager Bob Melvin. "He's only 25. The ability is there. Refining it is our job. Giving him confidence is also our job."
"I'm already feeling more confident," said Pomeranz. "That helps a lot, because you know you are yourself and you don't have to think about what you're doing wrong all the time. If you don't feel right, you're going to try to tweak every pitch, every little thing, things that probably don't even need tweaking."
Doolittle moves past minor calf injury
PHOENIX -- Sean Doolittle got through his Monday bullpen session pain-free, putting the left-handed reliever back on track at A's Spring Training following a mild left calf strain.
Doolittle, in fact, hasn't felt any discomfort for three days, allowing him to take to the mound without hesitation. For him, the bigger question mark was how his arm was going to feel a full week after his last bullpen session.
The answer: Just fine.
"It feels great," Doolittle said. "It feels really good. I was disappointed with the way I located things today, but the way my body felt, the way my arm felt, it was real free. After having a full week off, I was real pleased with the way things felt."
"All we were looking for was to make sure he's OK, and no problems with him," said manager Bob Melvin. "We didn't feel like it was a big problem, but this early in spring you always want to make sure you're proactive and give him an extra day."
A's claim lefty reliever Savery off waivers
PHOENIX -- The pitching-rich A's have claimed lefty reliever Joe Savery off waivers from the Phillies, adding to their enviable bullpen depth at Spring Training.
He's expected to arrive to camp Tuesday and will take part in workouts come Wednesday.
To make room on the 40-man roster for its newest addition, Oakland transferred southpaw Eric O'Flaherty -- recovering from Tommy John surgery and not expected back until midseason -- to the 60-man disabled list.
Savery, 28, was Philadelphia's first-round selection (19th overall) out of Rice University in the 2007 Draft. The Houston native went 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in 18 appearances for the Phillies last year, holding opponents to a .205 average in 20 innings.
He has pitched in parts of the last three seasons with Philadelphia, compiling a 4.15 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 41 games overall, striking out 32 but also yielding 42 hits in 47 2/3 innings.
Savery will face heavy competition in A's camp for a bullpen spot, and it's not automatic he'd battle Fernando Abad for a job as a lefty specialist, given his bizarre splits.
Last year, Savery held right-handers to a .118 average spanning 51 at-bats. Lefties, though, hit .409 off him in 22 at-bats. For his career, Savery's right-handed opponents have hit .212/.315/.363 off him, while left-handers have posted a .286/.304/.429 batting line.
Savery knows a thing or two about hitting as well. He has 348 at-bats in the Minors, mostly as a pitcher, and has hit .290 with four homers.
• Melvin is not planning on adding an intrasquad game to his team's Spring Training schedule. Several clubs choose to organize one to give their players additional preseason game experience, but Melvin's reasoning was simple.
"We're not going to add a game just to add a game," he said. "We have 162 regular-season games, 30-plus during the spring. We have more drills we want to focus on before playing what is plenty of games."
• Yoga was back on the A's workout schedule Monday, marking the second year the club has committed to the daily exercise routine.
"Well, it worked last year," said Melvin. "It's really been good for our guys, and they embrace it. I think it was wise we broke it out again this year. It's not just flexibility, but balance and body awareness -- what parts of your body you need to work on to be a little bit looser and so forth."
Melvin took part in the sessions last year and plans to join in again when his back issues subside. The sessions are led by Katherine Roberts, who founded Yoga for Golfers to help athletes maximize their mind-body performance. She has worked with the Dodgers and Padres, as well.