The additions of both Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes may not be earth shattering news within the baseball world, perhaps with the exceptions of those living either Down Under or in Merced, but the righty and lefty off-season acquisitions bolster a relief corps that finished 6th in the AL in ERA in 2010, and perhaps more importantly, a pitching staff that finished 1st.
The road to recovery from Tommy John Surgery may prove to be just one of a few obstacles both Josh Outman and Joey Devine will face this spring. Outman, who’s been out since June of 2009, is considered one of the top candidates for the 5th starter job, while Devine looks to stake his claim in the Oakland bullpen, despite not having made an appearance since his stellar 08’ campaign. Outman’s candidacy is likely to be challenged by the returning Rich Harden, and former White Sox prospect Brandon McCarthy. LHP Bobby Cramer could also prove to be a dark horse, as could Tyson Ross, and were both formerly accompanied by RHP Clayton Mortensen, who was recently sent to Colorado in exchange for fellow righty Ethan Hollingsworth.
LHP Jerry Blevins may be the most obvious and likely odd man out in the wake of the Balfour and Fuentes additions, the predominance of righties in the pen could help his chances. Unfortunately, the names Balfour, Fuentes, Bailey, Devine, Breslow, Wuertz, Ziegler, Blevins, Harden, McCarthy, and Outman are all viable candidates for the pen, (possibly one of the last three if they don’t win the 5th spot) but 6 relievers tends to be the maximum in the AL. That likely means four, but possibly five proven pitchers may find themselves on the short end of the stick, and somewhere other than Oakland to start the 2011 season.
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Written by Patrick Ryan