One early-season bright spot for the Oakland A’s has been the emergence of their left-handed bullpen contingent.
Fernando Abad and Drew Pomeranz both are proving to be reliable options from the left side to complement late-inning setup man Sean Doolittle. Both were acquired in offseason trades and both are getting their number called by manager Bob Melvin.
Neither has allowed a hit through six combined appearances, and both have helped their cause with their ability to retire right-handed hitters. That’s one reason both stuck around when the A’s needed to make a bullpen roster move Monday. Right-hander Evan Scribner was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for Ryan Cook when he was activated from the disabled list.
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“We saw it early with Abad in the spring,” Melvin said. “His velocity has always been around 95 (mph). He has a power breaking ball and he throws some changeups to right-handers that can keep him in the game if a team has two lefties with a righty in the middle.”
Abad, acquired from Washington in one of the A’s first moves during a busy offseason, impressed in the spring and has maintained that success in the regular season. He has yet to allow a run or hit over his three outings (3 2/3 IP), and he’s struck out five against two walks. Right-handed batters are 0-for-7 against him, lefties 0-for-4.
“I like him because he’s got deception, he’s not easy to pick up,” said a major league scout who requested anonymity. “The thing that concerns me is his command. He really falls off to the third-base side and runs away from his arm, and that elevates his pitches.”
But the same scout said Abad seems to stay more compact when he pitches out of the stretch. Similarly, Pomeranz has found comfort and success so far this season throwing predominantly from the stretch.
Pomeranz was a starter for Colorado for much of his previous three big league seasons. But coming out of the spring, the A’s had a need for bullpen help because Jesse Chavez switched from relieving to starting due to injuries in the rotation. The A’s have the option of still grooming Pomeranz for starting duty -- the fact he was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft speaks to his ceiling -- but right now he’s looking at home in the bullpen.
“You might get more out of his arm in the ‘pen,” the scout said. “You’ll get more velocity than if he’s pacing himself as a starter. Maybe they found something there.”
Pomeranz has yet to allow a hit through three scoreless appearances. He’s walked two and struck out one. Righties are 0-for-5 off him and lefties 0-for-4.
“Pomeranz seems to have acclimated well” to relieving, Melvin said.
With Cook’s healthy return from shoulder tendinitis, the A’s have the full makeup of a bullpen that was considered one of the toughest units in the majors entering the season.
Oakland (4-3) ranks fourth in the American League in bullpen ERA (2.63) and second in opponents’ batting average (.157) entering Wednesday’s game at Minnesota. The A’s are off Tuesday and play two more against the Twins before heading to Seattle for a three-game weekend series.