Beane, A's to put pitching depth to the test

Beane, A's to put pitching depth to the test
March 19, 2014, 5:30 pm
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Former No. 5 overall draft pick, Drew Pomeranz, is slated to pitch in a 'hybrid' role as a reliever and starter. (AP)

Josh Lindlom has pitched in 109 career games, five of which were starts. (AP)

Programming note: A’s Insider Joe Stiglich is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The Oakland A’s pitching depth was the envy of many teams around the majors.

Now general manager Billy Beane and his staff will see just how effective that depth can be in light of losing Jarrod Parker to a season-ending elbow injury and fellow starter A.J. Griffin for several weeks with his own elbow problem.

“We’ve tried to use a belt-and-suspenders approach as best we can,” Beane told CSN California on Wednesday. “Replacing a guy like Jarrod Parker and, for the unforeseeable future, Griffin, you’re not just gonna be able to find another one of those guys. What you wanna do is hopefully bring in somebody who’s capable. Fortunately we have some options.”

[RELATED: Injuries create opportunity in rotation for Chavez]

Two of those options, Jesse Chavez and Tommy Milone, are the immediate replacements the A’s will turn to. Beane suspects that two other pitchers, Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz, could also factor into the equation sooner or later.

Lindblom came over from Texas along with outfielder Craig Gentry in a trade that sent outfielder Michael Choice and infielder Chris Bostick to the Rangers. He’s made 109 big league appearances over the past three seasons – all but five coming in relief. But the A’s feel Lindblom can be an effective stop-gap starter if needed this season.

Pomeranz was the key man obtained from Colorado in the Brett Anderson trade during the winter meetings. The 6-foot-5 lefty was a highly touted prospect when he was drafted fifth overall by Cleveland in 2010. He has yet to put it together in the majors, pitching to a 5.20 ERA in 34 career appearances (30 starts) with the Rockies.

[RELATED: Parker preparing for physical, mental challenges]

The A’s are intrigued by him as both a starter and reliever. Though the injuries to Parker and Griffin suggest the A’s might need Pomeranz most as a starter, Beane said Pomeranz could potentially be an asset as a long man out of the bullpen.

“It’s possible he sort of fills the role that Jesse (Chavez) did last year for us,” Beane said. “A little bit of a hybrid. You keep him stretched out in case you need him (to start), but he’s also providing an important skill for you during the season, which is a guy who can give you some length if one of the starters comes out early.”

Pomeranz turned in his second consecutive strong relief outing in Wednesday’s 13-3 victory over Cleveland, tossing three shutout innings and surrendering just one hit with three strikeouts.

“Throwing the ball over the plate. That’s really all he needs to do,” manager Bob Melvin said. “If he can get his breaking ball over, his fastball’s gonna play better and he’s going to be that much more unpredictable. He went three innings today and his stuff didn’t diminish at all. It actually probably got a little better as he went along.”

Pomeranz said he doesn’t have a preference between starting or relieving right now. He’s pitched out of the stretch this spring in relief, even with no runners on, and he says throwing from the stretch helps his mechanics.

“It simplifies everything,” Pomeranz said. “I get my direction right, lift my leg up and go.”

As the A’s scramble to plug holes in their rotation less than two weeks before Opening Day, they can take solace that some of their American League West competitors have endured the same challenges.

Texas, which appears Oakland’s biggest challenger on paper, is without starter Derek Holland for the first half of the season because of a knee injury. Another starter, Matt Harrison, will miss the start of the season with a back injury.

Seattle’s rotation will be without Hisashi Iwakuma for at least the first month because of a strained tendon in his right middle finger. Top prospect Taijuan Walker, who likely was ticketed for the rotation, will also miss much of April due to a shoulder injury.

Teams are having to dip into their reserve pitching earlier than they anticipated.

“I think if you asked all of us, we’d prefer that we use our depth when we’ve already gotten into the season,” Beane said. “Because once you start using some of those guys (early) who were counted on to help you during the season, at that point you start to fly without a net a little bit. And it’s really difficult to respond this time of year and create that kind of depth.”

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