ANAHEIM – With the closer-by-committee approach paying dividends, it stands to reason Oakland A’s reliever Jim Johnson won’t return to the closer’s role anytime soon even as he shows signs of improvement.
Since Johnson was taken out of the ninth-inning role Thursday, the A’s are 3 for 3 in save opportunities, with right-hander Luke Gregerson nailing down two victories and lefty Sean Doolittle saving one.
Johnson has looked better in two relief outings, including Monday, when he picked up his first victory with Oakland after pitching a scoreless eighth inning. Johnson has retired nine of the 10 batters he’s faced over his last two outings, allowing just one hit with four strikeouts over three innings.
Melvin said he’s inclined to stick with the closer-by-committee approach as long as it works.
“There’s no reason not to,” he said.
The current plan when the A’s have the lead is for Gregerson and Doolittle to alternate the eighth and ninth innings, depending on whether a team has lefties or righties due to hit in those innings.
Melvin said finding the best way to utilize Johnson right now is his biggest challenge.
“That’s the toughest one, is where am I gonna use him?” the manager said. “And it’s tough on him too. But he’s also pitched in seven out of 13 games. He’s pitching a lot better.”