Competition heating up for A's final bullpen spot

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Competition heating up for A's final bullpen spot
March 4, 2014, 1:30 pm
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Jesse Chavez has thrown 4 2/3 scoreless innings over two Cactus League outings. (AP)

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A’s manager Bob Melvin indicated that just one job remains open in Oakland’s seven-man bullpen.

Heading into the season, it appeared Jim Johnson, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero had spots locked up. Jesse Chavez, who has thrown 4 2/3 scoreless innings over two Cactus League outings, appears to also have a spot locked down.

“I think six of them could be fairly obvious, and then there's that seventh spot, and you always want that kind of competition,” Melvin told reporters Tuesday morning. “You don't want to come in with no jobs available, even though I do tell these guys, just because you don't start with us doesn't mean you can't be a big piece for us, based on the amount of players we used the last couple of years.”

Chavez was 2-4 with a 3.92 ERA over 35 appearances last season, and he’s served as a long man in addition to other relief roles. Evan Scribner, who like Chavez is out of minor league options, has impressed so far with two scoreless outings of his own. But keeping him would leave the bullpen with just one left-hander, Doolittle.

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If the A’s want a second southpaw, the leading candidates are Fernando Abad and Joe Savery. Abad, acquired from the Washington Nationals over the offseason, has allowed just one hit in three scoreless outings, with four strikeouts and no walks. Savery, who was claimed off waivers from Philadelphia on Feb. 17, had appeared in just one game entering Tuesday, throwing 1 1/3 innings with two hits allowed, one walk and one strikeout.

The wildcard in all of this is the health of Cook. He has yet to throw off the mound in spring training due to shoulder inflammation, and though Cook is improving, it’s uncertain whether he’ll be ready by Opening Day.

Cook is scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time Thursday.