Programming note: Tigers-A’s coverage starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (Channel locations)
OAKLAND – A’s manager Bob Melvin remains confident that his bullpen will improve in protecting leads, after another one slipped away in Tuesday’s loss to Detroit.
“We haven’t been as good as we’ve expected to be,” Melvin said before Wednesday’s game against the Tigers. “The overall numbers don’t look bad, but the timeliness of (the struggles) hasn’t been great. But we’ll get it ironed out. We have quality guys down there, and it’s my job to figure out who and when. And we’re all accountable for some of the nicks we’ve gotten late in games here.”
It’s tough to get a good read on the A’s relief corps with a glance at the stats. Oakland leads the American League in bullpen ERA at 2.88. It also ranks first in opponents’ batting average (.216), slugging percentage (.293) and on-base percentage (.279).
But the A’s also lead the league with nine blown saves are tied for the league lead with 10 losses. They have the fourth highest percentage of inherited runners to score ( 22 of 66, or 33.3 percent).
It’s been a collection of guys who have surrendered key hits or walks in key situations, from Jim Johnson to Luke Gregerson to Sean Doolittle and others. In Tuesday night’s loss, Otero gave up just the second home run of his career, a game-tying shot to Torii Hunter. Fernando Abad issued two walks in the eighth and allowed Rajai Davis’ delayed steal that set up the go-ahead run (though Melvin said, after watching the video, that both Abad and catcher Derek Norris need to be more alert for such a play).
As bullpen roles have been in flux, Otero is one guy who has been pressed into heavier duty. He enters Wednesday leading Major League relievers in innings pitched (32.0). Otero has proven very effective and durable, though he’s allowed four runs over his last three games.
Otero said his arm is handling the workload fine. He added that he and his bullpen mates don’t spend much time worrying about whatever struggles they have encountered.
“I know during a 162 game season you’re gonna go through your ups and downs no matter who you are,” Otero said. “Whether you’re giving up one run to tie a game or two runs to (surrender) the lead, it’s gonna happen. You just have to limit those downs and maximize the ups. As a whole we’ve done a pretty good job. I think we’ll continue to do so.”