Rewind: A's losses in Boston highlight major rotation issues

May 3, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Two losses in two days at Fenway Park hardly requires the A’s to reach for the panic button.

But Saturday’s 6-3 defeat to Boston highlighted a developing issue that demands attention, and that’s the disparity between the front of Oakland’s starting rotation and the back of it.

Tommy Milone lasted just four innings Saturday and surrendered three home runs, giving up the A’s second grand slam in as many days. That came on the heels of Dan Straily’s 4 1/3-inning stint Friday, which also forced manager Bob Melvin to start burning through relievers early.

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The combined stats for Nos. 1-3 starters Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez: 10-1 with a 1.92 ERA. The numbers for Straily and Milone: 1-5, 5.40 ERA.

To a certain degree, that contrast shouldn’t surprise, right? Any team expects its front-of-the-rotation guys to be more dominant, while hoping for their back-end guys to keep the score close and give them a chance to win.

But the drop-off is pretty steep, and more telling is that the A’s are 16-2 with Gray, Kazmir or Chavez starting a game and 2-10 when running their Nos. 4 or 5 guys to the mound (plus one start by Triple-A fill-in Josh Lindblom).

The emergence of Chavez and the strong showing from Gray and Kazmir are big reasons why the A’s find themselves in first place in the American League West. But we’re also starting to see the effects of season-ending injuries to starters Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, who were expected to be making 40 percent of the A’s starts.

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Oakland had very good depth before those two pitchers went down. But take two established starters away from any staff, and the cracks will be visible.

The question is: What, if anything, do the A’s do about it? There are no obvious answers at Triple-A Sacramento, where Arnold Leon and Lindblom are probably the top two candidates for a promotion. Leon, 25, is highly thought of in the organization, but he has yet to pitch in the majors. He also got roughed up in his most recent start Thursday. Lindblom, who hasn’t posted a win in any of his six career big league starts, has a 6.53 ERA through five starts with the River Cats.

One of those two pitchers likely will make a spot start for the A’s in Wednesday’s doubleheader against Seattle. Perhaps one of them steps up, turns heads and forces their way into the thoughts of team officials.

Regardless, it won’t be a surprise if the A’s look outside the organization for starting help. Right now, all 30 major league teams are evaluating their own rosters and figuring out what their biggest needs are before they map out plans leading up to July’s trade deadline.

A need already is materializing for Oakland. The next several weeks will reveal how they plan to address