OAKLAND – A’s manager Bob Melvin said Friday that he believes struggling reliever Ryan Cook is perhaps one good outing away from turning the corner and getting back on track.
Melvin did not answer whether he’ll keep Cook in his usual late-inning setup role as he works through this rough stretch.
“We’ll see, I’m not sure yet,” Melvin said before Friday’s game against Minnesota.
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Cook threw off the mound before batting practice under the watchful eyes of Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young. Melvin suggested that Cook’s issues can be smoothed out through some mechanical tinkering.
“I think over the course of the year you’re always looking to make some adjustments, whether it’s mechanically or whether you’re a hitter, whether you’re a pitcher, and you’re trying to find what works well for you,” Melvin said. “ So you go back and look at video. Maybe there’s some things that have gotten a little bit out of whack. Curt’s really good about addressing those things, and he was working on some of those today.”
Cook has allowed five runs over his past five appearances, surrendering eight hits, one home run, three walks and two hit batsmen over just two innings during that stretch. He’s allowed 20 hits over his last eight innings (12 appearances).
This after Cook, an All-Star as a rookie last season, had given up just five runs (three earned) over his previous 29 games.
The stellar late-inning relief work of Cook, left-hander Sean Doolittle and closer Grant Balfour has been one of the reasons the A’s are on the brink of a second straight American League West title. Their magic number sits at four entering Friday’s game.
But Balfour has been shaky himself of late, and were Cook pitching like his normal self, he would surely be an alternate ninth-inning option Melvin would consider.
Melvin said Friday that Balfour was unavailable Thursday after he threw one inning Wednesday afternoon, when he blew a save. Doolittle handled the final four outs of Thursday’s 8-6 victory and was credited with the win.
What are Melvin’s options beyond Cook should he look for a right-handed setup man? Dan Otero has been solid over the past several weeks, though he didn’t retire either of the two hitters he faced Thursday.
Jesse Chavez was called upon to relieve Cook in the eighth and the A’s leading by one run Thursday. He allowed a game-tying infield single to Brian Dozier before striking out Trevor Plouffe and being relieved by Doolittle.
Melvin could also give Doolittle a shot in some save situations and use Balfour in a setup role on those days. Melvin did not say who he would use in a save situation Friday.
Regarding Cook, Melvin did say the right-hander has to avoid letting tough breaks snowball on him when he’s pitching. Cook gave up singles to his first two hitters Thursday – neither was hit hard, and one was a chopper that bounced over first baseman Daric Barton’s head. But then he threw a wild pitch to advance the tying run into scoring position and issued a four-pitch walk before being pulled.
“We still feel good about him,”Melvin said. “It’s not like all of a sudden he’s throwing 91 miles per hour.
His stuff is good. I believe it’s only gonna take one good outing for him to get back and off to the races again. … I think it’s just about him not worrying about some of the stuff that goes on.”
A wildcard in the bullpen is left-hander Brett Anderson, who Melvin has experimented with in different roles since Anderson came off the disabled list. Anderson struck out three in 1 1/3 innings Thursday.
Among the three hits he allowed was a solo homer to Oswaldo Arcia with the A’s leading 6-2.
Anderson had been less sharp in some recent outings, when he was called upon for extended stints in lopsided games.
“I think his stuff is better in (higher-pressure) type of outings, when he has to go out there and be on it right away,” Melvin said.