A's 2013 roster breakdown: Starting pitchers

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A's 2013 roster breakdown: Starting pitchers

Editor's note: This is the first installment of the Oakland A's position-by-position offseason breakdown, teeing up the team's options for the 2013 season.Let's get it started. The A's rotation was consistently one of the best in baseball in 2012. It's hard to believe they finished third in the American League with a 3.80 ERA after losing so many key components to the starting staff both prior to and during the season. They were able to succeed because of strong performances by rookie pitchers. The A's set a major league record with 53 rookie wins.The A's rotation is set up beautifully for 2013. Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone tied for an Oakland-record 13 wins by a starter. A.J. Griffin also enjoyed rookie success becoming the first Oakland starter to begin his career 6-0. These pitchers fared very well in 2012 and should only get better with experience."The young pitchers were great, but because they are so young there's room for improvement," A's general manager Billy Beane said at the conclusion of the season. "We are going to cryogenically freeze all of our pitchers and tell them not to raise their arms above their hips."Milone and Parker also performed exceedingly well under big-game pressure. The late September and October experience will go a long way in their development."Look at what Jarrod Parker did the last few starts of the season and what he had to do to get us here, he and Tommy Milone both," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "They were rookies to start the year and at the end of the year they were looking like accomplished veterans who really had to take on a load with the injuries we had to the veteran pieces in the rotation."A full season out of Brett Anderson would give the A's one of the deepest rotations in baseball. He returned following 14 months of rehabilitation after Tommy John surgery to go 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 2012. He suffered a right oblique strain late in the season, but returned to pitch in the American League Division Series. He is the most talented pitcher on the roster and should finally be fully healthy next season.
While the A's have enough depth on their roster to form a starting rotation, they would be wise to invest in another veteran arm to provide leadership and valuable innings. They made a step in that direction by bringing back Bartolo Colon. The A's would be wise to re-sign Brandon McCarthy as well. When on the mound McCarthy was extremely effective, and behind the scenes he helped the young pitchers prepare themselves. The right-handed pitcher had a career-best 3.24 ERA in 2012, and 1.95 walks per nine innings, which ranked him eighth among AL pitchers with 100 or more innings.RELATED: A's sign Colon to one-year deal
McCarthy missed time with right shoulder fatigue and missed the final month of the season after a horrifying incident in which he was struck in the head by a line drive and needed emergency brain surgery. He has been cleared to resume throwing and he should be ready to take the mound in time for opening day 2013. McCarthy, a free agent, might be affordable for the A's to sign based on some of the questions about his health. He has been drawing interest from several teams. Finding a way to bring back McCarthy would be a huge boost for the A's chances of defending their AL West crown.RELATED: McCarthy to begin throwing in December
Here in 2013:Brett Anderson: 6 GS, 4-2, 35 IP, 257 KBB, 2.57 ERA, 1.03 WHIP
Jarrod Parker: 29 GS, 13-8, 181.1 IP, 14064 KBB, 3.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
Tommy Milone: 31 GS, 13-10, 190.0 IP, 13726 KBB, 3.74 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
A.J. Griffin: 15 GS, 7-1, 82.1 IP, 6419 KBB, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
Dan Straily: 7 GS, 2-1, 39.1 IP, 3216 KBB, 3.89 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Bartolo Colon: 24 GS, 10-9, 152.1 IP, 9123 KBB, 3.43 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Travis Blackley: 15 GS, 6-4, 102.2 IP, 6930 KBB, 3.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
On the Farm:Brad Peacock (AAA)
Sonny Gray (AAA)
A.J. Cole (A)
James Simmons (AAA)
Shawn Haviland (AA)
Ian Krol (AA)
Free Agents:Brandon McCarthy
Dallas Braden
Biggest Question:Can the A's young arms actually improve on their record setting 2012 campaign?Analyst's Take -- Greg Cadaret:"I think the big key for them is if they can get Brandon McCarthy back.""I don't expect any falloff at all between Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker. I expect them to continue to improve. I don't think you are going to see huge strides forward, but they already pitched like they have experience that's what's so phenomenal about them. I do expect Griffin and Straily to get better."Best Available (and possibly affordable):Joe Blanton, 32
Ryan Dempster, 36
Dan Haren, 32
Rich Harden, 31
Kyle Lohse, 34
Joe Saunders, 32
Chris Young, 34
Roy Oswalt, 35
Randy Wolf, 36

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

MESA, Ariz. — After spending a few days at spring training, A’s president Dave Kaval heads back to the Bay Area on Tuesday to continue work on the team’s search for a ballpark site.

There are so many factors to consider — location, public transportation access, parking, government obligations to be fulfilled, etc. — it’s easy to understand why it’s such an all-encompassing process.

Kaval shared some detailed thoughts on all of the potential sites the A’s are considering during a visit on the A’s Insider Podcast. Here’s some highlights:

The A’s have narrowed down to four locations in Oakland to build a privately financed ballpark: Brooklyn Basin, Howard Terminal, Laney College and the current Coliseum site on which they play.

Are these four all uniquely different from each other or do they share some common traits?

“I think all of them can fulfill our long-term vision of this urban area around the ballpark,” Kaval said. “Think of Fenway, Wrigley … all of them can achieve that vision. We want to make sure with such a big decision that we swing for the fences. … I think the Coliseum is probably the hardest to create kind of an urban village, but I think it’s possible, and we’re not ruling it out.

"But all the other locations can have neighborhoods around the ballpark where people can live and you can just have a really intimate experience around the ballpark.”

There hasn’t been the same buzz about Brooklyn Basin as Howard Terminal. Located close to the water, does it offer similar attributes as Howard Terminal?

“It’s very close. There’s a couple different places the ballpark could go down there,” he said. “You’re closer to the water, which is exciting, and I think being on the water provides the ability to have water taxis, ferries, other transit options that kind of lower the requirement for parking, lower the requirement for walking or biking. And that actually can be a really great thing for the fan experience.”

Howard Terminal offers a big potential payoff with the terrific views available. But there are some substantial hurdles, not the least of which are the government regulations and approvals required to build right along the water.

“If you want to actually develop something in there, you need to have legislation from the state of California. That’s just something that has to happen,” Kaval said. “So when we think about the steps to get the individual sites (approved) and break ground, it’s just another one you have to do at that site. So you have to weigh, is it worth the time, effort, political opposition that might come up to pursue that type of effort? The site is so iconic that we’ve been keeping it in the mix because, wow, it could just be something that is a game changer.”

That’s just a sample of the many topics Kaval touched on over the course of the podcast.