Athletics thrilled with new-look bullpen heading into season
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) As Sean Doolittle scoured the room and chatted up some of his new teammates, Oakland's bearded closer couldn't help but envision the potential of an experienced, new-look bullpen for the Athletics going into 2016.
From offseason acquisitions John Axford and Ryan Madson to Marc Rzepczynski and Liam Hendriks, manager Bob Melvin has a long list of relievers to call upon for any situation or matchup leading to a healthy Doolittle in the ninth inning.
Doolittle is ready for a full season after a strain in his left shoulder derailed his year.
''I like the fact that they're all veteran guys that have a lot of playoff experience, they have a lot of experience being a part of winning teams,'' Doolittle said at Sunday's FanFest. ''So from that aspect, I think that can help not just the bullpen, that can help the whole team. Obviously the pitching aspect of it, there's a lot of depth there, there's a lot of versatility for how we can match up, different roles guys can be in. Everybody has experience pitching in high-leverage situations, which is good. I'm excited to get to work with them.''
Oakland's relievers owned the worst ERA in the American League last season at 4.63 and third-highest in baseball.
Melvin said former starter Jarrod Parker, recovering from yet another elbow surgery last spring, could be an option for the rotation or in relief.
The right-hander, who twice had the ulnar collateral ligament reconstructed in his pitching arm, was nearing his return from a 2014 Tommy John surgery last season when he was injured while on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville. He had another surgery for an elbow fracture May 19.
The A's finished 68-94 in 2015 for last in the AL West and missed the playoffs after three straight trips.
''Really the issue last year for the most part in those close games was we'd give up some runs late, and the first thing the organization did was go out and sign some high-profile bullpen guys, which we needed,'' Melvin said. ''I know everybody feels good about that.''
Having Doolittle back should help, too.
The 29-year-old lefty was limited to 12 outings and 13 2-3 innings in 2015, going 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA and four saves.
He will begin throwing from flat ground next week and then pitch from the mound the following week. Oakland pitchers and catchers report to spring training for their second year in Mesa, Arizona, on Feb. 20 with their first workout the following day.
''I'm excited about how my shoulder feels. It's been a busy offseason staying on top of the maintenance,'' Doolittle said. ''I'm ready to go, excited to get into spring training with no restrictions, feeling good.''
Doolittle's pitching prospect brother, Ryan, has a non-roster invite to spring training.
''My brother will be there, too, so I'm excited about that,'' Doolittle said.
Catcher Stephen Vogt is eager to get comfortable with all of the new pitchers as quickly as possible this spring.
''Obviously with the bullpen additions, you've got to be excited about the arms we brought in,'' Vogt said at FanFest, which attracted more than 12,000 fans. ''It's something that we just haven't had is power arms. It's nice to see that we're going to have some velocity at the back end of the bullpen.''