During the offseason, the Oakland A’s bolstered their bullpen greatly headlined by the trade that brought over closer Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles. Preseason ranks also had the A’s among the top-5 bullpens in the league for 2014. In an old-fashion pitcher’s duel on Opening Day, that bullpen was on displayed and wound up yielding mixed results in its debut.
While the A’s did lose Grant Balfour during the winter, they added not only Johnson, but also Luke Gregerson, Eric O’Flaherty and Drew Pomeranz to the staff. Oakland’s bullpen now features power arms from top to bottom, and they will also play their home games inside of a pitcher friendly park. For the little engine out by the bay, power arms late in ball games could be the key to get them over the hump in 2014.
After starter Sonny Gray tossed six shutout innings, newcomer Gregerson and Sean Doolittle also put up zeros giving the ball to Johnson in a scoreless game against the Cleveland Indians. In a non-save situation, Johnson struggled in his debut, giving up two runs and shouldering the loss on Opening Day. Some may say that Johnson will not quite have as long of a leash as he did in Baltimore, but for my money that would be a mistake.
First, you cannot judge a closer fully when they enter games in non-save situations. It is simply a different mindset and does not always garner the same results. Why closers are brought into games in those situations is always a head-scratcher. Secondly, Johnson struggled out of the gates last season, yet he still posted 50 saves for the second straight campaign. He is a pitcher who may start slow, but once in the groove, is as good as anyone.
While the first game may be viewed as a disappointment, the A’s are still primed for a solid season in 2014. The three-headed monster of Doolittle, Gregerson and Johnson can eat up innings and shut down rallies with the best of them. When O’Flaherty also returns from an injury it will be yet another piece to the Oakland bullpen to help shorten games. Even after the Opening Day loss, the A’s still have a top-five bullpen in their back pocket to close down games in 2014.
Nick Schaeflein is a sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.