A’s Seek Taste Of Relief For 2016

This year, the Oakland Athletics’ bullpen menu will feature Aussie bearded pork sandwiches topped with elbow scars, black eyes and onions. High in fiber, low in fat, gooood for you!

Let’s briefly remind ourselves just how awful the A’s relievers were in 2015. Ten relievers appeared in at least 11 games and induced stomach-turning earned-run averages that looked more like building-collapsing Richter Scale readings.

“Under your desk! It’s a 6.75! And it smells like rotting chicken!”

But, that was 2015. Your Otero, O’Flaherty and Mujica tremors can now shake/stink things up in other cities.

In their place: John Axford, Ryan Madson, Liam Hendricks and Marc Rzepczynski. Bless you.

Axford sports an unsightly amount of facial hair, which will endear him to A’s fans, and sported a somewhat unsightly 4.20 earned-run average in 2015, according to baseball-reference.com. But, wait. Upon closer inspection, I believe the beard is actually seasoned, shredded pork… and, as important, Axford compiled those 2015 numbers while a member of the Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies’ team ERA -5.04- was a full run above the median for the rest of the league and Axford’s numbers in the thin Colorado air were still better than half of the 30 pitchers the A’s trotted out to the mound last year -at sea level.

Consider this an upgrade. And pulled pork ain’t bad on a French roll.

Just a note: Axford’s best three years were his first three years in the league. But, his last four were still way better than most of the A’s bullpen in 2015.

Ryan Madson can supply one or two bags for hoagies. The famously-tight-with-a-buck A’s spent $22 million over three years for the reliever after he had a fantastic season with Kansas City (2.13 ERA with 14 walks and 58 strikeouts in 63.1 innings pitched.)

He’s a right-hander and obviously also an upgrade. But, Madson’s elbow health worries me. He lost 2012-14 due to Tommy John surgery, and then more surgery when that didn’t take. He’s also 35.

Liam Hendricks is an interesting case of a right-handed starting pitcher who had inconsistent results depending on the year, but was called up annually to the big leagues. He had cups of coffee every year from 2011-14, but couldn’t get anybody out.

Then last year, Toronto hit upon the idea of bringing him out of the bullpen and, voila! He appeared in 58 games with Toronto, had an ERA of 3.20, a WHIP of one and struck out six times as many men as he walked. The A’s are counting on more of that this year. Pitching in the spacious O.Co Coliseum shouldn’t hurt. He’s also Australian. “Bloomin’ onions in Oakland!”

Finally, there’s Marc Rzepczynski. Bless you, again. It’s pronounced zep CHIN skee. It’s Eastern-European for “suffered a black eye when hit by a golf-ball and broke a finger reaching for a ground ball -bare-handed.”

He’s a left-hander who’s coming off a brief -but atrocious- 2015 with the San Diego Padres (think A’s bullpen-type numbers.) But, he was effective with Cleveland the three previous years. It’s hard to be excited given the results in San Diego, but if he can return to previous form, he’ll be a valuable asset -assuming he uses his glove to field ground balls.

Fernando Rodriguez (3.84 ERA in 56 appearances) and Sean Doolittle (3.95 ERA in 12 games) will likely round out the rest of the bullpen.

Ryan Dull (16 k’s, 17 ip, 4.24 ERA), lefty Rich Hill (4.54 career ERA in 200 games over 11 years), and JB Wendelken (56 K’s in 43 ip with AA Birmingham) could make the club… or could not.

The A’s have RJ Alvarez (23 k’s in 20 ip, 9.90 ERA), Chris Bassitt (1.588 WHIP, 6.71 ERA) listed on the roster. They should start the season in the minors.

So, get ready for an eye-watering, flavorful meal from the pen.

It looks better than the items on last year’s menu.



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