By the end of this week, the A's will likely be getting back Mark Kotsay, Justin Duchscherer, Esteban Loaiza and Milton Bradley. For the A's getting any players back is a positive, especially if they can play for more than a week or month. And since Kotsay finally had his nagging back fixed with surgery, hopefully he won't be in and out of the lineup the rest of the year. If anything, he'll bring some stability to a rotating center field.
Loaiza was great when he was healthy last year. He had one of the best A's months by a starting pitcher ever, but the question still remains is, how healthy is he? He reportedly is still having issues with his knee and his meniscus. I think it's probably a mistake to let Loaiza come back to the rotation if he isn't 100 percent. We all saw how he pitched last year early in the year when he wasn't 100 percent. But if he's letting the A's move forward with bringing him back, then that's his call. I just think that sometimes the organization needs to step in and say, "Esteban, we want you in the rotation to earn your substantial paycheck as much as the fans do, but you're really no good to us if you can't perform at optimum level. This is the American League and you're going to get hammered if you can't pitch at 100 percent. So go get your knee fixed and we'll see you in four-six weeks."
As for Bradley, this guy has to be the most fragile hard-nosed competitor I've ever seen. I love having him in there when he's healthy, but it seems to be more often than not that he's on the DL. Whether it's a knee, hamstring or elbow, there always seems to be something with Milton. I know that happens when you play the game as hard as he does (a point made to me by Billy Beane in a discussion regarding Bobby Crosby), but Bradley is unquestionably the team's best hitter when he is healthy. He would be an excellent addition to the middle of the lineup with Johnson and Swisher. It'd be nice to have Swisher, DJ and Bradley all lined up in a row.
And I don't have to tell you what a healthy Justin Duchscherer means to the A's bullpen. Duke is really the only guy in the pen who I trust to close out games when he is healthy. He did it with success last year and seems to have no issues being the guy in the pen. Let's just hope his hip issue is completely cleared up because I think that's why we were seeing him missing that bite on his cutter that he absolutely must have to be successful.
Any way, it's arguable how much of an impact that these players will have on the field. Bradley and Loaiza may only be making a temporary appearance and we're going to find out that Loaiza needs surgery by throwing him out on the field. Duke is important to making sure that some of our starting pitchers get their wins and Kotsay is a stabilizing presence in center field who will probably hit around .270 once he shakes off the rust of not playing.
But the bigger thing that I'm hoping might happen is that the guys might be a psychological lift to the players who have been a part of the team during this rough stretch. I'm no sports psychologist, but it's got to be disheartening to see your comrades succumb to injury one-by-one (or sometimes two or three at a time). And it's got to be just as big a lift to see them come back. You have to suddenly think, hey, I don't need to do this by myself anymore.
Who knows, maybe the team sags when it gets some players back because players may lower the intensity a bit, but I don't think that will happen. I believe the A's will get a lift from it. It'll just be a matter of how much of a lift they're going to get.
By the way, I received the answers back from Bob Geren already and will be running the interview this upcoming Thursday. I was going to run it today, but I figured many ANers won't be around so I want to make sure that those who asked questions I sent him get to see the answers. Happy Memorial Day!