The Oakland Athletics have a doubleheader against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, and they need a starter for the second game. Since there was not an off-day after the last series, the next man in line, Tommy Milone, will only be on three days' rest. This has led to speculation that a pitcher will be brought up from Triple-A to make a spot start, and on Tuesday Arnold Leon showed up in Oakland.
And Arnold Leon is indeed here.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 6, 2014
Leon says he doesn't know if he will start or be available in relief in tomorrow's 2nd game. "I'll hand out water, I don't care," he says.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 6, 2014
Leon is a 25-year-old right-hander who has been in the Athletics' organization since 2008. He's worked his way back to Triple-A after missing most of 2010 and 2011 due to Tommy John surgery, and he's made six starts for the Sacramento River Cats this season. His ERA stands at a a pedestrian 4.34, but his strong peripheral stats (2.2 strikeouts per walk, only one home run allowed, 3.17 FIP) suggest that he's pitched a bit better than that. It's worth noting that he's only thrown 29 innings in his six starts, which averages out to just under five per outing, and that he hasn't gone more than six frames in a single game.
The A's have three obvious options for this game. The first is to start Tommy Milone on short rest, but that is an unappealing option. Milone isn't pitching well right now anyway, and coming back earlier than normal won't help that. Sure, he threw only 77 pitches in his last outing (because he got shelled), but I can't imagine a good reason for going out of your way to coax more starts out of him right now.
The other two options are Leon and Drew Pomeranz. There is a rule that teams can add a 26th player to their rosters for the second game of a doubleheader, which gives them the opportunity to add a spot starter or an extra reliever or whatever else might help the quality of the game and the health of the players. The A's are clearly using this rule to add Leon for the afternoon, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to make the start. Pomeranz is also available, and Susan Slusser says that he's got the upper-hand.
#Athletics won't decide on starter for game 2 tomorrow until probably tomorrow morning. Will depend on whether Pomeranz needed tonight.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 6, 2014
I think it's safe to assume if Pomeranz isn't used tonight he will start game 2 tomorrow. #Athletics— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 6, 2014
It comes down a choice between a guy who has been starting in Triple-A, or a guy who has been facing Major Leaguers but out of the bullpen. I'd really be OK with either option, because I want to see both of these guys get a couple cracks at starting in Oakland this year. I'll admit that I'm more curious about Leon, if only because I haven't actually seen him pitch yet whereas Pomeranz has been with the team all year. A start by Leon would guarantee that I'd get to see some of him, but I imagine that a "start" by Pomeranz won't last more than four or five innings at most and maybe no more than three. This could be more of a piggyback situation in which he and Leon combine for seven frames.
So, there you have it. Our questions have been answered. Arnold Leon will be the 26th man, and Drew Pomeranz is first in line to start the backend of the doubleheader on Wednesday. Deep thought: If there are 26 on the roster, does that make the crowd the 27th man just for the day?
I propose the nickname El Terminador for Leon, though I'm sure I'm not the first to suggest that name for him. More nominations accepted in the comments.