A three-city road trip never does a team much good by the end of it on the clear basis of fatigue and the Athletics’ bullpen surrendered fully to that notion on its stops in Miami and Detroit.
Using seven arms all together, with Dave Johnson and Jeff Francis pitching twice, in the series against Detroit alone, the A’s now rank seventh in the majors for the amount of innings their bullpen has pitched at 268.1 innings.
The group, however, could thankfully be receiving a fresh arm as quick as the opening game against the Toronto Blue Jays at O.co Coliseum Thursday night. According to Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area, left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty is expected to make his debut this weekend in an Oakland A’s uniform.
Ironically, what O'Flaherty, who was signed in January to a two-year $7 million dollar contract, brings to the A’s is exactly what money couldn’t buy them in the form of Jim Johnson. And for Johnson, the opportunities have possibly all but run out after the batting practice he initiated in the A’s’ 9-3 shellacking by the Tigers. Only registering one out and giving up four hits and four earned runs, Johnson, who now possesses a 5.94 ERA, has all but lost every sight of hope anyone can fathom for him this year and O'Flaherty’s entrance couldn’t come at a better time.
With the most likely scenario of him replacing Jeff Francis on the 25-man roster, O'Flaherty will presumably take on the role as a setup man eventually, but his presence alone will take off some of the burden the bullpen has faced recently.
Statistically, the A’s bullpen still ranks as one of the best in the league and they list at fifth in the majors in team ERA at 3.05. But it’s no secret that the arms have not been the same and Sean Doolittle’s back-to-back blown saves serve as proof.
O'Flaherty has gone 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in eight appearances on rehab assignment between Class A Stockton and Triple-A Sacramento and his opponents have been held to a batting average of .188. Coming off a Tommy John surgery that cut his 2013 workload to just 18 innings, it's still a question, and will probably be one until the post-game interview of his first outing, of how healthy and prepared he is though.
Nonetheless, the A's final six games of their road trip were struggle some, especially for the bullpen, and the fact that the team is back in Oakland coupled with O'Flaherty's possible debut is encouraging.
Some stats to remember in case you forgot about O'Flaherty's prowess during his final years in Atlanta before his injury:
2010: 44 IP, 2.45 ERA,
2011: 73.2 IP, 0.98 ERA
2012: 57.1 IP, 1.73 ERA
In any case, O'Flaherty was worth the money they gave him, but obviously has the rather large question-mark that attaches to every player returning from Tommy John surgery. Looking at those numbers may even scare you when realizing that Johnson's pedigree looks just as, if not more qualified.
Regardless, whether he comes in Thursday night or some time in the near future, O'Flaherty will provide the A's with an experienced,fresh arm in the bullpen during the second-half of the season.