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Five Quick Questions - Urban

Last week, AN shot Five Quick Questions off to Josh Suchon, A's beat writer for the Oakland Tribune.

As part of this ongoing effort to talk with some of the beat writers about the issues facing our Oakland Athletics, this week, AN got a chance to ask mlb.com A's beat report Mychael Urban Five Quick Questions.

1. What has happened to the A's offense? Suddenly everyone is hitting. Durazo, Kotsay, Scutaro and Miller all come to mind as guys that just seemed to wake up recently. Is this just a fluky thing? Or is it the quality of the pitching (of lack thereof) they were facing? What do the boys think it might be?

I've asked a lot of the players and coaches about the sudden team-wide surge, and it seems like I get a different answer from everybody. Given that, and what I know about the game from having played it through college, I think it's just been one of those freaky times that pop up now and then over the course of any long season. Every team with above-average talent -- and the A's are certainly one of them -- is going to hit a stretch in which everything clicks. But no matter how much talent is there, every team also is likely to go through some big-time lows, and the fact that the A's got swept by the lowly Indians right before the record-setting homestand is evidence of that. If you're looking for a key to the surge, I'd look first at Kotsay. He's a totally different hitter now than he was at the start of the year, manily because he stopped trying to fit the A's work-the-count prototype, and having him as a consistent threat in the top third of the order changes the whole complexion of the offense.

2. Out of the players the A's picked up in the draft, what's your feeling as to A. Who the A's are most excited about getting? B. Who is the closest to major league ready? C. Who was someone they drafted late that might be a sleeper to keep an eye on in the lower levels (someone maybe Eric Kubota or David Forst may have pointed out to you to watch out for)?

I have to assume the A's are most excited about getting Landon Powell, because they used their top pick to get him, and there isn't much depth at catcher in the system at all. The A's coaching staff was thoroughly underwhelmed with Jeremy Brown this spring, and Adam Melhuse, while solid, is not someone I'd expect to be an everyday catcher at any point soon. Miller has been great, but he's getting up there in years, so the A's need to start thinking about the heir apparent. That might be Powell, whom Kubota said is the closest to being big-league ready. HOWEVER, the A's were absolutely thrilled to get Texas closer Huston Street in the sandwich round, and from what I hear, he's the kind of guy who might rip through the minors in a hurry. The A's can only hope he does, because as we all know, the bullpen is in need of new life in a big way. As for sleepers, Kubota mentioned Michael Rogers, a right-handed pitcher from North Carolina State. Kind of odd to call a guy who went in the second round a sleeper, but that's what he said.

3. Do you think Mark Redman might be worn down? Baseball Prospectus has a stat measurement called pitcher abuse points and Redman was at the top of that list the past couple of years so A's fans are starting to get nervous about his short performances of late.

Redman is a guy who throws a lot of pitches. Always has been, always will be. And to be honest, I have no idea what "pitcher abuse points" are, and I don't want to know. What I do know is that I don't think a No. 5 starter -- and make no mistake, Redman is the fifth-best starter on the staff, no matter where he sits in the rotation -- is someone fans should spend too much time or energy worrying about. He's decent most of the time, and he's sometimes he's quite good. A lot of teams out there would kill for a No. 3 guy like him, much less a No. 5.

4. Do you see the A's getting in the running for someone like Beltran or do you see the A's trying to address their bullpen needs first?

Taking into account the heists Billy Beane pulled off in getting Johnny Damon, Mark Ellis and Jermaine Dye from Kansas City, if I were Royals GM Allard Baird, I wouldn't even take any of Beane's calls. So no, I personally don't think they'll take a run at Beltran. For one thing, who do you sit? Not that Beltran wouldn't immediately be the A's best all-around outfielder -- he would -- but the outfield isn't Oakland's problem. I've been saying forever that the A's will go only as far as their bullpen takes them, and that's where Billy should be trying to upgrade. The starters are very, very good, the defense is excellent and the offense, while inconsistent, is fine. But it won't be enough to win this division if the pen continues to blow half of the save chances it gets, because the Angels have the best bullpen in baseball, and if their hitters get healthy, they're going to be tough to outlast.

5. And lastly, how is the ACES book coming along? About what you expected? Have Barry's inconsistencies hurt the book at all? Does his think it's his new delivery on the mound? We're pulling for him to get things rectified.

The book is going well. I love the way the season is playing out in relation to what I'd hoped to get into the story. The Do-they-miss-Peterson? angle's early arrival worked perfect for a chapter I'd planned, Milller's success in meshing with the pitchers has been another bonus, and if anything, Barry's struggles make the book better. It adds an element of humanity to what, for the most part, had bee a succession of machine-like performances by Mark, Tim and Barry for the past few years. But more than anything, the book is going well because and all three of the guys have been absolutely terrific in giving me whatever time I need to get deeper into what's going on out there. They've really let me inside their heads, and that's where I really want to take the readers. ... And just to tease you a little bit, I spent about 30 minutes with Cory Lidle for my Peterson chapter last week, and all I have to say is God Bless Cory Lidle. Let's just say he's not nearly as enamored with Peterson as is the New York press, and his comments are sure to get a lot of attention when they see the light of day. ... Regarding Barry's delivery, he recently went back to the "old way," so we'll see how that helps. His history is generally that he gets better as the season progresses.

There you have it from the man spending more quality time with The Big Three than most of us do with our loved ones. Thanks, Mychael, your insight and time is greatly appreciated. I know I can't wait for ACES.

Up next...Susan Slusser from the SF Chronicle.