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Rotation No Longer Has To Be A JoKe

Who knows whether Rich Harden will be good for one, two, or three starts (more than three? c’mon!), but he could be around long enough to get us to Loaiza’s return—meaning the days of Kennedy and DiNardo could finally be over. This is good, as I believe the A’s simply, truly, absolutely cannot compete as long as the rotation is only three deep with pitchers that don’t make you hide under the bed until you hear the name “Casilla”.

Assuming that Harden, Loaiza, and the All-Star Break can at least combine to stop the A’s from having to start both Kennedy and DiNardo any more, the question becomes what to do with the two lefties after the All-Star Break.

I would like to see DiNardo stay in the rotation and Kennedy moved to the bullpen, simply because DiNardo can be a mediocre starter or a mediocre reliever, while Kennedy can be a mediocre starter or a good reliever. It doesn’t really matter which one starts because everyone has a mediocre 5th starter and no matter which way the A’s go they will be neither the exception nor alone. However, if used judiciously Kennedy could supplement a weakened bullpen most nicely in one of two possible roles:

  • Kennedy could be used as a LOOGY, where there is reason to believe he would be every bit as reliable as Embree and Casilla. For the season, even after Kennedy’s recent series of rocky starts, left-handers are batting all of .130 against Kennedy and there aren’t too many LOOGYs doing better than that.

  • Kennedy could be used as Harden’s “middle innings,” where he would inherit a lineup that was not stacked with right-handed batters—one which, in fact, would more likely be stacked with left-handed batters—and where he would be pitching early enough in the game to discourage pinch-hitting against him. In fact, given his short outing Wednesday why not have Kennedy follow Harden tomorrow?

Heck, if you really like “out of the box” thinking, how about this scenario, beginning on Saturday: On the days Harden pitches, Kennedy throws two innings or so following Harden’s exit. On the days before and after Harden pitches, Kennedy is not available, but for two days in between Harden’s starts, Kennedy is available for LOOGY duty.

A rotation of Haren, Blanton, Gaudin, Harden or Loaiza, and DiNardo, with a bullpen that has Casilla, Embree, and a legitimate lefty-killer, with Calero back healthy and Street on the way? Now you’re in a pennant race.