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The True X Factor?

I've been thinking a lot about the A's rotation as I do believe the A's offense will be better this season.

And while everyone is rightfully focusing on names like Harden and Blanton as the the anchors of the rotation in 2008, a component that very well could be the deciding factor whether the A's are in the AL West cellar or the A's wind up competing for the division is the health and transition to the rotation of one Justin Duchscherer. You can read all about his recovery and transition to the rotation here.

Duke has been one of the best set-up men in baseball for the past several years. He and Scot Shields have arguably been the best (not counting Duke's injury-riddled year last year) in all of the American League. So it makes sense to take a guy who was pretty dominant as a starter in the minors and was one of the best in the pen in the bigs in some of the biggest situations and give him a chance in the rotation.

See if Harden can pitch more than 10 games this year, there is little question in my mind what he's going to give this team. Blanton is a pretty sure thing as a really good number two guy. Gaudin was outstanding last season when he was healthy. I still believe that he only went downhill because of an injury. That remains to be seen. But that's a pretty solid top three. Harden is a huuuuuge question mark, yes. Yet I'm just making the somewhat ridiculous assumption that he's finally going to be a part of the A's. The rotation looks pretty good 1 through 3 when making that assumption.

If Duke comes in and has his effective cutter back instead of that floating pitch he was tossing up there last season, then suddenly the A's rotation is really solid 1-4. The A's then can have a cage match to see who fills out the rotation at number five. Still, I do like the look of the rotation with the two big question marks being the obvious one in Harden and the not-as-obvious one in Duchscherer.

Then again, Duke is one of the lone remaining favorites of mine on the team. I love watching him pitch because there is nothing better to me than a guy who can work a batter even if he doesn't have overpowering stuff. I love watching a pitcher like Duke work. I'm just hoping he's healthy and ready to take advantage of the opportunity he's been yearning so desperately to get.

And so are the A's.