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Grace Under Fire - Outman Back In The Conversation With Solid Stint

Final Score: A's 7, Royals 2

It was nice to see Jason Giambi get a hit, but let's face it: 0 for 20 or 15 for 20, it doesn't much matter - Giambi is just getting ready for the season and by May 1st his Spring Training performance will just be a distant shade of irrelevent.

For Josh Outman, though, much was riding on this appearance and Outman came up big, firing 4 shutout innings before hitting a blip in the 5th, and settling for a solid line of 5.2 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER, 1BB, 6K. Santiago Casilla, whose role will be more important for as long as Joey Devine is shelved, continued his near-perfect Spring by lowering his ERA to 0.96 with 2 IP of shutout ball.

Offensively, the A's made Sidney Ponson look like...Sidney Ponson, beating him silly as if he were a judge in Aruba. Ryan Sweeney (2-2 today, .361 for the Spring) got the A's off to a fast start, leading off the 1st with a single that was followed by singles from Cabrera and Giambi. That plated one run and a Matt Holliday DP scored another, as Oakland gave Outman an early 2-0 lead. Then the A's piled on in the 5th with 5 runs off Ponson, highlighted by Travis Buck's bases-clearing triple.

Outman's strong start, combined with Devine's setback, likely guarantees Josh a spot on the big league roster. At the moment, it appears he could be ticketed for long relief, a role that figures to be anything but a spectator sport given the A's young rotation. Or there could still be late surprises, as no one - including Sean Gallagher and Dana Eveland - has been told that a starting spot is theirs.

The bottom line is that the pitching is going to be extremely fluid, based on health (Duchscherer, Gio, Devine), performance (Gallagher, Eveland, Braden, Cahill, Anderson, Outman, Blevins), and progress (Mazzaro, Simmons), and the difference between a starter and a long reliever is going to be little.

In other words, if you're healthy and pitching well, you're going to be pitching a lot in important situations. If I were Josh Outman, I wouldn't worry for a minute about the seemingly huge difference between being named a starter and being named a "Yabu" - I'd worry about pitching well and figure that if there's a role you want, pitching well will get you there sooner rather than later.