This is not analysis of what the A's should have done in December or January. Randy Johnson made his choice to stay in the National League, Oakland made its choice not to pursue veteran-but-not-great options like Randy Wolf, veteran-but-not-cheap options like Pedro Martinez, or veteran-but-not-proven-healthy options like Brad Penny. So the A's went into Spring Training with a group of guys from which to choose a 5-man rotation and 7-man bullpen, watched how those guys performed in Spring Training, knew their various ages and track records, and watched two key pieces (Justin Duchscherer, Gio Gonzalez) get sidelined along the way.
Given these realities, what should the A's have done? My two cents, based solely on what we all knew at the time (the first week of April)...
* Edgar Gonzalez should have been sent to AAA, just as he was. E. Gonzalez has a 5.97 career ERA over 5 major league seasons and posted a 10.93 ERA in Spring Training. For any and all ability he has, E. Gonzalez has proven one thing: if you put him on a mound, he will probably give up 2 runs every 3 innings unless he gives up 3. (Surprise, surprise: E. Gonzalez is currently posting a 5.29 ERA for the Rivercats.)
* Jerome Williams should have been sent to AAA, just as he was, because he did not look like a good pitcher - great flier to take, didn't work out, oh well.
* Sean Gallagher should have been sent to AAA. Gallagher did not look good in Spring Training, and possibly also irked the A's brass with his attitude, work ethic, or something else non-pitching related but still relevant. However, as one of the few available pitchers who was both sufficiently talented, and sufficiently experienced, to augment the A's rotation, Gallagher should have been sent a message, and sent tutelage, by starting every 5th day for Sacramento. In this scenario, Gallagher would now have 4 starts under his belt and would be ready to throw 100 pitches for anyone at any time.
* Trevor Cahill should have been sent to AAA, because stat-wise and process-wise it was clear he did not have the ability to repeat his delivery and throw strikes with any consistency, and these are not the right conditions for jumping a 21-year old pitcher from AA to the major leagues. For the same reasons, Mazzaro should have been sent to AAA, just as he was.
* Given the need when Duke and Gio went down, Brett Anderson should have been given a spot in the Oakland rotation, just as he was, based on his command, polish, and maturity.
* Josh Outman should have been given the #5 spot by default, but skipped at every opportunity while the A's young arms are fresh and just need to stay in rhythm. Given the canceled game in Anaheim and the rainout in New York, had the A's adopted this philosophy from the outset, Josh Outman would have made exactly one start so far.
* Dana Eveland should have made the Oakland rotation, just as he did, by default, with the hope of making him the #5 starter as soon as possible, not the #4.
And so the rotation should have been Braden, Eveland, Anderson, __, and Outman, with Gio or Gallagher replacing Outman as soon as possible. Dang, we came up one pitcher short. You can't pitch __ every 5th day. What to do, what to do?
Choices: Suck up your concerns and put Gallagher in the rotation from the beginning, let E. Gonzalez get lit up instead of Cahill and start 5-10, or...pretty much do what the A's did. In other words, with their ace injured, their readiest young starter injured, and their other readiest starter looking bad, the A's had no "good choices."
Now the good news...Even sans Duke (probably not ready until June 1st at the earliest) and Blevins (currently struggling in AAA), I like this pitching staff a lot better than the current one:
Outman (short relief)
Eveland (long relief)
If I were the A's, that's what I'd be working towards in the next two weeks.