* With Andrew Bailey and Joey Devine back, the A's finally have the bullpen they constructed in the off-season, and it's a doozy: Bailey, Devine, Balfour, Wuertz, and Ziegler from the right side, Fuentes and Breslow from the left side. I wrote about this in spring training, but it's only relevant now: How I'd like to see this bullpen utilized.
Bailey, who threw just fine today, should be put into the official closer's role now. The inning he pitched today was just as important as the one Fuentes pitched two innings later, and he did great -- plus putting Bailey into the 9th inning slot clears up what Bob Geren has made a murky mess through double and triple speak. No need to prolong the drama of "Smith is my closer right now, and by that I mean that Jones will close tonight."
Behind Bailey, it is no longer necessary to pitch guys two days in a row, or three out of four, because setting up you have pretty interchangeable options in Balfour, Wuertz and Devine. Any of those guys can pitch the 7th or 8th to protect a small lead, and should be used based on whose use allows them to be neither overworked nor underworked. (For example, I would have preferred to see Wuertz instead of Balfour in today's 8th inning, only because Balfour pitched on Saturday).
Meanwhile, Fuentes and Ziegler should be more strategically placed in situations or innings where the L/R balance is favorable. Note that this is different from a "LOOGY/ROOGY" role. Fuentes or Ziegler can pitch a full inning sometimes, but that inning should be one where, say, three of four batters coming up have a favorable split for the pitcher. Breslow is a luxury "7th reliever" and currently serves as the closest thing the A's have to a "long man". Slot him in however he's useful, from a 2.1 IP stint to an extra inning game.
This has a chance to be a great bullpen for as long as these 7 stay healthy.
* The Yankees' series coming up will be tough, no doubt, because the Yankees are the league's best scoring team, but you have to like the pitching matchups on paper: Trevor Cahill vs. Bartolo Colon, Brett Anderson vs. Freddy Garcia, Gio Gonzalez vs. A.J. Burnett. (Cahill vs. Colon might feature the two pitchers with the best "start it right at the LH hitter" fastballs.) Granted, the only team Cahill couldn't solve last year was the Yankees, but that matchup is still a good one for Oakland, and the next two are just as favorable.
* I like that Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson are getting a fair amount of time starting against favorable platoon matchups. I just wish this would extend more to when opposing teams go to the bullpen -- especially in pinch hitting Sweeney for Jackson and upgrading the OF defense in the process. Several times, including today's second and third, two out AB for Jackson, the A's have had a chance to pinch hit Sweeney and have elected to let Jackson bat against a RHP. Sweeney is a rare hitter for the A's -- a .300 hitter -- and Oakland should take advantage of spots where a single would be especially valuable with a RHP on the mound. Sweeney also happens to have an excellent track record so far as a pinch hitter, where some players just can't take to that role. The A's also should manage their OF defense better in the late innings, where all too often Josh Willingham and/or Conor Jackson have been out there with the A's protecting a small lead.
* The A's have talked about separating Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso in the rotation at some point, and this week offers a great opportunity with a day off Thursday. Why not skip Outman at Fenway (go Moscoso, Cahill, Anderson), and then slot him in Monday at Baltimore? That splits Outman up with Moscoso, skips Outman in a venue that is not favorable for a LH flyball pitcher, gives him a few extra days' rest coming back from injury, and gives Anderson a start against a Red Sox team he has dominated.
* In the Scott Sizemore era, the A's are 3-0. Coincidence? Well, obviously.