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The Puzzling Use Of Travis Blackley

Travis Blackley had been largely MIA for 2 weeks when he took the mound today against the Yankees.
Travis Blackley had been largely MIA for 2 weeks when he took the mound today against the Yankees.

When the A's moved Travis Blackley to the bullpen, I thought they had a heck of an extra weapon at their disposal. Behind 5 pretty reliable short relievers (Balfour, Doolittle, Cook, Blevins, Neshek), here was a guy who was arguably as good as the #4 and #5 starters (Tommy Milone and Dan Straily), who was available to come in and pitch several innings anytime with really no drop off. Most teams, if they go to their long reliever, are going to one of their worst pitchers, a guy they really don't want in the game, not to a guy who could be in the rotation as easily as a couple of the guys who are.

How often can you yank your starting pitcher after 3-4 innings and replace him with someone good enough to be in your regular rotation, and not have to go deep into your bullpen for your "back end guys"? That's a heck of a luxury to have.

Then Straily went just 4.2 IP against the Orioles, in a big game to get with Oakland going for the sweep against their WC rival. In that game, the A's were down only 5-2, with 5 turns at bat left, when Blackley entered. But the A's didn't keep Blackley out there for 3-4 innings as they could have. Oakland wound up scoring 5 runs, but in going to Tyson Ross and Jesse Chavez they let the game get out of hand. That game, in particular, was one the A's might have "stolen" had Blackley come in and put up a few zeros.

Again in Detroit, the A's trailed 3-0 to Justin Verlander and the Tigers when Brett Anderson left early and the A's could have rolled with Blackley for several innings but didn't. The implications of all this non-use? Not only did the A's miss a couple chances to stay in games they trailed and take a real shot at a comeback win, but...

...When Blackley took the mound today to start, he had worked all of 0.2 IP since September 5th. It's no wonder he wasn't sharp, wobbled and left early, leaving the A's to try to coax, as it turned out, 12 innings from the bullpen. Had the A's utilized Blackley more over the past two weeks, they might have another win on their ledger and they would have stretched Blackley out for a return to the rotation.

When you consider that Blackley has been one of the A's better pitchers throughout the year, why would you get so little out of him for 2 weeks? He, and the team, would have been far better off had he thrown 3-4 innings each time an A's starter couldn't go long.

The A's had an unusual luxury having Blackley ready to come out of the bullpen for several innings at any time, and being simultaneously better prepared to jump into the rotation at any time. It might have cost them a chance to steal a win from the Orioles then, it might have cost them a chance to secure a win against the Yankees now -- and most of all, it just doesn't make any sense.