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Starting Pitching: Till Depth Do Us Part

"I'll take 'Things The Human Arm Wasn't Meant To Do' for $500, Alex."
"I'll take 'Things The Human Arm Wasn't Meant To Do' for $500, Alex."
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Alternate headline: 6 weeks of A.J. Griffin wouldn't look too bad right about now.

The A's had too many starting pitchers until they had too few. What happened? Well, pitching a baseball is really bad for your arm and you really shouldn't do it unless...your entire function depends on doing just that. Once upon a time -- and by that I mean a month ago -- Oakland's starting pitching depth chart looked something like:

Sonny Gray
Rich Hill
Jesse Hahn
Chris Bassitt
Kendall Graveman
Felix Doubront
Aaron Brooks
Sean Nolin
A.J. Griffin
Jarrod Parker
Sean Manaea (ready around late May?)
Henderson Alvarez (ready around late May?)

How did "12 deep" become "Um, who's gonna start on Friday?"

- The A's dealt Brooks in order to improve their offense by acquiring Chris Coghlan, a move that made sense especially in light of Oakland's depth at "#6 SP" ... or so it seemed.

- The A's D'd Nolin FA when they needed the spot on the 40-man roster, probably in large part due to the fact that Nolin's velocity was causing other starting pitchers to pass him on the right. Nolin has since been shelved with a "significant elbow strain".

- The A's released A.J. Griffin, likely due to similar concerns that Griffin's shoulder issues were too severe for him to come back and pitch effectively. Griffin has since landed on his feet with Texas and had a very good spring training.

- Jarrod Parker was lost to what is not officially a third Tommy John surgery, but is close. When doctors and trainers are focusing less on pitching and more on "playing catch with your kids someday," you know that your spring has not gone well.

- Jesse Hahn was so rough around the edges in the Cactus League that the A's made the surprise decision to send Hahn to AAA to begin the season.

- Felix Doubront left today's game after 1 inning in which his fastball was in the 83-85 MPH range. Reports of left forearm tightness are ominous, but currently we are in the "wait and see" stage.

That leaves the A's currently with two pitchers not considered to be viable options until mid-to-late May, Gray, Bassitt, Graveman, and a guy who walked 15 batters in 12 spring training innings. And Erik Surkamp, I suppose, and maybe Miguel Gonzalez if the A's win that bid.

Let's hope Hahn's ticket to Nashville was refundable.

The moral of the story is one that we all know and one that we find hard to remember each season: You can really never have too much starting pitching or too many starting pitchers, because they tend to go down like a clever simile that I can't think of at the moment.

That is not to say that the A's are sunk. A rotation of Gray-Hill-Hahn-Bassitt-Graveman could be very good in April and into May, until Alvarez and Manaea are ready to step in. I just wouldn't count on not being able to stand pat from Monday to late May. It's a long season -- and if you don't have a lot of starting pitching depth, it is likely to be even longer.