The A’s bullpen is tired. Really tired.

Over the past two games, the Oakland bullpen has thrown six innings and allowed 11 runs. Suffice to say, the A’s once semi-impenetrable bullpen is dragging toward the end of the season.

The bullpen’s faults aren’t all based on fatigue.

Michael Wuertz has been injured on and off the entire season, and has been woefully ineffective during appearances. Rookies Neil Wagner, Andrew Carignan, and Bruce Billings have been thrown into tough situations, and their stats have suffered as a result.

Overall, the A’s bullpen is 18th best in the league with a 3.74 ERA. Since the All-Star break, the A’s overall ERA is 27th best in baseball at 4.80.

Everyone is fatigued, which will dissipate by spring training 2012. A healthy bullpen, with each member assigned a consistent role, should yield better results next season.

Andrew Bailey will be the A’s closer until he is traded. Despite injuries and career “worst” numbers so far this season, Bailey has 20 saves in 22 opportunities and has a 3.28 ERA. If he remains healthy and stays in the closer role its not beyond the realm of possibilities to see him save 40 games next year.

Grant Balfour is under contract through 2012 with a club option for 2013. He has been nothing less of spectacular in the right handed setup role this year with a 2.24 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 56 appearances.



Outside of Bailey and Balfour, the remaining five members of the A’s 2012 opening day bullpen are a mystery. Here are a few educated guesses about who else might be a member of next year’s bullpen.

Brian Fuentes is a name many A’s fans would like to forget. However, he is under contract through next season, and has actually pitched pretty well since Andrew Bailey returned.

Fuentes closed games in the beginning of the season, and was used in a relief role as well. Fuentes did not fair well under such heavy usage and managed to lose eight games by the end of June.

Since then, Fuentes has been much better, posting ERA’s of 3.52 and 1.86 in July and August, respectively. The A’s desperately need a lefty setup man, but Fuentes is the best they have at present.

Fautino De Los Santos has established himself as manager Bob Melvin’s apparent seventh-inning reliever. While he has struggled at times, “FDLS” looks to have locked down a spot in next year’s bullpen with his plus-95 mph fastball.

Joey Devine did not perform as expected this year. He was projected to be a late inning reliever, but struggled at the major league level and has pitched in AAA since. He still looks to be one of the most talented pitchers in the Oakland organization, and with a good spring training will be on the major league roster in 2012.

Craig Breslow has not been good this year, but his role hasn’t been well-enough defined. If Breslow assumes the role of lefty specialist, typically only a single batter, he should do well.  There are other options available, but the A’s seem enamored with Breslow despite his production this season.


Josh Outman probably could be in the rotation next year, but odds are he will end up the long man in the bullpen. He is best suited to start, but the A’s will have a glut of starters next year and Outman will probably see himself passed over.

There are a few pitchers from this season that will not return to the A’s bullpen in 2012:

Michael Wuertz hasn’t been the same since his injuries and it doesn’t look like the A’s will retain his services. Jerry Blevins has been promoted and demoted six times this season. For Blevins sake and the A’s, a trade or release would suit both teams well. Jordan Norberto, Bruce Billings, Andrew Carignan, and Neil Wagner should expect to find themselves in Sacramento Rivercats uniforms at the beginning of the 2012 season. 

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