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Joey Devine has the makeup to fill closer role for Oakland A's

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While Joey Devine has battled injuries

Issue: Closing time

Analysis: With All-Star closer Andrew Bailey gone, the most compelling competition at camp — and, with apologies to both infield corners, most likely Oakland’s most difficult decision — revolves around the ninth inning.

Granted, there might not be all that many ninth innings of great consequence for the A’s if a few worst-case scenarios come to fruition. For instance, if the unproven starting pitchers, Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez don’t come up big, ninth-inning leads could be very few and far between.

But for every worst case, there’s a best case. It is possible, though perhaps unlikely, that the pup pitchers carve, the Cuban crushes and Manny mashes.

That ninth inning sounds a lot more interesting now, doesn’t it?

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So who’s it gonna be? The top three candidates appear to be Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour and Joey Devine, each bringing their own set of best- and worst-case scenarios. 

Devine seems to be getting the least attention early in camp, but the best of the best-casers from this angle has the gifted 28-year-old righty winning the job and fulfilling the promise he represented before arm trouble cost him the co-closer’s job (with Bailey) during spring 2009.

Fuentes, 36, has made four All-Star teams as a closer, but he’s 36 and his best days are far behind him. He’s an All-Star closer no more. He’s a setup man.

Ditto Balfour, whose competitive nature sometimes serves as a detriment. He’s closed before, but he’s not a closer.

In 2008, Devine posted a 0.59 ERA in 42 games. If he’s healthy, he’s a closer. In mind and body. He’s your best case.

Every Thursday throughout spring training, we’ll take a look at one major issue involving the Giants, one involving the A’s, and offer analysis.

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