The Athletics have been in last place for 76 of the last 80 days, and Sean Doolittle has taken it as hard as anyone. The injured closer has watched his team lose in every way imaginable, and in a twisted way, he feels largely responsible.
If Doolittle had been available from the start, (1) Ty Clippard would be in the set-up role where he belonged, (2) the bullpen wouldn’t have blown a league-high 14 save chances, (3) Scott Kazmir might still be in the rotation and (4) the A’s would have something to play for the next two months.
“It has been tough with the struggles that the bullpen had early then watching the white flag being raised, trading Kazmir away and looking forward to the future,” Doolittle tells Balls. “I mean, it’s frustrating. Coming so close to coming off the disabled list and coming back and pitching only one game and starting over from scratch … It has been a really tough for a lot of different reasons.”
Doolittle intends to return this season if only for peace of mind — he is scheduled to throw off a mound later this week — but it won’t change how he feels about the lost summer.
“Coming into the season, we thought the bullpen would be one of our strengths,” Doolittle said. “We thought we had enough guys. We thought we were going to be able to really get it done. We thought we had enough depth and versatility that it would be one of the strengths of this team. But it’s one of those things. We got off to a shaky start and it kind of snowballed. Having to watch it from the dugout and not being able to contribute was really tough.”
THE BEARDED BLANKY? Manager Bob Melvin said it was as though his team had been without its warm blanket in the ninth inning.
Wait, let the man explain ..
“There’s a comfortability there like a warm blanket, so to speak,” Melvin said. “You know that guy’s there. You know you get to that particular spot in the game, and for the most part, it’s closed down. It’s all about working to get to that guy you feel confident about.”
Doolittle has been called a lot of things, but a warm blanket probably is not one of them.
“I don’t know if that’s a good word,” Melvin said. “That’s not one of my better efforts. That’s it — security blanket.”
CONNECT THE DOTS: Doolittle may return to the active roster soon, Clippard has an $8.3 million salary in the final year of his contract and you can guess what probably comes
According to multiple sources, several teams have asked about the 30-year-old Clippard in the last few days, the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals among them.
The A’s are said to have interest in Nationals’ outfielder Michael Taylor, 24, a defensive whiz who doesn’t hit much.
FINE PRINT: The Giants completed a sweep of the Bay Bridge Series on Sunday, and it took all of one pitch to understand a fundamental difference between the two teams — defense. Gregor Blanco made a sliding catch in short left field to rob Billy Burns of a hit.
The A’s have allowed 45 unearned runs, second most in the major leagues, while the Giants have allowed only 18, the fewest of any team.
IT’S 30 FOR HUDDY: In what might have been his final start in a Giants uniform, Tim Hudson labored through five innings but received credit for the victory. Now he has beaten 29 major league teams and the Miami Marlins in his career.
BROWN KNOWS JACK: Hall of Fame-bound Tim Brown admits to black-and-silver glasses — he tapes every Raiders game for personal review later — but he is convinced that coach Jack Del Rio has his old team headed in the right direction.
“I’m looking forward to this team playing better football,” Brown said in a conference call the other day. “Jack is a tough, tough guy, not just as a coach but he (was) as a player. And that mentality, he’s going to get into the team in some kind of way. I think this will be a much mentally tougher football team and physically tougher football team, and they have a great chance to compete this year. I’m not saying they can win the division or anything of that nature, but if they can just get to the point that they can compete. They have to learn to win these tough games that they’re going to be in this
TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE: Does Brown believe Raiders rookie Amari Cooper will join him in Canton, Ohio, one day? It sure sounds that way.
“This guy is just a superb, great receiver, and I think he’s going to be dominant on Day One,” Brown said. “I told him at the Heisman (Trophy ceremony) I hoped he’d be there when the Raiders picked because there’s no way they could bypass him. I just thought he was that great of a not-miss type of pick.
“He’s going to be great. He’s just got to get used to playing 20 games now, that a long season. If he can figure that out early in his career, he should be off to the races.”
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE . . .: Darrius Heyward-Bey?