One of the A’s biggest questions heading into spring training is who would be the team’s new closer now that Liam Hendriks is a member of the Chicago White Sox. For now, the frontrunner for closing responsibilities appears to be Jake Diekman, but A’s manager Bob Melvin said a decision hasn't been made.
“We haven’t settled on anything,” Melvin said on Wednesday.
Melvin said discussions with the pitchers themselves on what they’re comfortable with also will play a role in the decision. And for now, the A's manager has plenty to choose from.
“We’re not afraid to experiment a little bit,” Melvin said. “Certainly Jake’s performance would suggest that he could probably handle anything and we have a couple more guys that hopefully we can get under wraps here. This isn’t something we’re going to make a decision right now, but the fact that it looks like our bullpen’s been enhanced with some guys with more experience makes me feel better about the potential for who pitches the ninth inning.”
Diekman posted a 0.42 ERA in 2020, giving up just one run in 21 1/3 innings.
In addition to Diekman, Melvin said Lou Trivino could be a possibility to close as well. Trivino has been able to be both a closer or a setup man and proved his ninth-inning abilities when former closer Blake Treinen left the A’s a few years ago. Still, Trivino was very touch-and-go over the last couple of years.
“Not every season goes the same,” Melvin said. “They experience some growing pains, and that happened with Lou, but his stuff hasn’t changed.”
Hitters get very uncomfortable when Trinvo’s on the mound. That's a great problem to have.
J.B. Wendelken quietly solidified his spot in the bullpen last season as well, posting a 1.80 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 25 innings. Across four seasons and in 69 games, he limited batters to a .198 average.
Melvin also liked what the A’s acquired in Adam Kolarek. The lefty reliever was part of a four-player trade on Friday with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kolarek just made a good bullpen even better.
“As far as Kolarek goes, just an absolute terrific addition for us,” Melvin said. "Another left-hander that has a history of getting righties out, he’s got an incredible groundball rate, a guy you can bring in with guys on base, can bring him in to get lefties out, he gets righties out, that was really a good deal for us. It enhances our bullpen."
In 19 innings last season, Kolarek boasted a 0.95 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 19 innings.
“Our bullpen has always been very important to us,” Melvin added.