Ray Ratto

Presented By Ray Ratto
Ray Ratto

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin was musing the other day about who he might start in the American League Wild Card game October 3.
 
Actually, that’s a lie. He was saying that would be foolish for anyone to muse about it because there were so many variables, including whether they would make the playoffs (although he was just saying that so as not to lose a fastball up and in on karma) and whether there would be such a thing as starting pitchers by the time the playoffs started.
 
Thus, the case for Liam Hendriks.
 
Yes, the A's designated opening act, who is starting to get the hang of this closer-in-reverse gig as he did Friday night in Oakland’s 8-4 victory over the desperately wheezing Texas Rangers.
 
Hendriks blew through the four hitters he faced (well, three of them; he walked leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo), the second time in three tries that he has dominated his task this week. In fact, he has done creditably in a new role.
 
But these are the A’s, where even the good times come with an asterisk – except for Ramon Laureano, who is now a staple in center field and the top of the lineup card.
 
When Bob Melvin uses Hendriks and his one inning, it means the bullpen gets taxed. Part of that is that Melvin is currently working with 15 arms and can afford to be profligate, but Hendriks’ three opens have resulted in the use of 24 relievers, 23 1/3 innings, 24 hits and 14 earned runs, an ERA of 5.40 and WHIP of 1.54. Closer Blake Treinen had to finish Friday night in a four-run game because Fernando Rodney and Jeurys Familia struggled in low-leverage situations.
 
That makes Melvin’s decisions on how often to utilize the Hendriks Solution not as cut-and-dried as they seem. This is where Brett Anderson’s return comes in.
 
Anderson is loosely scheduled for Wednesday in Baltimore against the Keepin’ It 100 Orioles. His start is important to establish his ability to regain his place in the rotation, and the quality of said start is important in allowing Melvin to have one fewer day of the Bullpen Parade. 
 
If Anderson is back in full command, Hendriks (presuming he is the designated opener from this point forward) would get three to four more opens (and that’s a phrase that will take some getting used to). It would also limit Cahill’s road appearances (where he has been poor) to two starts.
 
And then comes the hardest think of all – whether to go with a four-man rotation if the Wild Card hurdle can be cleared, or try one more Hendriks Special against Boston. True, there are more opportunities for full-staff games (including the Wild Card itself and any closeout game), but those usually fail because they reek of desperation. Hendriks is starting to look less like desperation and more like an idea whose time and place is coming.
 
But Bob Melvin knows better than to offer an idea on that. There is too much to do, and too many ways to get them done, to make plans that aren’t written on flash paper for quick disposal. The playoffs are floating into view now, and there will be plenty of sleepness nights navigating those waters.
 
In the meantime, there are plenty of sleepless nights for him  just getting through the last 20 games. If it helps, though, Melvin slept great last September, and didn’t enjoy it a bit.