Lou Trivino

Why A's need to address bullpen this offseason, according to MLB.com

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AP

Why A's need to address bullpen this offseason, according to MLB.com

The A's bullpen relied on different faces in 2019, but it was once again strong. 

Liam Hendriks emerged as the team's closer, while one-time stalwarts Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino struggled to reach their 2018 heights. Still, the A's finished the season seventh in bullpen ERA (3.89), third in FIP (3.98) and fourth in WAR (6.9). In 2018, the A's ranked third, 11th and sixth in those respective categories. 

Oakland's relievers also led the majors in blown saves (30), and the group could be due for a lot of turnover in 2020. September call-ups Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk are headed to the rotation, while the A's will have to make decisions on Treinen, Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit. Writing for MLB.com Friday, Will Leitch argued that the A's should embrace change in their bullpen this offseason.

"The A’s keep falling short in the AL Wild Card Game, but considering where the Astros are likely to be next year, that may be their ceiling again," Leitch wrote. "So more arms might be the answer for a team whose lineup looks to be terrific top to bottom in 2020."

Relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Will Smith and Kenley Jansen almost certainly will be out of the A's price range this winter, but there is a long list of free-agent options to re-tool their bullpen on the fly. Plus, the A's have intriguing pitching prospects in Daulton Jeffries, James Kaprielian and Grant Holmes who conceivably could follow in Luzardo and Puk's footsteps by making their big league debuts out of the 'pen.

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Given the rollercoaster nature of relief pitching, though, standing pat is an option. Now healthy, Treinen and Trivino seem like good candidates to bounce back in 2020, and regression to their respective career means would give manager Bob Melvin more options in the later innings. 

The A's surely would like more consistency from their bullpen in 2019, but the results weren't all that far off from the group that was Oakland's strength in 2018. A few tweaks might be just what the A's need for perception to match reality.

A's relievers Lou Trivino, Blake Treinen out for season with injuries

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USATSI

A's relievers Lou Trivino, Blake Treinen out for season with injuries

A's relievers Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino both will miss the rest of the season with injuries, Oakland manager Bob Melvin told reporters Tuesday night.

An MRI revealed a stress reaction in Treinen's back, while Trivino has a cracked rib after suffering a fall while he was away from the team.

"It's hard," Melvin said. "It's hard for everybody. We feel that. These guys are not only big on the field for us, but also in the clubhouse. But you know, over the course of the season, things have to be done a little bit differently and we were able to pick up the slack for what have been some injuries and tough years for both of those guys."

It's a rough ending to a brutal season for the right-handers, both of whom were tremendous last year. Treinen, 31, went 6-5 with a 4.91 ERA, the worst of his career, after making the All-Star Game last season and finishing with a 0.78 ERA in 80 1/3 innings.

Trivino, 27, has been even worse this season with a 4-6 record and 5.25 ERA. Last year as a rookie, he went 8-3 with a 2.92 ERA.

Fortunately, the A's have amassed some quality depth in the bullpen, with youngsters Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk, and J.B. Wendelken joining All-Star closer Liam Hendriks and the always-reliable Yusmeiro Petit. Oakland also recently moved starter Chris Bassitt to the pen, where he has been impressive through two scoreless outings -- striking out seven in four innings.

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As for Treinen and Trivino, the A's will have to hope that this year was an aberration and that both find a way to return to last season's form.

"My guess is they'll be back doing their thing again next year and healthy again," Melvin said. "They're both really talented guys."

A's must find eighth-inning answer after gut-punch loss to Yankees

A's must find eighth-inning answer after gut-punch loss to Yankees

It all began to fall apart in the eighth inning, which suddenly is the A's archnemesis.

Like watching a car accident happen in slow motion, an inevitable sense of doom came over the Oakland bullpen at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Leading 4-0, Jake Diekman walked Mike Tauchman, the Yankees' No. 9 hitter, to start the inning.

Then it was Lou Trivino's turn. The right-hander allowed a single and another walk to load the bases with no outs. Gleyber Torres hit a deep fly ball to center, advancing all three runners and cutting the lead to 4-1.

It was now Liam Hendriks time. Oakland manager Bob Melvin called on his closer for his second five-out save in the last four days. This time, he couldn't get it done.

Hendriks allowed his two inherited runners to score on a single by Didi Gregorius. Then in the ninth inning, he surrendered back-to-back home runs to Brett Gardner and Mike Ford, as the Yankees walked off with a 5-4 victory.

"That's another tough spot to put him in," Melvin told reporters after the game. "We're trying to get two outs in the eighth and just couldn't do it. We were down some guys today and just trying to put our best foot forward. We've asked five outs several times out of him now and that's a tough deal, especially against these guys."

It was the A's 26th blown save of the season, third-most in the majors and just one away from the top spot of an honor no one wants to hold. It also was Oakland's ninth loss when leading after seven innings, seven more than all of last year.

"It was basically a tale of two games, the first seven innings and then the last two," Melvin said. "Unfortunately, we ended up on the wrong end of it."

In reality, an off-game for Hendriks was inevitable, given his grueling workload. The A's have failed to find a reliable eighth-inning option out of the bullpen, which has forced Hendriks into far too many multi-inning outings.

"(I didn't) have the best command and it came back to bite us," Hendriks told reporters. "It's always tough just sitting down and then going back out. I think it's trying to battle your emotions while getting into a situation and somewhat get out of it, and then go back out there with a one-run game. It's a little harder. But it's still no excuse. I needed to get my job done and unfortunately wasn't able to do it, and now we get a loss instead of walking away with a happy flight."

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Perhaps Blake Treinen can step into that role; the right-hander has been much sharper over the past two weeks. Or maybe young A.J. Puk is ready to become the team's primary setup man.

One way or another, the A's have to come up with a solution. Otherwise, losses like Sunday will cost them a playoff spot.