PHOENIX - When the A's deepened their bullpen in the offseason, the common thinking was the competent relief corps would take pressure off the young starters. Manager Bob Melvin has a different twist: 'Our starters want to take the pressure of...
PHOENIX - When the A's deepened their bullpen in the offseason, the common thinking was the competent relief corps would take pressure off the young starters.
No need to push themselves to pitch deep into games.
To which the rotation has a response: Don't worry about us.
"It's not like, 'I can go five, and these guys can go six, seven, eight, nine,' " Jarrod Parker said. "It's not that way. We want to go as deep as we can. At the same time, we know what we have down there in the bullpen. It's one of the best in the league."
A.J. Griffin added, "I guess it does give you a little sense of security, but you want to go out there and pitch as long as you can every time."
Manager Bob Melvin has a different twist: "Our starters want to take the pressure off the bullpen."
What a nice problem: not enough innings to go around. That's only in a perfect world, of course. In the real world, you-never-have-too-much-pitching - a mantra for any pitching coach - applies to the A's even if they seemingly upgraded from posting the second-lowest ERA in the American League, 3.56.
The bullpen's ERA was 3.22, so what did general manager Billy Beane do? He added parts, including accomplished setup man/sinker aficionado Luke Gregerson. When last season opened, the setup guys were Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook, and now the crew goes four-deep, including sinkerballer Dan Otero, who evolved from struggling Giant to prosperous Athletic, arriving in mid-June and finishing with a 1.38 ERA.
With closer Grant Balfour exiting as a free agent, Beane replaced him with Jim Johnson, whose 101 saves the past two seasons easily led the majors.
The starters say they want to pitch well into the night, and the relievers say they can pick up the slack early. Greed is good, right?
"If you can get us a lead in the sixth, we can take it form there," Doolittle said. "We have the depth. There's also a lot of versatility there. You combine those things, maybe the starters don't have to go 110 pitches. Plus, maybe we can help guys in the pen stay a little fresher longer by sharing the load."
Melvin said Tuesday that six of seven bullpen jobs "could be fairly obvious," presumably meaning Jesse Chavez would be the long reliever. If Cook's shoulder holds up, that leaves one spot open, perhaps coming down to Evan Scribner (who's out of options) or a second lefty to replace Jerry Blevins and complement Doolittle, the candidates including ex-National Fernando Abad, ex-Phillie Joe Savery and ex-Rockie Drew Pomeranz.
Ex-Brave Eric O'Flaherty, recovering from Tommy John surgery, will be a midseason option.
Melvin acknowledged the bullpen will be a comfort for the rotation.
"We do still have a relatively young staff but an experienced one," he said. "Being in the postseason two years in a row adds to the experience. We do have an eye on some of the innings these guys have accumulated over the last couple of years, and the bullpen should be instrumental in that regard."
John Shea is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @JohnSheaHey