Oakland Athletics

Hammel knocked around by the Orioles … do the A’s have too much pitching depth?


They say one can have too much of a good thing, and dare I say the A’s have too much pitching depth at this point.

Yes, I get the trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel: they give the A’s two experienced, solid pitchers to use during the postseason as well as insurance in case any of the more novice starters (Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez) flame out. I also get that the A’s are in full win-now mode and this deal strengthens their bid for a title.

But what happens if putting Samardzija and Hammel on the roster means pushing two capable starters in Tommy Milone and Drew Pomeranz to the minors, and what happens if Hammel unexpectedly starts to struggle?

It’s a safe bet that the A’s didn’t expect for Hammel to be 0-2 with an ERA of 9.00 in his first two starts for his new team. After losing to the Giants in a start before the break, Hammel lasted just two innings Saturday night and allowed five runs on six hits, walking two in an 8-4 A’s loss to the Orioles.

The damage came immediately for Hammel, as the Orioles did not wait around. After a leadoff single and a walk in the first inning, Adam Jones crushed a homer to left field. J.J. Hardy added another run, drilling a hanging curveball out to left again. Hammel was taken out of the game after allowing a walk and two straight hits to begin the third inning, putting the A’s in a 5-0 hole.

I hate to play the “what if” game, but what if Milone, who was 6-0 in his past 11 starts before being sent down, started this game? Or what if Pomeranz, owner of a 2.91 ERA in eight starts this season, was on the hill instead of Hammel? We will never know, because both Milone and Pomeranz are in Triple-A, the downside of having a load of pitching depth.

I’m not calling for the A’s to demote Hammel and replace him in the rotation, nor am I ripping the trade since Samardzija and Hammel have only made two starts apiece with the A’s. But one has to wonder how Milone and Pomeranz – who have already proven themselves as capable starters on an MLB contender – feel as they toil in the minor leagues while watching one of their replacements get lit up in two innings of work.

Straight A’s

— One player A’s fans wish was down in the minors? Jim Johnson, and yes, it happened again for him at the Coliseum. Johnson was called on to pitch the top of the ninth inning and keep a 7-4 deficit as was, but gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, Chris Davis. As the boos rained down (again), he walked Hardy, bringing up Manny Machado, Oakland’s new Public Enemy No. 1. Pretty hard to tell who the A’s fans were booing during that at-bat, Johnson or Machado.

(Machado grounded into a double play, then Johnson struck out Nick Hundley.)

— Milone didn’t really help his case tonight during a start with the Sacramento Rivercats, allowing seven runs on eight hits in five innings.

— Tonight was the 25-year reunion of the A’s 1989 World Series team, and a nice ceremony was held before the game where the players walked on a red carpet onto the outfield. They were greeted by the current A’s players as well as manager Bob Melvin, who handed each a flower to place at the pitcher’s mound to the late Bob Welch. Welch, who passed away earlier this year, was a 17-game winner for the A’s that year.

Jose Canseco, who was afraid of how he would be received by the Oakland faithful after writing his controversial 2005 book titled Juiced (in which he accused teammate Mark McGwire of using PEDs), was given a thunderous ovation as he walked onto the field. I guess all is forgiven, although McGwire was not at the reunion due to his job with the Dodgers.

— There was a mascot race in between innings, and Dennis Eckersley beat out Rickey Henderson, who was visibly upset while watching up in the suite. I bet the 55-year-old Henderson could still swipe second today if called upon.

— CSN showed a montage of some of Canseco’s home runs with the A’s, and one of them was his mammoth shot during the 1989 ALCS in Toronto that it reached the upper deck of the Skydome:


As I watched Canseco round the bases, though, I just couldn’t help but wonder how much “juice” was in his body at that time.

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