While injuries to the their pitching staff have provided plenty of frustration for the Oakland Athletics, they’re not yet ready to panic.
The A’s have put three pitchers on the DL this season—including starters Esteban Loaiza (left shoulder and back strain) and Rich Harden (strained back muscle) in the last week. Relievers Justin Duchscherer (right elbow tendinitis) and Huston Street (muscle strain) have also been hurt.
But in the opener of this series on Monday, Zito combined with two relievers on a six-hitter as Oakland beat Los Angeles 1-0 for its season-high fourth straight victory.
“I feel like my motivation right now is to compete with two of our starting pitchers down right now,” Zito said. “We don’t know how long it will be with Harden, so it’s very important that the starters pick up the slack. The team is definitely a motivating factor, so I’ve just got to go out and hold them down.”
Brad Halsey (0-0, 1.42 ERA) will take Harden’s turn in the rotation Tuesday after making nine relief appearances this season for Oakland.
The left-hander, acquired March 26 from Arizona for Juan Cruz, has allowed two runs and 10 hits over 12 2-3 innings. He pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings in his only career appearance against the Angels last August 22.
A’s manager Ken Macha said Kirk Saarloos, who won 10 games as a starter last season, will take Loaiza’s spot in the rotation.
“We built this team for this exact scenario. We’ve got four guys in the bullpen who have started major league games,” assistant general manager David Forst said. “We’re hoping they can seize this opportunity and keep us afloat.”
Street, last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, was cleared Monday by Oakland’s medical staff to pitch after missing 11 games with a strained right pectoral muscle. But Macha decided to hold his closer back another day.
“I wasn’t going to bring him into a 1-0 game the first time back,” Macha said. “There was a lot of drama in that game. It wasn’t for the faint of heart.”
With Bartolo Colon on the disabled list, John Lackey (3-1, 3.09) has taken over as the Angels’ ace and will get the start in this game. The right-hander is coming off his best outing of the season after limiting Detroit to one hit over eight innings with five walks and eight strikeouts in a 4-0 win on Wednesday.
Lackey allowed a season-high seven walks over five innings on April 21 against Oakland, but did not get a decision in the Angels’ 5-3 loss. He is 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 14 starts against the A’s.
Monday’s loss was the Angels’ season-high fourth straight.
“We’re not playing very good baseball right now,” said center fielder Darin Erstad, who didn’t play because of a sore right ankle. “But we have enough guys and enough experience that we just have start doing what we know we can do.”