Bullpen takes on new look heading into season

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

The most furious battle in the final week of the spring was for the last spot or two in Oakland's bullpen, and there were two roster casualties who contributed key performances for the 2012 AL West champs.
Left-hander Travis Blackley, a candidate for the long reliever spot, was designated for assignment on Saturday. He had a poor spring, with an ERA of 14.21, but he was a valuable spot starter and reliever for Oakland last season after being picked up on waivers from the Giants.
Jordan Norberto, another lefty, filled numerous roles in Oakland's bullpen in 2012, going 4-1 with a save and a 2.77 ERA. He was optioned down to Triple-A Sacramento, in part because the A's have two other lefties in the bullpen in Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins, but in larger part because Chris Resop and Pat Neshek -- both out of options -- were unscored upon this spring.
The final member of the bullpen is right-hander Evan Scribner, who was particularly good in the final month of last season, including two wins over Texas in the final week and two perfect innings in the playoffs.
With Scribner's selection, lefty Pedro Figueroa was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and non-roster relievers Hideki Okajima and Mike Ekstrom were reassigned to minor-league camp. Both will go to Sacramento and all three are expected to be up at some point during the season if performing well. Okajima has an out in his contract on June 1.
Grant Balfour, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Feb. 14, has fully recovered and will be Oakland's closer again starting Opening Night.

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