Even without veterans Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy for stretches in the past month, the Oakland A's rotation has been just fine with a bunch of inexperienced arms.
After a 3-2 victory over Boston on Wednesday, the A's have the best ERA in the league, at 3.43, and over the past 20 games, the team has allowed two runs or less 13 times, putting up an ERA of 2.35 in that stretch.
Oakland's starters have been particularly good, and that's remarkable, considering that without Colon and McCarthy, rookie Tommy Milone, 25, has the most big-league starts in the bunch (21).
Even more impressive, with mostly the young bunch on the mound, Oakland starters have allowed no more two earned runs in 18 of the 20 games through Wednesday. On Wednesday, it was the newest member of the rotation, rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin, who allowed two runs, one earned, in six innings. In three starts with the A's, Griffin, 24, has allowed four runs, three earned.
Milone, who pitches Friday in the series opener against Seattle, has eight wins, second most among AL rookies and the most ever by an Oakland rookie before the break.
Jarrod Parker, 23, has been the standout, though. He is the first pitcher since 1917 to allow no more than one earned run in 10 of his first 14 career starts. The A's are likely to try to limit his innings in the second half because last season was his first back after Tommy John surgery, but there is little doubt that he is considered Oakland's ace of the future and a potential All-Star caliber starter.
Milone came to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal with Washington, as did rookie catcher Derek Norris, who has claimed the bulk of time behind the plate since being called up last month. Parker and rookie closer Ryan Cook -- who opened his season with a 23 inning scoreless streak -- both came over in the Trevor Cahill deal with Arizona, along with outfielder Collin Cowgill.
Filling out the rotation with Brandon McCarthy on the DL is journeyman Travis Blackley, who has been superb after being picked up on waivers from the Giants as a long reliever. Blackley is 2-2 with a 2.79 ERA and opponents are batting .230 against him.
Colon just came off the DL on Tuesday and allowed two runs, one earned, against the Red Sox, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, he is the most likely A's player to be traded before the July 31 deadline.
Colon is 39, and the A's just designated 36-year-old Brian Fuentes for assignment. Their staff, already so young, could get even younger.
Of course the A's are also looking at getting back one of their top starters in August: left-hander Brett Anderson will throw to hitters on Friday for the first time since he was shut down in May with forearm tightness. He will throw to hitters two or three times before heading on a rehab assignment after the break, but if all goes well, he could be back just about 13 months after his July 14, 2011, Tommy John surgery.
Anderson is all of 24 years old -- but he has 62 big-league starts to his credit and he is considered one of the best young left-handers in the game.
With Fuentes' departure on Tuesday, the A's have one bona fide veteran in the bullpen, right-handed set-up man Grant Balfour. The team features four rookie relievers: Cook, left-hander Sean Doolittle and right-handers Jim Miller and Evan Scribner. Another member of the bullpen, lefty Jordan Norberto, does not yet have a year of service time.