ANAHEIM –- First baseman Ike Davis came on to pitch in the eighth inning Tuesday with the A’s losing big to the Angels.
The score was 14-1 and Oakland was on the losing end. But from a certain viewpoint, Davis gets credited with a save.
The A’s bullpen is extremely thin right now with long man Jesse Chavez being prepped for a spot start Thursday. Davis delivered a 1-2-3 inning, saving manager Bob Melvin from having to burn through another bullpen arm in a hopeless game.
Almost as important, Davis provided a light-hearted slant to a 14-1 defeat that was gruesome to watch and couldn’t have been much better to play in for the A’s.
“He warmed up in the (batting) cage,” Melvin said. “Threw nine pitches and got three ground balls. Pretty impressive -- and he volunteered for it.”
Davis, 28, was an All-American first baseman while starring at Arizona State, but the lefty also went 7-5 with four saves in 35 appearances on the mound for the Sun Devils. After the game, he wore a giant ice pack on his elbow – just like a pitcher – and had teammates surrounding him as he watched video and casually broke down his outing.
“I used to throw a little harder,” said Davis, who looked natural throwing from the stretch and topped out at 88 miles per hour Tuesday. “I was just trying to throw strikes. I had some sink. I threw one four-seamer that cut a lot, almost hit (Chris) Iannetta. I threw one horrible slider to (Collin) Cowgill.”
Elsewhere, cheery news was tough to find in the visiting clubhouse at Angel Stadium. The A’s (7-8) have put together back-to-back wins just once over the first 15 games.
Melvin penciled in his right-handed dominated lineup against Angels lefty Hector Santiago, and the A’s scraped together just five hits the entire night. At this point, it’s tough to envision Craig Gentry staying in the leadoff spot against lefties, or finding much playing time at all with the way things are going.
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Gentry is off to an 0-for-22 start in nine games played, and he’s struggling about as badly as a hitter can struggle right now. Gentry struck out in all four of his plate appearances Tuesday, the final three times looking, and he compounded things by letting David Freese’s two-run single in the sixth skip past him for an error in center field.
“It’s hard,” Melvin said. “At some point it becomes just as much mental as anything else. He can be hard on himself. He wants to do well, he wants to help his team. Everybody goes through an 0-for-20, but it’s tough to do at the beginning of the season.”
Shortstop Marcus Semien committed two errors, one fielding and one throwing, giving him three in the first two games of this series. His six errors are the most among American League shortstops. Melvin maintains confidence in Semien – in his first year as an everyday big league shortstop – and cites his daily practice habits and the occasional standout plays he pops up with as reasons he thinks Semien ultimately will be OK with the glove.
But the immediate most pressing concern is the state of Oakland’s bullpen. With Chavez unavailable and Dan Otero having thrown four innings Monday, Melvin’s hands were tied as far as options. He expects Otero to be available Wednesday night, but acknowledged that the A’s may need to call on an arm from the minors.
That leads one to wonder if 29-year-old switch pitcher Pat Venditte could possibly get promoted for his major league debut. Venditte has yet to give up an earned run in five outings (10 IP) for Triple-A Nashville.
Given the need for fresh arms, Davis’ unlikely relief stint was extremely timely.
“I was definitely nervous,” he said.
Even in a 14-1 game?
“Oh heck yeah,” he said. “I didn’t want to drill anybody or throw one right down the middle and get hit in the face. Those guys are pretty good hitters.”
He gave the A’s something they could chuckle about on a night they were on the wrong end of a laugher.
“We’ve been on the other side of that one a few times this year with blowouts,” Melvin said. “But it doesn’t feel that great when you’re on the side we were on tonight. At least we got a little levity with Ike.”