PEORIA, Ariz. -– Drew Pomeranz is doing his best to simplify his job title this season.
The big lefty has the reputation of a guy who can be equally effective as a starter or reliever, but there’s no doubt Pomeranz prefers taking the ball for the first inning. He turned in four innings of one-run ball Wednesday against Seattle, and he continued showing strong form as he tries to carve out a spot in Oakland’s rotation.
“No doubt about it,” manager Bob Melvin responded when asked if Pomeranz is a serious starting candidate. “He was from the very beginning.”
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Pomeranz entered the day tied for the Cactus League lead in strikeouts. He notched five more Wednesday, giving him 15 in nine innings this spring spread over three starts.
Last season, Pomeranz made the club as a long reliever and posted a 1.62 ERA in 10 relief appearances. When he was needed in the rotation, Pomeranz stepped in and delivered a 4-3 record and 2.58 ERA over 10 starts. His season took a wayward turn in June when he fractured his right hand after punching a chair in frustration following a poor outing.
But he’s holding his own in a battle that features five pitchers competing for three available rotation spots –- six if you throw in non-roster pitcher Barry Zito.
“Obviously I wanna be a starter,” Pomeranz said. “I’ve been a starter my whole career except for last year. But I try to keep it simple. I’m trying to fill up the zone, throw strikes and go deep in the game and get guys out.”
Pomeranz found himself in a sticky situation early, loading the bases with one out in the first. But he got Kyle Seager to ground into a 3-6-3 double play to escape that jam. The only run off him came in the fourth when he gave up Seager’s two-out double and an RBI single to Justin Ruggiano. He allowed four hits and one walk to go with his five strikeouts, and he was particularly encouraged with the effectiveness of his changeup.
CAMP BATTLE: When Pomeranz left the game after the fourth, he was replaced by another rotation hopeful in Chris Bassitt. The right-hander blanked the Mariners for three innings but then allowed a walk and single to put runners on the corners in the eighth. He was relieved by Evan Scribner, who gave up three runs, two of them charged to Bassitt, as the Mariners went on to a 4-0 victory. Bassitt wound up going three-plus innings with two hits allowed, two runs, two walks and two strikeouts.
He gave up five runs on seven hits over three innings in his previous outing against Kansas City, and tossed two scoreless innings in his first appearance against the Angels. Bassitt’s ERA is 7.88 after three appearances (two starts).
FLASHING LEATHER: First baseman Mark Canha made a nice play to start the 3-6-3 double play that rescued Pomeranz in the first.
“Based on our outfield needs, he hasn’t played a lot of first base recently,” Melvin said. “That was a terrific play.”
Canha doubled in the fifth, a rare offensive highlight on a day the A’s mustered just three hits total. That was a needed pick-me-up for Canha, who is hitting .194 and has a team-high 15 strikeouts in 36 at-bats. He also drew a walk in three plate appearances Wednesday.
ODDS AND ENDS: A gunman who shot six and killed one person in Mesa was still on the loose as the A’s were preparing to depart Hohokam Stadium for Peoria around 11 a.m. Police had streets blocked off about three miles from Hohokam. There was no indication of any danger near the ballpark, though clubhouse staff made players aware of the situation as they were preparing to board the team bus. … Lefty Sean Nolin, sidelined after having sports hernia surgery, threw a 30-pitch bullpen session featuring fastballs and changeups. … Josh Reddick (strained right oblique) swung the bat for the first time since being injured. The next step likely will involve hitting off a tee, and the right fielder remains very iffy for the start of the regular season. … Outfielder Alex Hassan, nursing a strained right hamstring, swung the bat and did some on-field activity. His timetable for return isn’t known. … The A’s are 10-7-1 as they enjoy their only day off of the Cactus League season Thursday.