Dull has tough road in bid to make A's bullpen

Lean right-hander began career with 11 scoreless innings in 2015

Dull has tough road in bid to make A's bullpen

MESA, Ariz. -- He stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 175 pounds, and he doesn't have signature facial hair or a perma-scowl etched into his face. In fact, when you talk to Ryan Dull, he actually smiles from time to time.

But that doesn't mean he can't be an effective Major League relief pitcher, which is what he turned out to be after his callup last September.

Dull, a right-hander, pitched scoreless baseball for 11 innings before encountering a few rough patches. He ended up with a 4.24 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 17 innings and impressed everyone around him and continues to do so. Through Sunday this spring, he's pitched three scoreless innings and struck out two.

"[Dull's] outings here this year so far, we either haven't played good defense behind him the first couple hitters and/or he gives up a couple of hits and now he gets into a situation where he's got to strand some runners out there, and he does," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "So yeah, for a guy that's not the most intimidating guy on the mound, he's got a belief in himself that even if there's runners on base, he's going to be able to hold them there.

"And he does a lot of the things that you want in a reliever. When he has some baserunners out there, he's quick to the plate. He fields his position. He can throw offspeed stuff when he's behind in the count. So he's continuing to do all that."

A's Spring Training information

But will Dull make the A's roster out of Spring Training?

It figures to be tough. Oakland brought in veteran relievers John Axford, Ryan Madson, Marc Rzepczynski and Liam Hendriks to a bullpen crew that is expected to also include Sean Doolittle and Fernando Rodriguez. So nothing has changed for Dull and his approach.

"You have to go out there and continue to earn your spot," Dull said. "You have to go out there and work hard every day to make sure you put yourself in the situation to be able to just stay where you are. It just keeps you hungry and you keep wanting more. You want to do whatever you have to do to just stay there and enjoy it."

Catcher Stephen Vogt likes Dull's fastball-slider-changeup combination and the ability the 26-year-old has shown to command the ball down in the zone and initiate weak contact. But there's more.

"He's got some guts for a guy that came up with no time and made some really good pitches in some big situations," Vogt said. "He's done that so far this spring. And he has a great ability to get out of trouble. That's something that every bullpen needs."

While it's uncertain that Dull will have a spot in the bullpen come Opening Day, chances are he'll land in Oakland at some point in 2016 if he continues to perform well and show that tenacity.

"It's just how I am," Dull said. "It's the thrill of being in a competition, where you want to win each pitch you're out there. It comes down to execution. You've got to win each pitch. You do that, you're going to be successful."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.