Heavy workload taking toll on A's bullpen

Heavy workload taking toll on A's bullpen

Heavy workload taking toll on A's bullpen

OAKLAND -- Only 12 American League relievers have made more appearances this season than A's lefties Jerry Blevins and Sean Doolittle, and even the margin between them and everyone else is extremely slim.

The Oakland relievers have pitched in 41 games, and right-hander Ryan Cook isn't too far behind with 40 coming into Saturday. Closer Grant Balfour is at 38.

Combined, that's 160 appearances between the four of them. Heading into the All-Star break last year, that number stood at 119. Granted, Doolittle didn't join the team until June of last year, but that's still a heavier workload.

Consider this the perfect time, then, for these relievers to rest.

"I definitely think our bullpen could use a break," manager Bob Melvin said. "We've leaned on those four guys more so than we did the first half of last year."

Blevins has endured his share of struggles as of late -- seven of his 14 earned runs have come in his last seven games -- and Doolittle, too, has been more prone to mistakes this season, allowing 14 earned runs over his last 18 outings.

With no other lefty sitting in the bullpen, both of them will continue to be called upon frequently following the break.

"When you're in close games and winning a lot of games," Melvin said, "it means those guys are in a lot of games, so the rest here is needed."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.