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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Depth of A's organization to be tested again in 2014

Club looking to fill holes in wake of injuries to starters Parker, Griffin

Depth of A's organization to be tested again in 2014

PHOENIX -- The Oakland Athletics have had the kind of pitching depth over the last two seasons that allowed them to win consecutive division titles.

It now appears that the A's are going to need another display of pitching depth to win a third straight American League West title.

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The club announced Monday that its No. 1 starter, Jarrod Parker, would be lost for the season. He will undergo his second Tommy John surgery. The procedure will be performed by noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews on March 25 in Pensacola, Fla.

This was, from any perspective, a serious blow to the Athletics.

"Yeah, absolutely, first and foremost for him," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I mean, he's done so much for us. He competes hard. He works hard. For a guy who's gone through this before, I really feel for him.

"As far as the team goes, sure it's a blow. This is a guy that has meant a lot to us, and we'll have to do something different."

Another Oakland starter, A.J. Griffin, will open the season on the disabled list with a muscle strain. There is no evidence of structural damage with Griffin, but this is another rotation absence for which the A's must account.

Monday, the injury situation in the rotation appeared to have reached epidemic status when lefty Scott Kazmir could not make his scheduled start against the Chicago Cubs because of triceps stiffness. Assistant general manager David Forst, however, termed the injury "very minor," and suggested that Kazmir might pitch again within the next two days.

The pitching depth the Athletics had was impressive over the last two years. They and the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals were the leaders in bringing up not just talented young pitchers, but ready-to-win talented young pitchers.

"Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray [of the A's], Michael Wacha [of the Cardinals]; we don't have that guy," said Jerry Dipoto, general manager of the Angels. "And I think in 28 cases, there are teams that don't have that guy. It just so happens that a team in our division has been able to produce that guy over the past couple of years."

In the case of the 2014 Athletics, the Parker/Gray kid pitcher reaching for early greatness is probably not going to make a third straight showing. But the A's are convinced that they have suitable replacements as starters.

"We believe so," Melvin said Monday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. "Jesse Chavez is a guy that really came into his own last year for us in numerous roles. We've had him stretched out this spring, and he's had a terrific spring."

Chavez is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in four Cactus League appearances, two of them starts. In 12 2/3 innings, he has given up eight hits, two walks and struck out 12.

"He did very well for us last year. In that [June 13] Yankees game we had that was 18 innings, he pitched multiple innings for us, and you could see that was kind of a stepping stone for him," Melvin said. "From that point, we weren't afraid to use him in any type of role -- in plus games, in length, in shorter stints. He's a guy that we've always targeted to start at some point because of his stuff and his repertoire.

"Now, he's getting his opportunity. For him it was probably a confidence issue at the big league level, and he overcame that last year."

The other pitcher who will likely step into the rotation is Tommy Milone, a left-hander who has already been a part of Oakland's rotation, making 57 starts for the A's over the last two seasons, although with a higher level of effectiveness in 2012 than in '13.

"We obviously thought that these guys could start when we brought them in here," Forst said of Chavez and Milone. "That's why we stretched Jesse out from the first day of Spring Training. That's why Tommy wasn't traded in the offseason despite everyone saying: 'What are they going to do with all these starters?'

"We've been through enough seasons to know five starters isn't going to make it, and in this case, five starters didn't make it to Opening Day

"We have to play the hand that we're dealt. We obviously spent a lot of time putting together pitching depth coming into the year, and some guys are going to have to step up."

An intriguing possibility at some point could be Drew Pomeranz, a former first-round Draft pick of the Cleveland Indians, once thought to have wonderful potential, still only 25. The Oakland club specializes in getting the most out of its pitchers. Pomeranz, although he may not be the rotation answer this week, could still be a long-term answer.

On what had to be categorized as a bad news day for the Oakland Athletics, this was a group that was down but far from out. The team suffered a serious hit to its rotation, but it has contingency plans on hand. This has been not only a resilient team, but a resilient organization. It will need to stay that way.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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