As the A’s prepare to disembark for the Opening Series in Japan, manager Bob Melvin continues to face the unenviable task of cutting players from major league camp for reassignment to the minor leagues. While certain players such as catcher Derek Norris and pitcher Sonny Gray, head to minor league camp ready to build off their first spring with Oakland others such as outfielders Brandon Moss and Jeff Fiorentino face uncertainty as they spend another summer riding the bus and waiting for the call to come back to the show.
One such player who falls into the latter category, is left handed reliever Erick Threets. The 30 year old Hayward native fought back from Tommy John surgery in 2010 to pitch in the Mexican Winter League where he attracted the attention of A’s scouts. As documented by Susan Slusser, the A’s contacted his agent, former Oakland star Dave Stewart and worked out an invitation to spring training on a minor league contract. Showcasing a fastball, slider, change combination, Threets was effective in 6 spring training innings before his demotion. Seemingly avoiding the command issues that initially haunt TJS survivors, he notched a 1.35 ERA while striking out 5 against 2 walks allowed. Small sample size aside, Threets showed the potential that allowed him to throw 12 1/3 scoreless innings as a Chicago White Sox before his elbow injury in 2010.
Subscribing to the old adage that “if you’re left handed and you’re breathing, you can pitch in the majors”, Threets has every reason to accept his assignment not as a demotion but as motivation to continue his recovery from surgery and eventually make his way back to the big leagues and salvage his once promising career. With the A’s bullpen very much in flux, due to inexperience and the injury to Joey Devine the opportunity for Threets to return to Oakland may yet present itself. With the lefty corps of the bullpen consisting of the embattled Brian Fuentes, Sacramento-Oakland yo-yo Jerry Blevins, and the wildly inconsistent Jordan Norberto doing very little to inspire confidence in fans and management, his services may be needed sooner rather than later.
Perhaps Erick Threets will play an important role in the Oakland’s success this year. In a division packed with lefty threats like Jose Hamilton and Ichiro Suzuki, the necessity of having an effective late inning southpaw reliever is paramount to a teams success. While he can only control so much, it’s a good bet that we’ll see him pitching in Oakland at some point this season. After all, Tyson Ross shouldn’t be all alone in representing the 510 in 2012.