Josh Outman has been optioned by the Oakland Athletics to Triple-A Sacramento following a frustrating spring where he was unable to find consistency from the mound.
Outman put together a very promising rookie season in 2009, going 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA and earning some All-Star consideration before his season was cut short by elbow troubles that led to Tommy John surgery in mid-June.
Outman missed the remainder of 2009 and all of 2010 as he rehabilitated and rebuilt arm strength. Outman had hoped to return to the Athletics rotation in late 2010, but setbacks with his rehab pushed that opportunity to this spring.
Outman's early bullpen sessions were promising, making him the early favorite to win the fifth starter competition when fellow recovering pitcher Rich Harden suffered a spring setback. Outman struggled in three appearances in Cactus League games however with an 11.59 ERA.
His demotion to Triple-A Sacramento will allow him to continue his rehabilitation and work on his mechanics and his control.
Outman will be only a phone call away if the need for his services arises later this summer, and he likely will compete for a full-time job again in 2012.
The A's have a deep rotation behind Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden. Tyson Ross, Brandon McCarthy, Bobby Cramer and Rich Harden are also ready to step in and fill the role of the fifth starter if necessary. Tyson Ross and Brandon McCarthy now appear to be the favorites for the position.
With Outman & Harden out, who should be the 5th Starter?
Cramer Rocked in Bid for Fifth Spot
Bobby Cramer had managed to stick with the pack through the first three weeks of spring training, but in his last outing he was hit hard, allowing nine hits, a walk and eight runs in three innings.
Cramer stated that the poor outing was a result of tweaking his back on a pickoff attempt in the first inning, leaving him at a disadvantage the following two innings.
"Embarrassing," Cramer said following his outing. "I've never had an outing like that at any level...I'm not the guy who can afford to have a (bad) day. I have to pitch my (butt) off."
The bad outing does not push Cramer out of the running. Manager Bob Geren says he will evaluate the spring as a whole, and not place too much emphasis on one outing.
This does more to hurt Cramer's chances than help him though, as he was already a long shot for the position.
McCarthy and Ross Battling for Final Position
Brandon McCarthy pitched well in his latest outing, helping his chances of winning the fifth starter position. McCarthy pitched into the sixth inning against the Royals in Surprise, Arizona. He allowed five hits, while walking four and giving up two runs. He struck out four.
"He's been very impressive and very consistent," manager Bob Geren said of McCarthy.
Meanwhile, Tyson Ross has dominated this spring. In 9.2 Cactus League innings so far this spring, Ross has yet to allow a run to score while recording seven strikeouts.
Ross' performance is definitely deserving of the fifth starter nod, however his versatility could allow the A's to keep him on the roster and pitch out of the bullpen as the long reliever and spot starter.