After weeks of speculation, the fifth starter competition is finally over and the A’s have their rotation set heading into the final week of spring training.
Injuries and ineffectiveness removed Rich Harden, Josh Outman and Bobby Cramer from the competition, leaving Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross to battle it out as the Cactus League came to a close.
With one game left before the beginning of the Bay Bridge Series against the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants, manager Bob Geren finally declared McCarthy the winner and fifth starter.
McCarthy experienced his only negative outing of the spring in his last start, but it was not enough for him to lose the job.
"He really only had one rough inning all spring," Geren told MLB.com's Jane Lee. "Other than that, he's been very good."
McCarthy was the most experienced starter remaining in the competition for the fifth starter role after Rich Harden was sidelined by a strained lat muscle on the first day of spring training.
"He obviously has a little bit of previous experience, and he's had a great spring," Geren told Lee. "He's only had one walk and 20 strikeouts, which is obviously a good indicator of how well he's throwing."
McCarthy has a 17-18 record, 4.58 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 ratios over parts of five major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers. McCarthy has made only 22 starts over the past three seasons due to shoulder injuries.
This spring he has appeared fully recovered and ready to contribute to an already stellar Athletics rotation.
McCarthy's main competition for the fifth starter role this spring, Tyson Ross, will now compete the final week for a role in the bullpen. Ross posted a very impressive 0.59 ERA this spring in 15.1 innings pitched.
The A's could keep Ross in the bullpen in long relief and for spot starts, or they could decide to send him to Triple-A Sacramento to continue on a regular pitching schedule and receive consistent innings.
"That's a decision we'll have to make at some point," Geren told Lee. "I'm mostly encouraged about Tyson and his development this spring. He's been pounding the strike zone with good fastball command."
With so many left-handed pitchers on the A's staff (Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden in the rotation, along with Brian Fuentes, Craig Breslow and Jerry Blevins in the bullpen), Ross stands a good chance of making the team as an additional right-handed arm.
Ross has expressed interest in remaining a starter, but he would embrace any role that earned him a spot on the major league roster. He gained experience as a reliever last season with the Athletics in two stints in the majors.
Ross should excel whether pitching out of the 'pen in Oakland, or continuing to gain experience as a starter in Sacramento.
According to Lee, Bob Geren seems to agree that Ross will have no problem with either role.
"He's got such a high ceiling, such big potential in whatever he does."
Brandon McClintock covers the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @BMcClintock_BR.