balfour getty

Who will close next season in Oakland?


The A’s dealt closer Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox on Wednesday evening as part of a five-player swap. The trade has all sorts of implications, many of which we’ll analyze over the next few months leading into the start of spring training. But let’s start simple, with a look at the back end of the Oakland bullpen.

A’s assistant GM David Forst told Jane Lee of soon after the Bailey trade was officially announced that there are three primary candidates for the club’s opening at closer: Grant Balfour, Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine. They’ll duke it out in camp until a winner emerges.

Balfour, a native of Australia, has registered a 2.38 ERA since the start of the 2010 season and boasts a cool 9.9 career K/9. He seems like the probable front-runner for the ninth-inning job, given that he’d make for the most logical trade chip come July. The A’s are trying to get younger — trying to build a roster that will be competitive by the time they move into a new ballpark. Balfour is 33 years old and is owed $4 million in 2012.

De Los Santos has a sizzling fastball that averaged just under 96 mph this past year, but he’s only 25 years old and has just one year of major league service under his belt. The A’s can build around him. Devine also throws hard, but he’s amassed only 23 innings since the end of the 2008 campaign due to elbow problems.

If De Los Santos proves ready this spring or if Devine builds trust through good health, perhaps one of those two will get the nod. But padding Balfour’s trade value with a decent saves total might be the best route.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.