ARLINGTON, Texas – If Sean Doolittle is the A’s primary closer this series against the Rangers, you can thank Adrian Beltre.
The Rangers’ third baseman has begun the season on the disabled list, which means the 2-3-4-5 slots in the Texas lineup include three left-handers with Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor broken up only by right-hander Mike Napoli.
It’s a good setup for the left-handed Doolittle, who had left-handed hitters average just .206 against him last year and just .197 for his career. Beltre, who has always been tough on lefties, owns a .429 average against Doolittle, so sticking him in the middle of the Texas lineup would change A’s manager Bob Melvin’s considerations for closing.
Melvin won’t commit himself to using Doolittle in the ninth simply because those lefty-vulnerable spots in the batting order might come up in the eighth, and if so, that’s when Doolittle figures to come out of the bullpen.
The season is only four games old heading into Friday’s series opener against the Rangers, but the way things are playing out so far, it seems that right-hander Santiago Casilla and the left-handed Doolittle will work in some sort of matchup platoon in the ninth inning with Ryan Madson, last year’s closer, filling in from time to time.
During the opening four-game series against the Angels, Casilla got the save in the opener and pitched to the 2-3-4 men in the Angels’ lineup in the eighth inning of the fourth game of the series.
To this point, Doolittle has only pitched in the eighth inning in his two appearances, but that could be about to change.