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Melvin preps A's bullpen with Cook's health in doubt

  • Oakland reliever Ryan Cook says he'll be ready on Opening Day, but the Athletics are preparing the bullpen in case he isn't. (JIM MONE / Associated Press)

PHOENIX — Just how much spring training does a relief pitcher need before he's ready for the regular season? The A's are about to find out. Ryan Cook, who has been out with shoulder discomfort, said over the weekend that he expects to be ready to start the season despite not having faced hitters yet this spring.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin would like to believe that's true, but he said Monday that the A's have to be prepared just in case Cook isn't ready come the March 31 opener against Cleveland at the Coliseum.

“It's going to be close to see if he's ready,” Melvin said. “We're still holding out hope. It depends on how he does each and every time out.” The plan is for Cook to be tested in a bullpen session Thursday, throwing off a mound for the first time since feeling the discomfort in his right shoulder in the offseason. He likely would need a second session two to three days later, then he could face hitters sometime next week.

What would be about 6 weeks of spring training work is being compressed into about three weeks, and the A's are not inclined to rush him. If Cook isn't good to go come March 31, the A's will turn to someone else until he is.

The good news for Oakland is that it has options. Luke Gregerson performed the same type of right-handed setup relief role in San Diego last year that Cook did in Oakland, going 6-8 with a 2.71 ERA. Cook was 6-4 with a 2.54 ERA.

Dan Otero might not throw with the same high-90s velocity as Cook, but the former Triple-A closer in Sacramento had a 1.38 ERA and just six walks in 39 innings last year And Jesse Chavez and Evan Scribner, right-handers both, have had impressive spring to date.

GRIFFIN GIVES UP ON CUTTER

A.J. Griffin will be featuring a new look this year. The right-handed starter is ditching the cutter he picked up in 2011 in favor of the changeup that used to be part of his repertoire before he made it to the big leagues.

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