OAKLAND In last year's American League Division Series, the upstart A's countered the Detroit Tigers' vaunted pitching rotation by starting rookies Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone in Games 1 and 2.
This year, they'll send a rookie to the mound for Game 2 again but by choice, not necessity. This time he'll be following a veteran who will make his sixth postseason appearance after being a spectator in 2012.
A's manager Bob Melvin announced Tuesday his rotation for the ALDS will be Bartolo Colon in Friday's Game 1, followed by Sonny Gray, Parker and Dan Straily.
A.J. Griffin, who is dealing with mild tendinitis in his throwing elbow, will not be on the A's roster for the series.
The setup means Gray, who has 10 major-league starts since debuting in July, will oppose the Tigers' Justin Verlander, who last year beat the A's twice in the ALDS.
Gray, who had a 1.99 ERA in the regular season at O.co Coliseum and a 3.86 ERA on the road, will get a start at home, while Parker draws the first game after the series shifts to Detroit.
"That factors in maybe a little bit," Melvin said of Gray's home-road splits. "But I think just more the comfortability. He pitched in the game when we clinched (the A.L. West) here in front of a big crowd. Jarrod has pitched in conditions like pitching in Detroit in the first game (last year)."
The A's played much of the second half last year with an all-rookie rotation after Colon's 50-game suspension. This season, Colon won 18 games with a 2.65 ERA and is a leading candidate for the Cy Young Award, along with Friday's opponent, Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer, a 21-game winner.
After missing last year's playoffs, Colon said Tuesday it was "really important for me" to draw the Game 1 start. Melvin said the right-hander gives the A's "that veteran presence that's going to lead us off," while first baseman Brandon Moss suggested Colon's style of pitching could benefit the A's amid the intensity of a series opener.
"He's going to make them put the ball in play," Moss said. "I think with a guy like him that throws as many strikes as he does and as many ground balls as he does and works as fast as he does, maybe that can keep guys from putting together a big inning. Because if you get those guys rolling, it's really hard to stop."
Griffin finished behind only Colon on the A's in wins (14) and ERA (3.83) and pitched effectively in September. But Melvin said the A's want to be "cautious" with Griffin's elbow, though he said a recent X-ray showed no structural damage.
"It's continuing and not getting any better it's actually getting a little worse at times," Melvin said. "At this point in the season, we would like to see it getting considerably better each and every time, and it hasn't. So we feel like he needs this break."
Griffin said he has dealt with elbow pain in previous seasons and feels he could pitch this series, but that he didn't fight the decision.
Melvin said he hopes Griffin will be available if the A's reach the A.L. Championship Series.
Parker will start against Detroit's Anibal Sanchez in Game 3, with Straily opposing right-hander Doug Fister if a Game 4 is needed.
Et cetera Melvin said Yoenis Cespedes' status for Friday still is uncertain. Cespedes, whose shoulder has been bothering him, took batting practice during the A's workout Tuesday but did not play catch, though he told reporters he intends to be in left field for the game.
"Even if it's bothering him a little bit, there's a good chance you'd see him DH," Melvin said. "Based on his comments and how he feels right now, I think there's a reasonably good chance at the very least he'll be DHing on Friday."
Melvin gave a fairly clear picture of the A's ALDS roster, including three catchers Stephen Vogt, Derek Norris and Kurt Suzuki. Vogt, a left-handed hitter, figures to play a prominent role against the Tigers' four right-handed starters.
The same may go for first baseman Daric Barton, with Nate Freiman (abdominal strain) still unable to play. Freiman won't be on the roster but will travel with the team, along with Griffin and Milone, Melvin said.
The A's bullpen will be Brett Anderson, Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins, Jesse Chavez, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Dan Otero.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the A's had sold out Game 1 of the ALDS, while fewer than 1,000 tickets remained for Game 2. View-level seats remained available for a possible Game 5 and all possible ALCS home games.
A'S VS. DETROIT
Best of five; times TBA; x-if necessary
Game 1: Friday vs. Tigers, 6:37 p.m., TBS
Game 2: Saturday vs. Tigers, 6:07 p.m., TBS
Game 3: Monday at Tigers, TBS or MLB
Game 4: x-Oct. 8 at Tigers, TBS
Game 5: x-Oct. 10 vs. Tigers, TBS Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.