Oakland A's

A’s Melvin encouraged by left-hander Abad’s recent outings

Oakland Athletics closer Fernando Abad (56) celebrates the final out with teammate catcher Josh Phegley (19) after a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, June 24, 2015.
Oakland Athletics closer Fernando Abad (56) celebrates the final out with teammate catcher Josh Phegley (19) after a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. AP

Left-hander Fernando Abad escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the eighth inning of the A’s 7-1 loss to Toronto on Tuesday night, but for manager Bob Melvin, the encouraging part of Abad’s outing was on the radar gun.

Abad hit 94 mph once and 93 mph several times during his 30-pitch outing. It wasn’t the cleanest appearance for Abad, who allowed a single and a walk in 11/3 innings, but he stranded both runners and lowered his ERA to 4.07 – down from 7.36 two months ago.

“For the past probably month, really, we’ve seen him pitch in the fashion that we’ve seen in the past,” Melvin said of Abad. “You look at the velocity first. … Anytime he’s over 92, 93 (mph), hitters have to start their bat a little earlier, and his breaking ball’s that much better because he’s creating the arm speed. He’s pitched well for us recently.”

Abad was a big part of the A’s bullpen struggles earlier in the year, as his above-7.00 ERA in late May indicated. Over his last 14 outings, though, Abad has allowed two runs in 131/3 innings. He also has pitched better against left-handers, who were batting .324 against him as of June 11 but have seen that drop to .278 entering Wednesday.

Overall, the bullpen has stabilized over the past month. A’s relievers have allowed one or zero earned runs in 20 of their last 24 games and have a 2.60 ERA over that time. The bullpen’s 4.10 ERA is still second highest in the American League, but a 3.35 mark over its last 48 games has brought that number down.

Drew Pomeranz has been a key to the better relief. He has a 1.56 ERA in 20 appearances since rejoining the bullpen June 3, giving Melvin another left-handed option during Abad’s struggles.

Not surprisingly, bullpen performance has been a key to the A’s record – good and bad. When the bullpen allows one or zero runs, the A’s are 36-20; when it gives up two runs or more, they are 5-31.

▪ The A’s, who were 6-18 this year against left-handed starting pitchers, faced another one Wednesday night in Toronto’s Felix Doubront, their third in a row. The lineup that will try to solve Doubront:

CF Burns

1B Vogt

2B Zobrist

DH Butler

RF Smolinski

3B Lawrie

C Phegley

LF Canha

SS Semien

And the Blue Jays’ lineup against A’s starter Sonny Gray, who will try to rebound from his last outing, in which he allowed two home runs for just the second time in a start in the majors:

SS Reyes

3B Donaldson

RF Bautista

DH Encarnacion

1B Colabello

C Martin

CF Pillar

LF Valencia

2B Travis

▪ Melvin said Coco Crisp (neck) “felt real good” after taking batting practice with the team on the field Tuesday and was scheduled to go through a full pregame workout again Wednesday. Crisp could be nearing a rehabilitation assignment, but only, as Melvin pointed out, if Crisp agrees to one.

“It’s his choice, and when he goes down there (to the minors), he’ll be monitored,” Melvin said. “We’ll see how he’s doing physically playing every day, how his at-bats are and so forth. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, because he’s the one who has to agree to it first.”

▪ The A’s held their annual Root Beer Float Day on Wednesday to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. It’s an especially meaningful day for Melvin, whose daughter has Type 1 diabetes and was on hand alongside current and former A’s players and local celebrities serving floats at the event.

Melvin also manages a player, Sam Fuld, who is diabetic, and said those connections have made him fully aware of the inherent challenges.

“People, when they think about diabetes, really just think it’s a nuisance,” Melvin said. “It’s a definite lifestyle. You have to be tough-minded. It’s a difficult thing.”

According to the A’s website, before Wednesday, the annual event had raised more than $414,000 for juvenile diabetes research since 2003.