OAKLAND -- It's come faster than he could have ever imagined, but 26-year-old Dallas Braden is the old man on the A's pitching staff. When Ben Sheets went down with a season-ending elbow injury three weeks ago and Brett Anderson joined the rotation, baseball's youngest staff got even younger.
"Never do you think you are going to assume that veteran role at 26," Braden said. "It's not like I'm so weathered and grizzled that these guys look to me for advice or anything like that. We talk about stuff, but never did I put myself in this position this early in my career."
Braden said he feels a bit more responsibility to serve as a leader being the rotation's oldest member, but said it's more a case of leading by example, rather than words. Among the other members of the A's staff, Braden has clicked best with Saturday's starter Gio Gonzalez.
"Gio and I are very similar in our passion and our intensity for the game," Braden said. "When he got here early, he had some trouble trying to harness that emotion and channel it in a matter that wasn't showing anybody up -- that was still respectful of the game, respectful of himself, teammates. He's kind of leaned on me to help him through that."
With Braden, Gonzalez and Anderson, Oakland's rotation features three southpaws. In fact, Braden said he learns more about himself by watching the 24-year-old Gonzalez and 22-year-old Anderson pitch.
"All three of us are different pitchers and have different repertoires, but we're all looking to get outs," Braden said. "I think we can all sit back and watch each other and pick each other's brain on what worked against this guy, what worked against that guy."
While Braden said he enjoys the lefty companions, A's manager Bob Geren said he's more concerned with the quality of pitcher he gets to use, regardless of which way he throws. Oakland's rotation also has the benefit of working with Curt Young, one of eight left-handed pitching coaches in the Major Leagues.
"All that means is that there's another weirdo in the woodpile," Braden said of Young.