A's staying flexible with closer decisions

Melvin basing assignments on situation, pitchers' performance

A's staying flexible with closer decisions

OAKLAND -- The A's closer situation seems more fluid than ever, but on Sunday the ninth inning worked itself out.

With designated closer Sean Doolittle unavailable after having worked two consecutive games, Ryan Madson preserved a one-run lead in the ninth inning and allowed one hit to notch the save in Oakland's 3-2 win against the Royals at the Coliseum, his fourth in as many tries.

In Saturday's 5-3 win over the Royals, Madson notched his third, while Doolittle pitched in a setup situation. That was the plan all along, according to manager Bob Melvin, after Doolittle pitched a full ninth inning Friday.

Heading into Tuesday's series opener on the road against the Yankees, it appears Melvin will go with the pitcher that gives the A's the best chance to win. Even reliever John Axford, who has some closing experience, has not allowed a run in his first seven games this year, and tossed a perfect eighth inning Sunday, despite typically being the seventh-inning guy for Oakland.

"We feel good about any of those three guys," Melvin said. "Experience has gone a long way for us in the bullpen in late innings this year for sure."

Doolittle has a 6.35 ERA in seven appearances, not the kind of carryover Oakland was hoping for after he compiled a 6.43 ERA in seven Cactus League appearances.

Regardless of who is closing, it is clear that Oakland wants to get a key reliever like Doolittle going again.

"We're just trying to do the best we can with, number one, matchups and, number two, with how guys are pitching," Melvin said.

He added: "Whenever guys are getting into a tough start -- and [Doolittle] has never really struggled before -- you want to try to pitch him in some situations and scenarios where he's got a great chance to perform well, which we always feel like he's going to perform well."

Willie Bans is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.