Devine stepping up in bullpen

Devine stepping up in bullpen

ANAHEIM -- As one might expect, Joey Devine's mentor since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento to join the A's bullpen has been lefty setup man Alan Embree, a veteran of 15 big league seasons.

There isn't much Embree, 38, hasn't experienced in the game, so he's taken it upon himself to take Devine, a 24-year-old righty acquired in the January trade that sent Mark Kotsay to Atlanta, under his wing.

"He's taken me out to dinner a couple of times, and we play cards," Devine said Thursday before the finale of a four-game series at Angel Stadium. "He's just a great guy, and I'm always picking his brain. Everybody's been great here, though. I feel very blessed to be with these guys.

"It's just like I heard it would be.

Devine, who was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in eight appearances through Wednesday, heard about what to expect in Oakland from his mentor with the Braves, former A's ace Tim Hudson.

"He was one of the guys I leaned on when I was with Atlanta," Devine said of Hudson, who was with the A's from 1999-2004 before being traded to the Braves for lefty starter Dan Meyer, outfielder Charles Thomas and righty reliever Juan Cruz in December 2004.

"I talked to Tim quite a bit, and after the trade he told me I was going to have a blast here. He had nothing but good things to say about Oakland. He said I was going to love it here, and I do."

Atlanta's first-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Devine made his big league debut a year later and made 10 appearances with the Braves. He made 10 more appearances for them last season, going 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA.

A power pitcher with a mid-90s fastball, Devine has a unique breaking ball that he holds with what he calls a "spike" grip. His index finger is flat on the ball, and his middle finger is bent.

"It's like a knuckle-curve grip," he explained.

That's the pitch he was in the process of throwing Wednesday night when, after coming on for starter Dana Eveland with runners at second and third base in the sixth inning, Jeff Mathis surprised the A's with a suicide-squeeze bunt.

"It was perfect timing," Devine conceded. "I did what you're supposed to do in that situation, go up and in, but he got it down."

Mathis placed it beautifully up the third-base line and ended up with an RBI single, and Chone Figgins followed with an RBI single before Devine got out of the inning.

"The last thing you want to do as a reliever is give up another guy's runs," Devine said. "You definitely feel bad when it happens."

The A's feel great about Devine in general, though. He was called up April 10 to fill in for injured righty Keith Foulke, striking out 10 while allowing nine hits and three walks for a 1.20 WHIP over 10 innings through the rest of the month.

"I call him 'Devine Intervention,'" Embree said "He came up when Foulkie went down, and he's done a nice job filling the gap."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.