Geren remains coy on Ziegler's role

Geren remains coy on Ziegler's role

DETROIT -- A's manager Bob Geren tiptoed around the question, leaving just enough ambiguity to prevent the declaration of rookie phenom Brad Ziegler as the A's new closer.

But one thing was clear after Friday night's 4-2 win at Comerica Park, in which Ziegler picked up his first career save. The 28-year-old submariner will get more opportunities to extend his record-breaking 37-inning scoreless streak in save situations.

"He's definitely earned that right," Geren said. "[On Friday] he had his first taste of it ... and you can't get much more of a difficult save than he did."

Ziegler entered in the eighth inning with a two-run advantage and a chance to secure the A's first win since July 27. He made quick work of the Tigers with two strikeouts in the eighth, seemingly giving him the right to return the next inning, though Geren said afterward he planned to work Ziegler both innings, regardless.

Ziegler overcame a leadoff walk to Magglio Ordonez to start the ninth before setting down Miguel Cabrera and inducing a game-ending double play from Gary Sheffield.

"I was watching their [batting practice], and anything up, they just pounded," Ziegler said of the Tigers' trio of sluggers, who have combined for 44 home runs and 184 RBIs this season. "Even if you keep the ball down, it doesn't mean they can't beat you, but it's going to increase your chances."

Last Saturday, Geren didn't necessarily pull Huston Street from the closer's role, but said that he would give more opportunities to the club's young relievers, particularly left-hander Jerry Blevins and the right-handed Ziegler.

Since he made his Major League debut on May 31, Ziegler has made the most of every opportunity and has added his name to lists littered with some of baseball's greatest pitchers.

Already under his belt is the mark for consecutive scoreless innings to start a Major League career, which was last set in 1907 by George McQuillan. After Friday's effort, he tied the A's club record for consecutive scoreless innings and moved to just two innings shy of tying Al Benton (1949), who holds the record for the longest scoreless streak by a reliever. If Ziegler puts up four more scoreless innings, he will pass Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Grover Alexander for the longest scoreless streak by a rookie.

"Almost every time he pitches," Geren said, "it's a story."

The biggest story now, though, is Ziegler's new role with the A's -- even if it's not exactly official.

"I'm not sure my role in this game long-term is as a closer," Ziegler said. "But if I can help our team get a win, throw a couple innings and save the rest of the bullpen, then I'll do whatever I can to help."

Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.