Cook added to A's closer mix

Cook added to A's closer mix

PHOENIX -- The Brian Fuentes experiment lasted less than half the time the Grant Balfour one did, and now neither are viewed as the A's lone closer.

Both are expected to still see ninth-inning action, though, as manager Bob Melvin has decided to move forward with a three-man closer-by-committee approach. Righty Ryan Cook, who has allowed just two runs all season, joins Fuentes and Balfour in the mix.

"I feel like we have three closers now," Melvin said Saturday. "We'll do the best we can to match up based on availability, left/right matchups. We'll do the best we can to get the guys in the right situations. I talked to all three of them."

The change comes less than 24 hours after Fuentes surrendered his second walk-off homer in as many weeks, the latest resulting in a 9-8 loss to the D-backs that was once a six-run Oakland lead. The left-handed Fuentes, who took over the ninth-inning role on May 13, has surrendered seven runs over his past four outings, forcing Melvin to stray from the one-man closer approach he prefers.

"I do," he said, referring to his preference, "but at this point in time, we're having a little bit of an issue with that. So, therefore, we're going to try a different group."

Cook has been lights out for the A's, evidenced by his 0.69 ERA spanning 26 innings. He ranks second among American League relievers in opponents' batting average (.085), and his .224 on-base percentage is sixth lowest. The numbers suggest the closer role may suit him best at the moment, but Melvin also acknowledged his value in other innings.

"I considered it, and it's very likely he could be the guy pitching in the ninth inning, but if there's one out in the eighth and the bases are loaded, he's probably my best option, too," he said of Cook, who appears to also be the A's most likely All-Star option. "You actually have to get to the ninth inning first.

"I'm open for anything right now. We're just going to try to get them in the best situations for them and for the team."

The right-handed Balfour, meanwhile, has showcased greater consistency his past few visits to the mound, turning in a 1.88 ERA over his last 14 games after allowing seven runs in 4 1/3 innings with two blown saves over his previous six contests.