A's look to give Fuentes some low-leverage work

A's look to give Fuentes some low-leverage work

ARLINGTON -- Lefty Brian Fuentes has made just two appearances in two weeks, and the veteran is seemingly out of the late-inning mix -- at least for now.

Initially slowed by an ankle injury in the middle of the month, Fuentes didn't pitch in nine consecutive games, before allowing three runs in just 1/3 of an inning of work on Saturday against the Giants. He hasn't pitched since.

"I'd like to get him a nice, clean inning, where I don't have to put him in a tough position, since he hasn't pitched a lot," manager Bob Melvin said Thursday. "He did have the ankle injury. It's probably asking a bit much of him right now to bring him in a game in the eighth inning with the tying or winning run on. I'd like to get him a softer landing to get him going again, but in this ballpark, you tend to use the bullpen a bit more."

It was less than a month ago when Fuentes was anointed the team's closer, a role he only held for a couple of weeks before continual struggles led to Melvin going with a three-man, closer-by-committee approach. But Ryan Cook has received the majority of ninth-inning action since that time, and the All-Star worthy rookie appears to have solidified his full-time place in that role.

Righty Grant Balfour, meanwhile, has not allowed a run over his past 10 games, a stretch that has Melvin again confident in the hurler's set-up abilities in the eighth. Fuentes could return to a similar role, too, but not before he finds his groove again.

Fuentes, whose name has circulated around trade rumors, entered Thursday with a 6.85 ERA, highest among all American League relievers.

"I'd certainly like to get him in games more frequently," Melvin said. "We just had a stretch there where he wasn't in games, and it's kind of snowballed a bit."