DETROIT -- When Curt Young took over as the A's pitching coach before the 2004 season, he inherited a staff that featured All-Star starters Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, one of the top prospects in the game in Rich Harden, and an accomplished and veteran bullpen.
The staff that Young, 48, is guiding to the finish line in 2008 is the polar opposite. The starting rotation is as green as Oakland's batting-practice jerseys, and with the exception of Alan Embree, Keith Foulke and Huston Street, the bullpen is similarly inexperienced
Young insists his job these days is no more difficult now than it was when he took over, though, noting that the ultimate goal remains very much the same.
"It's not harder. It's just different," Young said Monday before the opener of a three-game series against the host Tigers at Comerica Park. "You're always trying to teach and help guys learn. Whether you're dealing with veterans or young guys, whether you're coaching in the big leagues or in [Class A] ball, you're trying to accomplish the same things."
Young mentioned by name lefty starters Dana Eveland and Gio Gonzalez, using Eveland -- who got off to a strong start this season but ran into command issues that earned him a trip to the Minors -- as an example of one of his pitchers who has made great strides.
"Going down [to Triple-A Sacramento] really helped Dana get his mechanics and his command back in order, and to see him come back up and show the kind of improvement he's shown, that's something you really enjoy seeing as a coach," Young said.
Gonzalez, who was scheduled to make his seventh big league start Monday, was cited as something of a work in progress.
"I think he's starting to learn what Dana's learned, that the command and location of your pitches is so important up here," Young said. "Gio was a big strikeout guy in the Minors, and you try to get across to him that you're not going to strike a lot of people out up here."
Young said he's optimistic about the future of his pitching staff, adding that the final three weeks of the season will provide the many youngsters with plenty of learning opportunities.
"We have a lot of guys up here who I think are starting to prove to themselves that they belong up here, and the more they get in there, the stronger they're going to feel about that," he said. "It was fun to work with guys like Huddy and Mark and Zito, but it's been fun watching these guys here improve their games, too."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.