Wuertz impressing in ninth-inning stint

Wuertz impressing in ninth-inning stint

SEATTLE -- When A's manager Bob Geren was asked before Saturday's game if his closer, Brad Ziegler, was over the non-baseball-related illness that had kept him out of the last two games, he didn't hesitate to answer, shaking his head with conviction.

Ziegler got sick Thursday in Texas and has presumably spent this entire Seattle sojourn holed up in his hotel room. That will likely continue in Sunday afternoon's getaway game at Safeco Field, leaving the A's with a question mark for the ninth inning.

Michael Wuertz got the job done on Thursday in Texas, although it wasn't exactly a breeze.

The 30-year-old right-hander, obtained from the Chicago Cubs in an offseason trade, entered the game with a three-run lead and gave up a solo home run to Andruw Jones among two hits surrendered in the inning, but he got through it and preserved the win, getting his first Major League save since 2004 in the process.

But on Saturday, Wuertz entered the bottom of the ninth on the road with a 3-2 lead and went right through the Mariners to notch Save No. 2 and give the banged-up A's a much-needed win.

Geren said Wuertz is a definite contender to keep stepping in in Ziegler's absence but also said the A's would rely more on matchups.

"I like all those guys [in the bullpen]," Geren said. "[Russ] Springer can do it; Wuertz can do it; and I might even give [Andrew] Bailey a shot at it."

Wuertz says he enjoys getting the chance to finish games in a Major League setting after doing the job from time to time in the Minors. He had four saves for Triple-A Iowa last season, striking out 29 batters in 20 innings.

"It's definitely a fun thing to do," said Wuertz, who is 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA and has struck out 13 batters in 13 2/3 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .227 average so far this season.

"There's a lot of adrenaline and you have to have some thick skin to deal with the results."

Wuertz said he learned a lot in Chicago by watching three different types of closers: Joe Borowski, Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster. He also says he realized, "Hey, I can do that."

"I think success in closing games really comes down to keeping things simple," Wuertz said. "You get that nervous adrenaline out of the way early and just concentrate on throwing strikes, getting ahead in the count and not putting runners on base with walks.

"Just don't try to overthink things."

Geren said he likes what he has seen in Wuertz's slider and breaking ball and makeup, which means it's possible he could be on the mound again on Sunday if it's a save situation and Ziegler's still sick.

Wuertz said he'd happily take the ball in the ninth any time.

"It's fun having that responsibility," he said. "The last three outs are the toughest to get in baseball."

Pitching matchup
OAK: LHP Josh Outman (0-0, 5.23 ERA)
Outman, who won the fifth spot in Oakland's starting rotation with a strong final appearance at Spring Training in Arizona, posted a 6.48 ERA in his first two assignments and was temporarily moved into the bullpen as the A's went with a four-man rotation in the wake of two off-days and a rainout in the span of a week. While working out of the 'pen, Outman retired six of the seven batters he faced. He'll be starting for the first time since April 17, and it'll be his second start of the year against the Mariners. The first time came on April 11, when he gave up three runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings.

SEA: RHP Chris Jakubauskas (1-3, 5.23 ERA)
Jakubauskas showed the composure the organization was looking for, bouncing back from a rough second career big league start to throw a complete game in his third. Where the 29-year-old rookie got ahead of himself against Tampa Bay, he was able to focus on strike one in Chicago. Jakubauskas retired the first 10 batters in a row on Tuesday as well as the final 13 batters he faced. The White Sox managed two hits that led to two runs, but Jakubauskas was otherwise flawless in a 2-1 loss.

Geren said third baseman Eric Chavez and second baseman Mark Ellis, both on the 15-day disabled list, underwent MRI exams. The results showed no structural damage on Chavez's right elbow, meaning it' s possible he'll be able to return to action May 10 when he's eligible. Ellis, however, will be out "four to six weeks," according to Geren, because of a calf strain. ... The A's took the field on Saturday night in the red, green and gray uniforms of the Oakland Oaks of the old Pacific Coast League on Turn Back the Clock Night, with the opposing Mariners dressed in 1939 Seattle Rainiers uniforms. ... Geren, when asked if he had placed any money on 50-1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird: "I didn't watch it. It's baseball season."

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Up next
• Monday: Athletics (Brett Anderson, 0-2, 5.01) vs. Angels (Shane Loux, 1-2, 5.24), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Tuesday: Athletics (Dallas Braden, 3-2, 2.10) vs. Angels (Anthony Ortega, 0-1, 5.56), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Athletics (Dana Eveland, 1-1, 7.40) vs. Rangers (Scott Feldman, 1-0, 6.75), 7:05 p.m. PT

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.