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Johnson could be close to regaining closer reins

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BOSTON -- The A's are not yet ready to rename Jim Johnson their closer, but they may be close.

Asked Friday before the start of a three-game set vs. the Red Sox about the status of the ninth inning, manager Bob Melvin smiled and said, "We have some options, let's put it that way."

"Jim Johnson is pitching his way into late-inning stuff again," he noted. "How we get there, I think the potential is there for anything at this point."

After giving up at least two runs in three of his first five appearances for his new team, Johnson has not allowed a run over his last seven outings. Opponents are hitting just .188 against him over that stretch.

During Johnson's ninth-inning absence, Melvin has been playing to matchups with lefty Sean Doolittle and right-hander Luke Gregerson, but neither has jumped out of the pack. Doolittle has allowed seven runs in his last five games, and Gregerson has surrendered four over his last six outings.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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