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Inbox: Will Oakland change back end of rotation?

Beat reporter Jane Lee answers Athletics fans' questions

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Do you really see the A's sticking with this rotation? I just don't see us making it through the season like this, with so many uncertainties in the back end of the rotation.
-- Douglas M., San Leandro, Calif.

Despite some obvious struggles stemming from the back end, you have to be pretty pleased with the way the A's exited April, considering they're without two-fifths -- Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin -- of a rotation they expected to carry into the season. I do think a change in personnel is needed if Dan Straily and Tommy Milone are unable to string together some consistently strong outings, particularly in such a strong division.

Drew Pomeranz is an obvious choice to plug in, and Wednesday's performance suggested he's quite capable of maintaining a starting role on a permanent basis. Now that he's stretched out to about 70 pitches, there's a good chance that Oakland is flirting with the idea of keeping him in the rotation, or at least experimenting with it for awhile. I also wouldn't be surprised if the A's are seeking outside help.

When will we see Fernando Rodriguez and Eric O'Flaherty? The bullpen is not their biggest strength right now, even though we were told to believe it was, and I don't understand why changes aren't being made to fix it.
-- Tyler S., Petaluma, Calif.

On paper, the A's bullpen looked to be one of the best in the game entering the year. I still would consider it as such, despite some early struggles -- which are always magnified, since several close games hinge on their performance. So I don't see them altering the look of it, unless Ryan Cook (forearm strain) needs to go on the disabled list.

Should that be the case, Rodriguez is the obvious choice to get the callup, considering how well he's pitching in Triple-A. O'Flaherty, meanwhile, will face hitters this weekend for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he's probably a few weeks away from a return.

Who do you think will be the A's All-Stars this year?
-- Jon H., Seattle

Unlike last year, I think Josh Donaldson will find his way onto the All-Star roster, and it's probably a safe bet to assume Sonny Gray will join him, too. I wouldn't be surprised if the A's have another pitcher on the roster, too -- perhaps Scott Kazmir or Jesse Chavez, depending how they fare in the next two months.

When do we see Derek Norris in the starting lineup every day? Isn't it about time? His bat's too good to be on the bench as much as it is.
-- Jesse D., Manteca, Calif.

Keeping Norris in a platoon is part of why he's enjoyed so much success. Yes, he's hit right-handers just as well as lefties this year, signaling it may be time for him to resume everyday catching duties, but the A's are rather strict in their ways and still employ another catcher who also hits righties well. So as long as they have John Jaso, Norris will still continue to see the majority of his at-bats against left-handed starters.

At the very least, Norris' production has possibly made Jaso expendable, so Oakland likely wouldn't be afraid of parting with him if the opportunity to land the right return came through. This, in itself, is significant, and I'd suspect Norris is playing on an almost everyday basis by season's end. If not, definitely by next year.

Does Gray throw a cutter? There have been several times this year where his pitches have been registered as a cutter and look like a cutter, but I never remember hearing that this is something he threw, even going back to college. Do you know the answer?
-- Dominic N., Dallas

Gray does not throw a cutter. He does throw a rather hard changeup that he's throwing with a different grip this year, and often times the movement and speed he gets on it makes it appear like a cutter. But Gray says he's never thrown one. He only utilizes three pitches, even though it seems like much more than that -- fastball, changeup, curveball.

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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