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Bullpen roles clearer without closer by committee

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ST. PETERSBURG -- With Sean Doolittle expected to assume closer duties for the A's, the lefty's bullpen mates now have a better understanding of their roles.

Not that they didn't before, with manager Bob Melvin regarded as a great communicator with his players. But there should be greater consistency with how they are used, now that Doolittle is essentially locked into the ninth inning.

"I think everybody has a clearer idea to this point how it will potentially set up," Melvin said.

The plan should not surprise anyone.

Righty Luke Gregerson will act as the primary eighth-inning setup man to Doolittle, with Dan Otero typically getting the seventh inning. Southpaw Fernando Abad will be called upon for lefties.

As for Jim Johnson, who lost the closer title just 11 days into the season following a string of struggles, he's "a little bit of a wild card," Melvin said.

"And I told him that," he said. "It might be a couple innings, it might be a couple outs in the sixth, it might be two innings in an extra-inning game. If Doolittle were the closer and wasn't available on a day, it could be him.

"He's got the most difficult role to explain, but he understands it and is going to do the best he can to get back to performing like he expects to."

Johnson, carrying around a $10 million salary and 7.00 ERA, has allowed seven earned runs over his past six outings spanning just 4 1/3 innings after a scoreless streak of 10 1/3 innings.

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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