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Oakland Athletics' starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy throws against the Baltimore Orioles at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011. The A's went on to win 6-5 and McCarthy got his sixth win (6-6). (Sherry LaVars/Staff)

PHOENIX -- A's right-hander Brandon McCarthy and his wife, Amanda, grace the cover of the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, which hit newsstands Wednesday.

The magazine wanted to talk to McCarthy about how he used analytics to help change his pitching motion -- a rather intellectual approach considered uncommon in baseball.

Last week, McCarthy was surprised when the publication contacted him for a cover shoot. They also requested Amanda -- who is quoted in the story -- to be part of the shoot.

"I'm still weirded out by it," McCarthy said of the whole experience. "It was originally just a regular article. Somehow it just got bigger and bigger."

McCarthy is shown in full uniform on the cover, and Amanda, a former model, is saddled up to him in a revealing outfit. The headline reads: "Chicks dig the ground ball."

Most in the A's clubhouse hadn't seen the cover Wednesday, and some weren't even aware of the story. Left-hander Dallas Braden had seen it.

"Oh, he's on the cover?" Braden joked, clearly aware that the gaze of many readers will lean toward Mrs. McCarthy.

McCarthy himself still hadn't read the story as of Wednesday afternoon. He's a low-key personality, and though he's developed quite a following for his Twitter humor -- as has Amanda -- he's not the sort to draw attention to himself.

"I'm scared as (heck) to read it," McCarthy said. "So I don't know how that's gonna go off. It's a cool thing and it's fun, but we don't feel like we're qualified for that."

  • After being a surprise contributor last season as a rookie, Fautino De Los Santos is looked upon to play a significant role in the A's bullpen this year.

    "This is a big year for him," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Now there's a little bit more of a target on him in that we expect big things out of him."

    De Los Santos, 26, earned his first call-up in June and wound up going 3-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 34 appearances. He had 43 strikeouts in 331/3 innings, displaying a fastball in the upper 90s that Melvin says could play well in the ninth inning.

    The A's are looking for a closer after trading Andrew Bailey to Boston in the offseason. Melvin has labeled the closer battle a four-way competition among De Los Santos, Grant Balfour, Joey Devine and Brian Fuentes.

    He has referred to Balfour and Fuentes as "obvious candidates" to close based on their late-inning experience, and he offered strong praise for both after watching them throw Wednesday.

    But it wouldn't be a surprise to see De Los Santos, who missed more than a year after reconstructive elbow surgery in 2008, to get some save opportunities.

    Melvin said De Los Santos must continue to sharpen his slider. He also wants De Los Santos to get better at holding runners and improve at getting ahead of hitters.

    De Los Santos issued 17 walks last season.

    "Typically, closers have one special pitch," Melvin said. "(Mariano) Rivera has his cutter. (Trevor) Hoffman had a change-up. For him, it's an exploding fastball. But for him to get better, he's got to work on other things."

  • The A's rotation is shaping up to be heavily tilted with right-handers, particularly if Braden, a left-hander, starts the season on the D.L. as he comes back from shoulder surgery.

    If that were the case, Tommy Milone is the only left-hander currently in camp who appears to be a legitimate starting candidate.

    "If it ends up being five righties, it ends up being five righties," Melvin said. "You're going to go with who performs best."