OAKLAND -- The tendency is to think of the A's as having a three-man bullpen in closer Grant Balfour, right-handed setup man Ryan Cook and left-hander Sean Doolittle.
Lefty Jerry Blevins has to be added into the equation, though, to add balances, and if you're talking to A's manager Bob Melvin, you're remiss if you don't include right-hander Dan Otero.
He was called up by Oakland to be a long man in June, but he's forced a reworking of his job description by pitching lights-out for over three months now.
Otero ended the season having allowed four runs (three earned) in 35ï»¿1/3 innings from June 25 on, good for an ERA of 0.76. For the season he was 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA.
"I include Otero in that group," Melvin said. "He's put himself in that group. With him we have the ability to make the game even shorter. He's good to come in with guys on base with that sinker he has."
Otero said he hasn't spent too much time reflecting on his rise from minor league closer to a member of one of the best bullpens in the game. It has been quite a rise. In 2009 he missed the season while recovering from Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery. And as recently as the final five days of spring training he was going to be released by the Mets before the A's claimed him on waivers.
"To have the manager include me like that is an honor," Otero said. "I want to thank Oakland for the opportunity. I'm happy for us to be where we want, and I'm living in the moment."
The moment has been made possible by Otero's single-minded focus on his job.
"The most important pitch isn't the one I just made, it's the next one I have to make," he said. "The most important game isn't the one we just played, even if we won. It's the next game."