MINNEAPOLIS -- The major gamble of the A's offseason has become the major quandary of the early season, with Jim Johnson no longer the Oakland closer.

The A's didn't need Johnson or anyone else to close Thursday in a 6-1 win over the Minnesota Twins that completed a series sweep. Oakland built a five-run lead in the sixth, and Ryan Cook and Fernando Abad handled the eighth and ninth innings in a non-save situation.

But the A's will need a closer soon, perhaps Friday night when they open a three-game set in Seattle, and it's not clear whom that will be.

Manager Bob Melvin's decision for now is go with a closer-by-committee. Johnson's demotion is a short-term move, at least that's what the A's hope.

But with an 18.90 ERA, an 0-2 record and one blown save in five appearances, something had to be done. No one knows that better than Johnson.

"You've got to do what's best for the team, and Bob's the manager," Johnson said after the game. "Obviously it's not an ideal situation, but I'll fight like hell to get through it."

Melvin said Thursday morning that he would use a number of relievers -- Luke Gregerson, Cook, Sean Doolittle and Dan Otero -- to close while the club focuses on helping Johnson find his 50-save stuff from each of the last two seasons.


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In December, the A's traded for Johnson, who'd saved 101 games combined the last two years. The player cost wasn't much -- infielder Jemile Weeks and a minor-leaguer -- but it was a gamble because Johnson was arbitration eligible. The $10 million settlement between Johnson and the A's to avoid arbitration made him the second-highest-paid player on the Oakland roster before he'd ever thrown a pitch as an Athletic.

"We're going to give Jim a break from closing," Melvin said. "There's no timetable, and I'm not going to say that I'll be looking to give him a soft landing. We just want to let him get straightened out. And we have plenty of guys to do this."

Johnson said he was frustrated by his own performance, but Melvin said the closer understood the move.

"It's uncomfortable, yet he makes it easy because all he wants to do is win," Melvin said. "That's what he conveyed to me. He said 'I just want to win here, and if I'm not doing my job, I understand.' "

Cook was the only one of the potential closers to pitch Thursday, but it was more a case of him needing work. Oakland was up by the final count of 6-1 when he entered in the eighth.

Dan Straily (1-1) worked the first seven innings, allowing three hits and one run. A's starters have allowed three runs or less in all nine games this season, although Straily wasn't as dominant as his numbers suggested.

"It was apparent to me pretty early on that I didn't have my best stuff," he said. "I was able to mix things up a lot, and part of baseball is getting through when you don't have your best stuff."

Minnesota scored first when Brian Dozier homered with one out in the first. But that was it for the Twins, who managed only two more hits and two walks off Straily.

After Daric Barton's single tied the game in the second, the A's got two-run homers from Josh Donaldson in the third and Sam Fuld in the fourth and were able to put it on cruise control. Donaldson added a single late to finish with three RBIs.

  • The A's moved into first place in the American League West by a half-game over the Mariners. The A's have won nine in a row against Minnesota, matching their longest win streak ever in Oakland against the Twins.

  • Josh Reddick didn't play Thursday. He's hitting just .103 -- 3 for 29, all singles. Melvin said Reddick will be back in the lineup Friday.

  • Melvin wouldn't say if Coco Crisp would return Friday, when the A's face Felix Hernandez for the second time in a week. Crisp had a cortisone shot for his ailing left wrist and didn't play in Minnesota.

  • Outfielder Craig Gentry, on the D.L. all spring with back problems, joined the team Thursday morning but wasn't activated. Melvin said Gentry will be activated Friday or Saturday.

    FRIDAY'S GAME

    A's (Tommy Milone, 12-9 in 2013) at Seattle (Felix Hernandez, 2-0), 7:10 p.m. CSNCA