OAKLAND — Billy Beane has the perfect solution for his Oakland Athletics to advance in the playoffs, to get past Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
Clone Verlander and put him in green and gold.
The A’s realize they let a great chance to win the AL division series get away in Game 4 at Comerica Park. That sent them back to the Oakland Coliseum to face Verlander once more in Game 5.
Verlander pitched another gem and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning during a 3-0 win, not much different from his four-hit, 6-0 shutout here 364 days earlier to end the A’s season.
“Short of cloning our own Verlander and having him on Game 5 to go toe to toe ... we want to put ourselves in position to have those days and hopefully come out on top, or win Game 4,” Beane said.
The Oakland general manager plans to keep his club as close to intact as possible to make another run at the playoffs next year, and that starts with exercising a $7.5 million option for leadoff hitter Coco Crisp.
“Before you ask, it’s pretty apparent that we would pick up Coco Crisp’s option,” he said. “Beyond being one of the GM’s personal favorites, he’s also been a very good player, and my kids’ favorite.”
Crisp, who hit a career-best 22 home runs in the leadoff spot, declined to speak to reporters while cleaning out his belongings and saying his clubhouse farewells.
The sting from this year’s finish was a little bit stronger considering how the A’s won the West this time compared to stunning the Texas Rangers in game No. 162 last year.
“It’s hard to sort of rank disappointment in playoffs, they’re all disappointing,” Beane said. “It’s always risky to put the fate of your hands in somebody like Justin Verlander. You’d prefer not to be in that situation. He’s one of the best pitchers of his generation, he’s proven it to us in Game 5 two years in a row. ... It’s like asking which hangover is the worst, the one on New Year’s Eve or whenever you decide on another one. They’re all bad.”
Still, Beane wouldn’t trade the opportunity to be in such meaningful games this time of year.
Manager Bob Melvin expects to contend again.
“I think we’ll have the same mindset, we’re awfully disappointed how this season ended,” Melvin said.
Small-budget Oakland, coming off consecutive AL West crowns, also plans to try to re-sign Bartolo Colon. The 40-year-old 18-game winner lost Game 1 of the division series, and Melvin started rookie Sonny Gray in in Game 5 against Verlander.
Colon returned from a suspension-shortened 2012 season to earn every bit of the $3 million the A’s gave him in a one-year contract. He served a 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test, and the penalty took him into the start of this season. He wasn’t part of the playoffs last season.
“Bart’s been great for us for two years, and the fact of the matter just looking at the numbers of what he did and what he provided for you, I’m foolish even at this early juncture to say we wouldn’t have interest in bringing him back,” Beane said.
“He’s great on the mound, he’s sort of a nice, relaxing personality in the clubhouse among a bunch of kids. ... Me and Bart exchange smiles on a series by series basis and a few jokes. He’s a great guy to have around, that’s why we brought him back last year. The fact of the matter is he was a really good pitcher for us and that’s the best thing that he brings to the table,” he said.
The A’s very well could lose closer Grant Balfour in free agency as the team rarely spends big money on its bullpen. If he departs, Melvin would feel comfortable turning the ninth-inning duties to Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook or even surprising newcomer Dan Otero.
Gray, who broke a bone in his left hand on Prince Fielder’s comebacker while taking the Game 5 loss, was scheduled for an MRI exam but said he believed he could have pitched in the ALCS. Though Melvin said that was unlikely.
Right-hander Jarrod Parker also was set for an MRI on his sore pitching elbow Friday, while 14-game winner A.J. Griffin goes into the offseason healthy after being kept off the division series roster with elbow tendinitis. He was likely to re-join the rotation had the A’s advanced. Beane also envisions lefty Brett Anderson back in the rotation after a late-season stint as a reliever. He has an $8 million option Beane expects to exercise. But Anderson has a $12 million option for 2015.
Melvin was still coming to grips Friday morning with the season ending when he fully intended to be flying East to Boston for Game 1 of the AL championship series Saturday at Fenway Park.
“I don’t think anybody thought today we would be packing,” Melvin said. “It’s a pretty empty feeling. You think you’re going to do more.”
Now, the A’s have their rallying cry looking forward to 2014.
“We’ve beaten on this door a couple times,” Melvin said, “we need to actually kick it in.”