Picture cloudy for potential fifth starters
Saarloos auditions again Friday after Harden scratched
SAN FRANCISCO -- Thursday was supposed to be something of an audition for Seth Etherton and Kirk Saarloos, the two A's right-handers battling for the fifth spot in Oakland's rotation.But Saarloos never took the stage, and Etherton didn't pitch well enough to show he's ready to star on Broadway -- much less at the ballpark off Hegenberger Road in Oakland. "I thought I threw the ball well," Etherton said. "It was that one inning and probably about 10 or 15 pitches where I wasn't locked in and they capitalized on it." Instead of seeing relief duty in Thursday's 6-5 loss, Saarloos will start Friday's game in place of Rich Harden, who was scratched because of a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. The A's are all but certain Harden's blister won't keep him from starting the second game of the regular season Wednesday in Baltimore. Etherton's one bad inning came in the third. He began it by plunking No. 8 hitter Mike Matheny with a slow breaking pitch, and after a sacrifice bunt moved Matheny to second, Etherton lured a slow roller to second out of Ray Durham. Keith Ginter charged in on the ball but couldn't handle it cleanly, and Durham was on with what was generously ruled a hit. There was no doubt about the Giants' next two hits. Omar Vizquel roped a two-run double to right, and one Etherton walk later, Moises Alou drove a mirror-image double to left to bring home Vizquel. Etherton also gave up a solo home run to Alou in the fifth and wound up with five earned runs allowed in five innings, with two walks, two strikeouts and a hit batsman. Prior to the game, manager Ken Macha said he was hoping to get 85 to 90 pitches out of his starter and said he planned to get Saarloos some work after that. But Etherton left after throwing 70 pitches through five and, with Saarloos on hold until Friday, was replaced by a string of bullpen regulars. "I thought [Etherton] pitched OK," said Macha. "It wasn't like he was terrible, and it wasn't like he was great." "I just didn't get ahead of guys," said Etherton of his faulty third inning. "I was falling off a little bit mechanically. I threw some balls over the plate and they hammered them. "Besides that, it was a good outing, just one inning that got away from me."
Tony Kuttner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.