Grant Balfour was 6-for-6 in save opportunities to start the season, and he allowed one run in his first 10 appearances.
Now the A's closer has hit a rough spot, with a loss and two blown saves over his past four outings, plus a 23.14 ERA in that span.
That, combined with rookie setup man Ryan Cook's excellence has led to conjecture that Cook might supplant Balfour. Cook has not allowed a run in his first 10 outings with Oakland and has given up only one hit in his 11 innings.
It's unlikely, though, that the A's would go so quickly to Cook, just a month into his first full big-league season. Brian Fuentes, the A's left-handed setup man, has a great deal of experience closing, and he was a three-time All-Star at the position. He was the runner-up for the job during the spring.
Manager Bob Melvin said that he was not considering changing any bullpen roles after Tuesday's game, when Balfour loaded the bases and allowed two runs. It's likely that Balfour will get several more chances.
Cook, however, clearly will be the A's closer at some point, perhaps even this season, particularly if Balfour is traded before the deadline.
Fuentes pitched the ninth inning Wednesday, and he gave up one run but earned the save in Oakland's 4-2 victory at Boston. It was Fuentes's first save since June 19, 2011 -- and it was No. 200 of his career. He finished out the win not because of a new bullpen order but because of Balfour's recent heavy workload.
The A's took the series two games to one.
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