OAKLAND -- Since rocking back and forth on a see-saw in 2011, when he had six stints with the A's, lefty reliever Jerry Blevins has quietly turned into a stable presence for Oakland's bullpen this season.
With a 2.36 ERA and 1.08 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) over 30 appearances entering Wednesday -- four more than he made all of last year with Oakland -- Blevins is progressively earning more work in key situations. Take Tuesday night in the eighth, when he was brought in with Red Sox runners on first and second and no outs with a one-run deficit, only to pick up three quick outs, including two strikeouts. In the ninth, he also stranded two, allowing the A's to come back for a walk-off win.
"He's done this here for the last month or so," manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday. "You look at his numbers, and they've been terrific. A little bit of a Houdini act yesterday to get out of that inning. We talk about momentum swings that the defense can bring, and I think that was important based on the fact we had a rough bottom half of the eighth, where we had some opportunities. Now they have the opportunity to break the game open, and we're the ones who come back to the dugout with the momentum."
Blevins is one of three lefties remaining in the A's bullpen following the club's decision to designate veteran Brian Fuentes for assignment Tuesday, and his recent performance, Melvin said, was part of the decision to part ways with Fuentes.
"Every left-hander we have down there now, we feel like we can pitch in plus games," Melvin said. "We're not afraid to run [Blevins] out there. I think consistent work does keep him sharp. He's not a guy that's going to throw the ball by you at 97 [mph]. He needs touch and feel on his pitches, so consistent work really helps him."
Carter looking more comfortable in Majors
OAKLAND -- Chris Carter has always been able to hit in the Minor Leagues. Since his most recent callup to the big leagues last Friday, it appears he's figured out how to cut it in the Majors, too.
In the three games he's played for the A's so far, the first baseman has collected five hits in 11 at-bats, including two home runs. The sample size is certainly small, and that may prevent any long-term forecasting at the moment.
But A's manager Bob Melvin said he's noticed that Carter has looked a lot more confident at the plate this season compared to his stint with Oakland last year, when he hit just .136 in 15 games. Carter confirmed that his confidence in the big leagues is higher than ever, leading to a more relaxed feeling at the plate.
"It feels good to get a few hits early so you don't have to press for any later," Carter said before Wednesday's game against the Red Sox. "You look at the scoreboard and see you're hitting like .150 or something, it's kind of tough, and you start pressing."
Carter made a big impact in the A's win Tuesday night, despite his error in the fourth inning that led to a go-ahead Boston run. The rookie was able to shake it off, though, and later had the most important defensive play of the game, when he made a diving catch on Nick Punto's bunt in the ninth and doubled off Mike Aviles at first.
That helped prevent the Red Sox from adding to their tenuous lead. Carter took his momentum into the bottom of the inning, hitting a leadoff single to begin an A's rally that ended in a walk-off win. Melvin said he thought plays like those are helping the first baseman to believe he belongs in the big leagues.
With Carter expected to be in the lineup every time Oakland faces left-handed pitchers for the foreseeable future, he's guaranteed playing time at least semi-consistently. Early on, thanks to his growing confidence, that's amounting to better results for the rookie.
"In the past, he's put up terrific numbers in Triple-A and has had a little bit of a tough time here," Melvin said. "Now all of a sudden, he's doing it not only offensively but defensively, and now I think as far as the confidence factor, he's probably feeling as good as he's ever felt at the big leagues right now."