Tommy Milone and Tyson Ross will serve as the Oakland Athletics' third and fourth starters this year, with Grant Balfour closing out games. Milone and Ross will slot after Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon.
Milone, 25, was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez deal. He has a 4.97 ERA in 12.2 innings this spring. Milone doesn't have the velocity or pure stuff of some of the other players in A's camp, but relies on his pinpoint control to get hitters out. His control is real, as he posted a 9.69 K/BB in 2012 pitching in triple-A.
Ross, 24, was drafted by the A's in the second round of the 2008 draft. He's made appearances for the club in 2010 and 2011, but is now expected to carry a heavy load in the rotation. Ross went to High School just miles from the stadium he now plays in and pitched in college for the nearby University of California, Berkeley.
The A's still have not named a fifth starter, but due to opening the season in Japan and the way off days fall, they won't need one until April 17th. The two top candidates are Brad Peacock and Jarrod Parker. Peacock, also acquired from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez deal, owns a 12.86 ERA this spring. Parker, the centerpiece of the Trevor Cahill deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is the most talented of all the young A's and will be in the majors sometime this year, most likely sooner rather than later.
Balfour won the closer's job over lefty Brian Fuentes. Many thought Fuentes had the advantage, as he owns 199 saves to Balfour's 10. But manager Bob Melvin and his coaching staff must have liked what they saw from Balfour this spring. The closer's job is likely to change as the season goes forward, due either to ineffectiveness or a trade. Fuentes and Balfour are both in the last year of their contracts. If they are traded, expect in-house candidates Joey Devine and Fautino De Los Santos to share closing duties.