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Sunday, April 30, 2006
Macha, Beane to discuss A's pitching woes Monday

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With one starter hurt and another's fastball stuck in first gear, the Oakland Athletics' rotation is far from what they expected when they retained ace Barry Zito and signed veteran Esteban Loaiza in the offseason.

Starting Pitcher
Oakland Athletics

4 0 3 9 6 8.35

Manager Ken Macha has a meeting set for Monday with general manager Billy Beane to discuss pitching. And while Macha declined to go into specifics before Sunday's game against the Kansas City Royals, he told writers to be prepared "to fill up your notebooks on the subject."

The two will meet in Anaheim, where the A's open a series against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. They will have plenty to talk about.

Loaiza, signed to a three-year, $21.4 million deal in November, is likely to be at the top of the list. He is 0-3 and fighting velocity problems.

Zito is 1-2 with a 5.93 ERA. Dan Haren is 1-2. Joe Blanton is 3-2 after Sunday's 13-6 victory over the Royals, but he issued a career-high five walks in five innings and his ERA went up to 6.14.

Rich Harden is off to a 3-0 start -- but he's also out for three to six weeks with a back muscle strain after starting the year 3-0. The A's haven't named a starter for Tuesday, Harden's next scheduled start.

"If I had to speculate, it'd probably be [Brad] Halsey," Macha said after using four pitchers in Sunday's game. "That's if I had to speculate."

Loaiza caught a break Saturday night, when he gave up six walks and a grand slam in one-plus innings. The game was rained out in the third, with the Royals up 6-1.

That saved him from a 10.24 ERA. But it's still a woeful 8.35, and Loaiza has gone past the fifth inning only once in four starts -- part of a bullpen-killing trend for Oakland, whose starters are averaging less than six innings per outing.

"That's why we signed him, so he could go out and give us seven quality innings," Macha said. "That's not happening right now, so we're going to figure out how we can get that out of him."

Loaiza, whose fastball has not made it out of the low 80s in his last two outings, said after Saturday night's rainout that he hoped to avoid being demoted to the bullpen or sent to the minors to work out his velocity problems.

"I really don't want to go to the minors," he said. "I don't want to back step. I want to help out this team here, and do the best job possible here."

At least the A's should have closer Huston Street, the 2005 AL Rookie of the Year, available soon. Street, who has not pitched since April 18 with a pectoral muscle strain, was scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Sunday.

"We're hoping he'll be 100 percent by Monday," Macha said.