The A's and Cubs series was billed as a dream match-up between two of the game's best starting…
Save-ior? Justin Lehr could rescue the A's 'pen
With Rhodes on hiatus and Billy McMillon on the disabled list, the hard throwing right hander Justin Lehr was called up to the big league roster for the first time in his career. Donning the green and gold and his new number 57, Lehr was eager to get in the game. Not many casual A's fans have heard of Justin Lehr, nor do they know what he has accomplished in his minor league career. We here at Athletics.theinsiders.com decided it was time to educate you.
Lehr was drafted in the 8th round of the first year players draft in 1999. He spent his 2003 season playing for the Sacramento Rivercats, where he posted an ERA of 3.27 and struck out 64 batters in 74 innings pitched. The Rivercats later went on to win the Pacific Coast League Championship. At the conclusion of the season, Lehr went down south along side new A's teammate Eric Byrnes, and former Athletic now Oriole, Miguel Tejada to participate in Caribbean League Winterball. From one championship team to the next, Lehr, Tejada and Byrnes all joined the popular Ponce Lions. Lehr's original role was to be set-up man, however, he quickly proved his value and was bumped up to the closer role. As a closer, Lehr was dominating. He tore through the season, posting an impressive 1.11 ERA in 19 appearances, while recording eight saves en route to Ponce Leon Championship victory.
Justin Lehr's extensive arsenal includes four main pitches: a split-fingered fastball, a sinking fastball, a cutter, and a curve ball. His fastball has above average velocity and he likes to attack the strike zone and challenge hitters. Before he was called up to the Oakland roster, he was posting excellent numbers with the Rivercats. Through Tuesday, Lehr had 12 saves in 14 chances, 4 wins and only 1 loss with and ERA of 1.97 in 27 games as the closer for Sacramento. Lehr has shown the ability to fool hitters while displaying sharp command, recording 38 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 32 innings pitched.
Could this hard throwing right hander be the spark the struggling A's 'pen so desperately needs? One can only hope so. A lot of people are eager to see what he can accomplish at the big league level, after dazzling performances in the Minor and Winter leagues. One of the people most excited to see what Lehr is capable of is A's starter Barry Zito, who was Lehr's teammate in college while playing for USC. Believe it or not, during that time, Lehr was actually Zito's catcher, converting himself to a pitcher after Zito's departure.
As of today, Lehr has yet to make an appearance, but skipper Ken Macha is interested to see how Lehr performs. A healthy pitcher is just what the A's need, as every other bullpen pitcher on the roster currently has an ailment of some sort, whether it be physical or just mental. Expect Lehr to get his first chance to shine tomorrow against the Cubs in order to get some rest for the recently used relievers. Lehr should only be sticking around until Billy McMillon comes of the DL on June 25th, unless he makes an immediate impression on the A's upper management, but this opportunity could lead to a permanent position in the A's bullpen next season.
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