Devine ready to resume late-inning role with A's
After two seasons lost to arm trouble, the 27-year-old right-hander says he's ready to get back to being a key cog at the back end of Oakland's bullpen.
''Everything feels good and I'm ready to get back into those situations. I thrive on those situations, just like I did in college,'' he said Saturday. ''The eighth and ninth innings, that's the ultimate position, get guys out, be consistent.''
Devine was acquired from Atlanta as part of a trade for outfielder Mark Kotsay in 2008. He had a 0.59 ERA in 45 2-3 innings, the lowest in major league history among pitchers with 25 or more innings pitched. He was the Braves' first-round selection in the 2005 draft out of North Carolina State.
Devine had Tommy John surgery on his elbow April 2009 and missed 2010 with a forearm problem.
He pitched six games in the Arizona Instructional League in October.
He understood the length of time that would be required to rehabilitate after surgery, but was frustrated over the tendon trouble in his forearm. He spent most of the summer at the Athletics' complex at Papago Park, away from his family and reduced to watching his teammates on TV.
He thought he was going to be with them.
''It was a tough year (2010) all the way around, the toughest thing I've ever had to deal with in my life,'' he said. ''The arm was tense, everything was tight, not fluid. I couldn't loosen up. I wanted to push it, but I also didn't want to jeopardize my mechanics.
''Thanks to my wife (Erin) and my family, I was able to keep things going. They were very supportive.''
Athletics manager Bob Geren knows what kind of flexibility that Devine's potential return would give him in the bullpen, but he first must see results during the spring.
''Joe has to show us that he is healthy, back 100 percent,'' Geren said. ''In the Instructional League, he was still building (arm strength). We will wait to see him (in game situations) and evaluate him with everybody else.''
NOTES: Position players report Sunday, with the first full-squad workout on Monday . . . Geren said second baseman Mark Ellis will assume the leadership role that third baseman Eric Chavez had before Chavez went to the New York Yankees . . . Geren said he is eager to see Josh Willingham play after the outfielder was acquired in a trade with Washington on Dec. 16. Geren said Willingham, who hit .268 with 16 home runs in 114 games, projects to a middle-of-the-lineup hitter.