OAKLAND (AP) — When Eric O’Flaherty returns to health and his former form, the Oakland Athletics believe they have one of baseball’s best left-handers to add to an already stout bullpen.
The A’s further bolstered their pitching staff Wednesday, agreeing with the free-agent lefty on a $7 million, two-year contract.
O’Flaherty, who turns 29 next month, sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow last season with Atlanta. He went 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA in 19 appearances before his season ended May 17 and he had elbow ligament-replacement surgery.
A’s assistant general manager David Forst said there is no timetable for when O’Flaherty might be ready to pitch again following the long rehab process following that surgery.
Once healthy, he could provide depth in a bullpen featuring newcomers Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson, and Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Dan Otero.
Over the past three years, O’Flaherty’s 1.45 ERA in 161 appearances is the lowest among relievers with 125 or more innings.
“He’s been one of the best left-handers in the game over the last three years and proven he can pitch anywhere, including toward the end of the game,” Forst said.
O’Flaherty, originally a sixth-round selection in the 2003 amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners, he owns a 20-9 career record with a 2.85 ERA over parts of eight major league seasons.
To clear room on the 40-man roster for O’Flaherty, the two-time defending AL West champion A’s designated outfielder Corey Brown for assignment.
During a busy December, general manager Billy Beane acquired AL saves leader Johnson from Baltimore as the replacement for All-Star closer Grant Balfour. Oakland also traded for right-handed reliever Gregerson in a swap that sent outfielder Seth Smith to the Padres. Lefty Scott Kazmir received a $22 million, two-year contract to fill a spot in the rotation that lost 40-year-old 18-game winner Bartolo Colon.
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