A's finalize deal with Springer
Right-handed reliever, 40, expected to set up dual closers
OAKLAND -- Finalizing a deal that's been widely reported for nearly a week, the A's on Thursday announced that they've added 16-year veteran Russ Springer to an otherwise young and inexperienced bullpen.
A right-hander whose numbers have gotten better with age, Springer, 40, agreed to a one-year deal said to be worth about $3 million.
"I'm looking forward to it," Springer said. "I see it as a good opportunity. "I talked to some people who played in Oakland before I agreed to it. ... To a man, they said I'd love it."
Springer, who spoke with former Athletics Jason Isringhausen, Mark Mulder, Chad Harville and Greg Smith (among others), has a career record of 35-41 with a 4.55 ERA in 664 appearances.
He's been particularly effective over the past two seasons, though, going 10-2 with a 2.24 ERA and a .195 opponents' batting average with the Cardinals. Springer went 2-1 with a 2.32 ERA and a .212 OBA in 70 relief appearances last season, marking the third consecutive season in which he's worked in at least 70 games.
"Early in my career, I was a grip-it-and-throw-it-as-hard-as-I-could guy," he said. "I did more throwing than pitching. I ended up having six surgeries [the last was in 2003]. Coming back from those, I learned how to throw a cutter, learned how to pitch.
"My velocity is still good, but now I'm a better pitcher than I've ever been. "
Springer will be Oakland's oldest player this year by two years; first baseman Jason Giambi is 38. But while his wealth of acquired knowledge certainly won't hurt 20-something A's relievers such as Joey Devine (25), Brad Ziegler (29), Jerry Blevins (25), Santiago Casilla (28), Springer wasn't acquired as a mentor.
"It wasn't as much about him being a veteran as it is about how well he's pitched the last couple years," A's assistant general manager David Forst said. "This is about his ability to get outs."
That said, Springer is happy to serve as the staff sage, and he made that clear to A's GM Billy Beane.
"With the age of the whole pitching staff, I was joking with Billy that he needed to sign another old guy so I'd have somebody to eat lunch with," Springer said. "I'm looking forward to working with young guys and showing them the ropes."
To clear on a spot on the 40-man roster, the A's released another righty reliever, Andrew Brown, who will miss the 2009 season while recovering from shoulder surgery that was scheduled for Thursday morning.
Brown, 27, was 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA and a .187 OBA in 31 relief appearances with the A's last year, but he missed half of the season while twice spending time on the disabled list.
"We were looking at options in the back of the bullpen before we knew about Andrew's situation," Forst said. "I feel bad for him about the timing of this. [But] as far as the 40-man, we needed to make a move."
Brown, acquired in the 2007 trade that sent Milton Bradley to the Padres, missed 22 games from May 14 to June 7 after undergoing an appendectomy, and he missed the final 59 games of the season after going on the DL on July 26 with right shoulder soreness.
Although Brown is expected to miss about a year while rehabbing, Forst left the door open to a possible return to the organization, saying, "We'll wait to see what happens with Andrew's surgery."
The A's started talking with Springer's agent about a month ago, and the reliever's versatility was a big part of the appeal.
"We felt like he'll be excellent addition for us no matter where he throws, whether it's the seventh, eighth or ninth inning," Forst said. "We really felt like he was an important piece to add for [the coaching staff] to get the best use out of bullpen."
Devine and Zielger, two of the top rookie relievers in the game last season, are expected to share the closer's role early in the season, and Springer expected to serve as the primary setup man.
"Probably one of those guys will step up as closer," Springer said of Devine and Ziegler. "I'd be happy in any of those roles."
"His ability to bridge that gap," Forst said, "was really important to us."
Forst later added that the team will continue to look for bullpen depth -- and on the rest of the roster -- in the days leading up to Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers report to Oakland's Phoenix facility Feb. 14.
"If the right deal was there, we wouldn't hesitate to do that," Forst said. "We're still looking at options there."
Springer made his Major League debut with the New York Yankees in 1992. He has also has pitched for California (1993-95), Philadelphia (1995-96), Houston (1997, 2004-06), Arizona (1998, 2000-01) and Atlanta (1998-99), and he also was with the Cardinals in 2003.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.