SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The disabled list is becoming all too familiar for A's reliever Joey Devine, who will begin the season there as he works back from right biceps tendinitis.
Devine, 28, has spent 542 days of the past four years on the DL. He didn't pitch at all in 2009 and '10 while he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery, and his most recent injury is the result of lingering effects from the procedure.
Devine was scheduled to throw off the mound on Sunday, and if all went well he would be penciled in to pitch in Tuesday's game. But the A's, who depart for Japan on Thursday, have decided it best not to rush him.
Because of the club's early start to the regular season in Japan, with games against the Mariners scheduled for March 28 and 29, Devine's 15-day DL transaction will be retroactive to March 24, making him eligible to return April 8. Should he be deemed 100 percent healthy by then, Devine will have only missed four games.
The right-handed reliever made just three appearances this spring, his most recent one coming March 8, when he was forced to throw 35 pitches. He walked three and surrendered four runs in just two-thirds of an inning. It was that night and the following morning when inflammation in his arm surfaced.
Once healthy, Devine is considered a significant piece to a mostly young A's bullpen, which will count on lefty Brian Fuentes and right-handers Grant Balfour and Fautino De Los Santos to commandeer the late innings. He is also considered a potential closer candidate at some point in the season, which speaks volumes about how much the A's value him, despite the fact he's made just 26 big league appearances in the past three seasons.
All of them came in 2011, when he posted a 3.52 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 20 strikeouts in 23 innings before being optioned to Triple-A and enduring back spasms.
"We need to get Joey pitching the way he was, certainly when I first got here last year," Melvin said. "He was a guy we leaned on very heavily, especially in the seventh inning. Typically, that can be a monumental inning in that a lot of times a starter is coming out with guys on base, and he was the guy for a period of time that was really doing that job. We want to make sure that when he comes back, he is ready and has gone through all the proper innings and so forth."
The 2008 season remains Devine's best, as he compiled a 0.59 ERA over 45 2/3 innings in 42 games as a rookie. Since the earned run became an official stat for the American League in 1913, it represented the lowest mark in Major League history among those with 25 or more innings pitched.
With Devine out of the mix to begin the season, the A's have at least four open bullpen spots, one of which will presumably go to southpaw Jerry Blevins. Right-handers Ryan Cook, Andrew Carignan and Travis Schlichting and lefty Jordan Norberto are strong options for the other three.