The Sports Xchange

MLB Team Report - Oakland Athletics - INSIDE PITCH

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics bullpen got deeper and, presumably, better Thursday, and the improvement had nothing to do with a midseason trade.

Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty was reinstated from the disabled list, 408 days after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

"It's cool, man," O'Flaherty said before the A's 4-1 victory against Toronto. "It's a big deal for me. Really exciting. It's a long ride trying to get through that whole rehab process. Kind of flew by at times and kind of dragged at times, but here we are."

The A's signed O'Flaherty on Jan. 22 to a two-year contract as a free agent. In five seasons with Atlanta he went 13-7 with a 1.99 ERA in 295 relief appearances. For his career with Seattle and the Braves, he's 20-9 with a 2.85 ERA in 373 games, all in relief.

"It's great," A's manager Bob Melvin said of having O'Flaherty in his bullpen. "We knew it was coming. I talked early about you have deadline moves and midseason moves that you feel like enhance your team. We knew this one was coming but certainly getting him on the roster make us look a lot deeper and really does make us deeper."

To make room for O'Flaherty on their 25-man roster, the A's designated left-handed pitcher Jeff Francis for assignment. The A's claimed Francis off waivers from Cincinnati on May 18. He made nine relief appearances, going 0-1 with a 6.08 ERA.

Melvin said O'Flaherty has great "late movement" on his two- and four-seam fastballs.

"He's got a really good slider that he can throw down-and-in to a righty, away from a lefty," Melvin said. "It's basically three pitches, but two of them are with the fastball. Gets righties out, gets lefties out, can do it all. The numbers speak for themselves."

Did O'Flaherty ever doubt he'd be back in the big leagues?

"My mindset's always kind of been that in this game you just take every day and enjoy it and never take a day for granted," O'Flaherty said. "Sure in the back of your head during this process you know the odds. They're actually pretty good, but when it's you in the operating room, when you're getting worked on, it's like you never really know how it's going to turn out. Those odds sound great when it's everybody else, but when it's you, you got to just try to be as positive as you can and believe in it."

O'Flaherty made eight rehab appearances, one at Single-A Stockton and seven at Triple-A Sacramento. He went a combined 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA and .188 opponents' batting average.

"I feel good," O'Flaherty said. "It's bouncing back nice, it's loosening up good when I try to get up for the game. Everything's good."

O'Flaherty said he has yet to throw in back-to-back games. As for his role with the A's, Melvin said that's to be determined.

"I'd like to get him in some games before we get him pitching in the seventh or eighth inning with two on," Melvin said. "Having said that, you never know how the game's going to play out. He's ready for just about anything. I'm not sure how I'm going to use him yet. ... He obviously hasn't pitched in a big league game and in a perfect I'd like to get him in a couple of settings where it's a little bit of a soft landing, but we'll see if that transpires."

O'Flaherty will welcome any opportunity after his long road back to the big leagues.

"I couldn't sleep last night for sure," O'Flaherty said. "This is a big day. This feels like Opening Day, I guess, and it's cool just to join a team this good and a bullpen this deep where there's not going to be too much pressure on me to really shoulder too much of a load. I can just get in where I fit in and help any way I can."

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