A's routed; bad news for Street

BOSTON -- With about two months of season remaining, the Oakland A's figure to spend the rest of 2008 giving their young players lots of opportunities.

That philosophy now extends to the ninth inning.

A's manager Bob Geren said before Saturday's 12-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox that he's taking Huston Street out of the full-time closer's role for the time being.

The move undoubtedly is spurred by Street's difficulties this season salting away victories, though Geren went to great lengths Saturday to de-emphasize those struggles. Instead, he pointed to the standout work by pitchers such as Brad Ziegler and left-hander Jerry Blevins.

"I actually talked with (Street on Friday) and just said with the way Blevins is throwing and Ziegler is throwing, I could potentially use anybody in any situation right now," Geren said.

There were no hard decisions by the time the ninth inning rolled around Saturday, when Boston sent Oakland to its fifth loss in a row. Jason Bay hit his first home run with Boston, Kevin Youkilis added a pair of two-run homers, and Jon Lester went seven innings, yielding a two-run homer to Emil Brown in the first inning.

Asked if he still considered Street his closer, Geren said: "Yeah, with the flexibility that I might use somebody else."

That didn't sit well with Street, the A's primary closer since early in the 2005 season, the year he was named Rookie of the Year.

Street has converted just 18 of 23 save chances, the lowest save percentage among AL closers, and he's the first to admit he hasn't gotten the job done.

Friday -- presumably before his chat with Geren -- Street talked of how pleased he was that the A's didn't deal him before Thursday's trade deadline. He also expressed optimism he could turn his season around.

But Friday's game offered a hint of Geren's plan, when Street began warming up in the seventh. He entered in the 10th and escaped his own bases-loaded jam to keep the game tied.

"I would say I'm extremely unhappy about it," Street said Saturday. "(Closing is) what I've done my whole career. Do I think I've been as good as I've been my whole career? No. But I still think there's two months left in the season for me to prove myself ... or prove myself to them."

Ziegler has set a major-league record by opening his career with 32 scoreless innings. Blevins has allowed a run in just one of his 13 outings.