A's Simmons Finds Relief In Bullpen Role
OAKLAND—Finally, after all these years, things have started going right for James Simmons
The 2007 first-round pick (26th overall) has endured a struggle through
the farm system, battling injuries and ailments. Now the gloom seems to
have lifted, and Simmons may be back on track for the majors.
Simmons, 26, put together a 1.59 ERA and an 0.44 WHIP in 11 relief
innings at the Arizona Fall League. He is scheduled to report to the A's
spring mini-camp, which will run concurrently to big league spring
training, so he should have opportunities to pitch in spring major
A 6-foot-3, 220-pound righthander with pinpoint control of his 92 mph
fastball, Simmons made a big early impression when he pitched at
Double-A after signing in 2007. He returned to Double-A in 2008 and held
his own, then advanced to Triple-A the next year.
But Simmons had a variety of problems. He was troubled by sleep apnea,
and his pitching shoulder began deteriorating. He could never find a
consistent breaking ball to complement his fastball and changeup.
The shoulder broke down during the 2009 season. Surgeons discovered a
number of problems, including fraying of the labrum and bursitis. He was
able to return as a starter during 2011, before the decision to move
him to the bullpen last year.
"I've been trying to learn to pitch again," Simmons said. "I've been
trying to repeat my arm slot and delivery. Sometimes I drop my arm, and
the ball sails up. That's been the hardest part of the whole rehab,
being able to repeat my arm action and slot. But the more I throw, the
better I get."
Something else important has happened. That elusive breaking ball has
started to develop. After much tinkering, Simmons settled on a cutter,
which at times he tweaks into a slurvier pitch. That helped him put
together a 2.98 ERA and 1.18 WHIP out of the bullpen for Double-A
Midland and earned him his AFL gig.
"Toward the end, I felt I had pretty good command of both (breaking
balls)," Simmons said. "I think the Fall League helped me out with those
• The minor league mini-camp will begin Feb. 13 for pitchers and
catchers, then six days later for position players. The A's will bring
in 18 pitchers and 11 position players to give them a jump on spring
• Oakland added to its minor league power supply by acquiring corner
infielder Jefry Marte
from the Mets for outfielder Collin Cowgill
A's needed a spot on their 40-man, and Cowgill had little chance of
cracking a deep A's outfield this year.