by Kim Thomson, Contributing Writer and Loyal A’s Fan
At the start of the season, if the name Ryan Cook came up, it was only in passing. Last year was his first in the bigs, and it was hardly notable. He had 12 appearances with the Diamondbacks, none of which earned him much recognition, and his ERA was high. Cook came to Oakland as a last-minute add-on in the Trevor Cahill trade. Clearly, expectations were in the mid to low range. And why shouldn’t they have been? After all, he was drafted in the 27th round the previous season.
The first time Cook took the mound as an Athletic, he pitched a perfect inning. In the season-opener against Seattle, no one got a hit or a walk off him — much less a run — and he earned his first K of the season. The next month Cook struck out four batters in one inning in the April 27 game against Baltimore and became the 61st pitcher to do so. Espn.com’s Jerry Krasnick characterized Cook’s slider that night as particularly formidable.
And the virtual silence regarding Ryan Cook grew to a moderate but distinct hum.
The hum may have had something to do with his streak of scoreless innings. He even had Hal Kurtzman, the scout who spotted him in high school and later drafted him, “rooting for him from afar” so as not to jinx him, according to Krasnick’s May 26 story. Two days after the scout’s words were published, Cook allowed two runners to score at Minnesota. And the streak was broken. He had 23 scoreless innings behind him. At least Kurtzman was finally able to congratulate his protégé.
To date, Cook possesses a .59 ERA over 30.2 innings and he’s given up only nine hits. And the hum has grown to an outright buzz.
I had the opportunity to witness Cook’s control in two home games against the Padres last weekend (June 16-17). Saturday was a clean save, his third in four outings. While he did allow an inherited runner to score in Sunday’s game, it was his first this season. It’s exactly like former A’s closer Huston Street says:
“I was impressed with Cook’s demeanor and the way he took the mound, the intangibles, and he was making pitches, very calm and collected.” (via Chicago Tribune’s MLB Team Report)
I remember feeling much the same way about Street himself, who later earned the AL Rookie of the Year as Oakland’s closer (2005).
While Cook has not formally been named closer due to some late-inning logistics, he’s shaping up to be the man for the job. Cook pitched a scoreless ninth and got his fourth save Tuesday night against the first-place Dodgers.
The talk is he’ll be representing the A’s in the All-Star Game. If Cook is in fact chosen, it will be the eighth straight season the A’s send a pitcher to the Midsummer Classic. And we’d be glad for it.