Shoulder injuries limited Doolittle to 12 appearances in 2015, and a beleaguered Oakland bullpen greatly felt his absence. A's relievers not named Doolittle were charged with 31 losses while converting just 24 of 48 save opportunities, and club executives responded by overhauling the bullpen during the offseason.
Now, the A's are equipped with several reliable arms, including a pair with closing experience: right-handers Ryan Madson and John Axford. Should Doolittle be precluded from the Opening Day mix because of injury, Madson would likely be targeted for closing duties.
Madson, signed to a three-year, $22 million deal this winter, completed another scoreless spring inning, his fourth in as many tries, on Saturday. Doolittle has allowed a run in two of his three appearances but struck out the side in the other.