By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For Fox Deportes
PHOENIX – Brian Fuentes doesn’t have a dyed-black beard. He doesn’t sprint into games from the bullpen or scream and gesture after striking out a batter. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about his persona when on the mound, like other closers in major league baseball.
Whatever works. And it’s been working for 11-plus seasons, the length of Fuentes’ major-league career.
“Nothing compares to it, and I’ve done it all,” Fuentes, who plays for the Oakland Athletics, said of being a closer. “I’ve mopped up in the big leagues. I’ve set up in the big leagues, been a lefty specialist in the big leagues and I’ve closed. “
The bullpen is like Fuentes’ second home. And at age 36, closing never gets old for the four-time All-Star. Even when he gives up the winning three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, which he did on June 8 when the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ryan Roberts completed his team’s comeback with a walk-off blast off Fuentes.
Younger pitchers might stew over it for longer, but Fuentes has learned to get over a tough loss and move on.
“I’ve always had that kind of mentality… I don’t hold on to things very long,” Fuentes said. “I think that’s helped me be successful in what I do as a pitcher in the bullpen. But at the same time I realize that there’s things of more importance than what you did the day before. It’s always a short memory. I enjoy my victories and saves for a day, and then the next day it doesn’t matter. Same way with the losses.”
Fuentes is from the town of Merced in central California, and the place is still home. It’s two hours from Oakland and the A’s were Fuentes’ team a kid, from the days of Walt Weiss and Mike Gallego, Carney Lansford and the Bash Brothers (Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire).
Fuentes joined the A’s before the 2011. He lost “that mystique” of playing for the A’s when he first entered professional baseball, being a fan of the team he was on. But after time spent with the Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins, Fuentes was still enthralled to put on the green and gold of Oaktown.
“When I came here and I put my ‘uni’ on for the first time,” he said, “I looked in the mirror and said ‘Wow! Hey, it’s kinda cool.’”
Fuentes has a main goal in baseball, to win a World Series. He’s attained financial security for himself and his family, so with that out of the way, he’d love to win a championship either in Oakland or with another team.
That said, he admitted he couldn’t have imagined playing in the bigs for this long. Fuentes made his major league debut with Seattle in June 2001 and feels blessed to be where he is after all this time.
Fuentes keeps on dealing with the ups and downs of a pitcher’s life. He has allowed runs in three of his last four outings as of June 10, and is 2-2 with a 5.24 earned run average. Not exactly the preferred numbers for a closer, and now the A’s are going to a “closer by committee” situation to finish games after Fuentes’ most recent blown save.
“To be the best closer you’ve never heard of, that’s my goal,” Fuentes said. “I’ve been throwing to get three outs and get the heck out of there. That’s all I want to do.”