Beginning Of An Era?

It wasn't technically a save situation, but it was just as important. Huston Street entered the first A's-Giants game in the 9th inning with Oakland clinging to a four-run lead and desperately looking for its first winning streak in almost two weeks. Less than a year removed from being drafted, Street has found himself, at least temporarily, as the guy who will save games for the A's. As he did so many times for Texas, Street calmly closed the door and gave the A's a much-needed win.

Despite being primarily a set-up man in his short major league career, the 9th inning is familiar territory for Street. We take a look back at Street's career at Texas and his brief stay in the A's minor league system.

Huston Street's legend at the University of Texas began even before he was born with his father James Street. The elder Street was an all-everything quarterback and starting pitcher for the Longhorns and a walking legend in Austin. While some children shy away from the pressure of attending the same university that their famous fathers made their mark, the younger Street took the challenge head on and made his way to Austin after a standout career at Westlake High School.

It wasn't long before Street was etching out a legacy of his own with the Longhorns. Upon joining the Longhorns' baseball team, Street was immediately put into the Texas bullpen where he began racking up saves at a record pace. He set a freshman record of 14 saves and had a club-high 35 appearances, good for second in Texas history.

They say in Major League Baseball that heroes are made in October, and the same could be said about June for collegiate stars. Street was the brightest star in the College World Series his freshman year, as he saved all four games of the CWS to earn Most Outstanding Player honors.

The next season Street was once again outstanding for the Longhorns, as he notched 15 saves and posted an 8-1 record with a stellar .181 BAA. He also appeared at third base in 20 games for Texas. After earning numerous first-team all-american honors, Street was named to the USA Baseball team for the Pan American games. In that tournament, Street showed his fearlessness once again when he came into the semi-final game with the contest tied 2-2 in the sixth and threw eight shut-out innings to allow the USA to win the game in the 14th inning.

He returned to Texas for his third and final season as one of the most highly touted collegiate players of the 2004 season. Street was on his way to another outstanding season when he pulled a groin muscle that hampered him for much of the rest of the campaign. He still posted excellent numbers – a 6-1 record with a 1.58 ERA and 12 saves – but his velocity was down all year. That lowered velocity and his diminutive frame (Street is only 6'0'', 185) caused Street's draft stock to fall a bit.

Fortunately for the A's, those factors allowed Street to be available all the way down at the 40th pick, where Billy Beane and his crew snatched the Texas righty up. After signing Street to an $800,000 signing bonus, the A's immediately put Street on the fast-track by having him skip short-season A and go directly to low-A Kane County.

Street's stay in Kane County was a short and successful one. He appeared in nine games, picking up four saves and posting a 1.69 ERA and an 11.81 K/9 ratio. That was enough to earn Street a promotion to AA-Midland, where he was even better. For the Rockhounds, Street made 10 appearances, striking out 14 in 13.1 innings and saving three games. It was also at this point in the season that Street said his groin injury was fully healed and his velocity began to return to his normal mid-90s level.

Street's wild adventure through the A's minor league system concluded in AAA-Sacramento, where he closed out games for the River Cats as they won their second straight PCL Championship. He then headed off to the Arizona Fall League, where he immediately became the talk of the league by posting a 0.98 ERA and compiling seven saves during the AFL regular season. He then threw two shut-out innings and got the win in the AFL Championship game. He was named to the Top AFL Prospect List by the managers and coaches of the league.

Coming into spring training, Street was expected to return to AAA-Sacramento in hopes that he might be ready to join the Oakland A's by mid-season. However, he was so outstanding during the early portions of spring training that the A's were "forced" to keep Street on the roster when a spot opened up after Chad Bradford's back injury. Despite his inexperience, the A's have not had to hide Street in the "blow-out" portions of the bullpen. He struck out Sammy Sosa in his major league debut against Baltimore and has been one of the A's most consistent relievers ever since.

The Oakland bullpen has been ravaged by injuries and with each new injury, Street's role in the bullpen has increased. He most recently had been working as a set-up man to A's closer Octavio Dotel, but when Dotel went on the DL on Friday, Street was named the A's new closer, at least temporarily. How long Street stays in the closer role this season may, in part, be determined by the health of the A's other relievers. However, there is no question that Street will soon be the A's full-time closer and, hopefully for Oakland, for a long time to come.

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