This is not the literal end of anything for the A's -- they're too smart and too deep for one March injury to wipe them out entirely.

Even an injury as titanic as losing presumptive ace Jarrod Parker for the season to Tommy John surgery is just another thing for Billy Beane and Bob Melvin to endure.

And the A's can endure it.

They've prepared for it, they've stacked their pitching staff to get through it, and they're talented and creative enough to win the A.L. West again despite it.

But in a deeper way, the Parker news, added to the issues facing A.J. Griffin, Ryan Cook and now Scott Kazmir, seemed to change something elemental about who the A's are and how much further they can take this.

They're a franchise that has constantly cycled through players and eras and performed brilliantly in 2012 and 2013 after the last reboot ...

Yet always seems poised for the next remodeling.

So that's why Monday felt like a mini-milestone moment -- when the A's latest run hit a symbolic middle-point.

Maybe we'll look back and realize this is when everybody stopped thinking about the rise and started thinking about how and when this might end and get recycled again.

Right here, I want to make clear that the A's still have a decent healthy rotation of Sonny Gray, Dan Straily, Kazmir, Tommy Milone and Jesse Chavez.

They could get Griffin back relatively soon, and Beane has secondary options Joe Savery and Drew Pomeranz beyond that.


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Beane also loaded up the bullpen last offseason by adding Luke Gregerson, Jim Johnson and Josh Lindblom to Sean Doolittle, Cook and Dan Otero, among others.

How do you take some of the pressure off a batch of young starters? You stack the bullpen with fresh arms ready to lighten the starters' workload.

Plus, the Rangers, Angels and Mariners have their own pitching and injury questions to handle through the course of 162 games.

The A's can and might still win 92 or more games, and they might still shake up the playoffs.

But if you know the A's patterns, you also know that losing Parker could trigger a lot of other ripple effects and raise all the usual big-picture A's questions.

Such as:

  • They have enough to compete, but can the low-budget A's ever line up enough elite, healthy, prime-career talent to win a championship?

    They've been close the last two seasons, but they've lost to Detroit both times.

  • Now that they've gathered all these talented young players, how long can the A's keep them together?

    The A's have usually operated on three- or four-year cycles, and it has been a little over two years since the last housecleaning (trading Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey in December 2011).

  • With the A's budget restrictions, at what point will Beane feel compelled to jump ahead of the curve by breaking up the current core?

    Josh Donaldson, Cook and Josh Reddick all become arbitration eligible after this season and, as always, the A's have some prime young talent coming up -- led by 20-year-old shortstop Addison Russell.

    This is the reality that the A's always face, even when they're the two-time defending A.L. West champions and are brimming with talent.

    The clock is always ticking.

    When they're on an upward trend, they can be very good and incredibly entertaining.

    But eventually and inevitably, those good players get older, get more likely to break down, and everybody moves toward the kind of high salaries that the A's almost always avoid.

    An example: Not only do they lose Parker for this much-anticipated 2014 season, but he also might not be full strength again until 2016, and by that point he will be only two seasons away from free agency.

    Another: Yoenis Cespedes might or might not bounce back this season after slumping for much of 2013, but either way, he is now more than halfway through his original four-year deal with the A's.

    If Cespedes struggles again -- he snapped his 0-for-23 slump this spring with a hit Monday -- that's not good for the A's.

    And if Cespedes reignites his career, it's possible Beane might have to consider trading him this summer to get maximum value in return.

    These are the margins and restrictions that define the A's; this is the timetable that they've set up for themselves.

    We've been able to ignore it for two buoyant seasons, but Monday -- with one massive loss -- the countdown clock started ticking again.

    Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

    Inside
    Jarrod Parker will undergo his second Tommy John surgery, miss the 2014 season. PAGE 4

    Sonny Gray
    Age: 24
    Career starts: 10
    Career W/L: 5-3
    Dan Straily
    Age: 25
    Career starts: 27
    Career W/L: 10-8
    Scott Kazmir
    Age: 30
    Career starts: 208
    Career W/L: 76-70
    TomMY Milone
    Age: 27
    Career starts: 62
    Career W/L: 26-19
    Jesse Chavez
    Age: 30
    Career starts: 2
    Career W/L: 9-15