Ben Sheets joins DL with right elbow swelling — his return uncertain

This morning brought more injury news from the A’s clubhouse, and it’s a pretty significant development. Ben Sheets went on the 15-day disabled list with swelling in his right elbow, and though he and the A’s aren’t jumping to any conclusions, Sheets acknowledges the possibility it could be season-ending. His velocity was noticeably down in his last start Monday against Boston, and the next morning Sheets woke up with swelling in his elbow. I saw his elbow today and there’s a big lump on the inner half of it, and Sheets said the swelling has actually gone down some. He’s been examined by A’s doctors, and now he’ll fly to Dallas to get a second opinion from the doctor he worked with during the offseason. Sheets had surgery in February 2009 to repair a torn flexor tendon in the elbow, which sidelined him all of last season. The A’s are waiting for results from the next doctor’s visit before deciding how long he’ll be out.

It’s now apparent that Sheets never fully bounced back in his recovery, even as it seemed at times that his stuff was rounding into form. “From how I felt before the spring, I thought it’d keep getting better,” Sheets said. “I just never turned the corner. It’s just kind of stayed the same. It’s really been up and down, up and down. There haven’t been many days that I’ve felt normal.”

If there’s a blessing in disguise for the A’s, they might have the rotation depth to absorb this hit. They expect to get Brett Anderson back from the DL soon. With Dallas Braden starting tomorrow against the White Sox, the A’s will have Anderson make one more rehab start tomorrow for Triple-A Sacramento. A potentially healthy rotation of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro, Anderson and Braden still looks pretty formidable. So I wouldn’t say Sheets’ injury, in and of itself, makes the A’s chances to stay in AL West contention any steeper than they already were. But will this development push the A’s toward being sellers? I asked GM Billy Beane how he thought Sheets’ injury affects the A’s ability to stay competitive.

“All the injuries have an impact, so I think with every injury, there’s certainly going to be an attrition when it comes to performance,” Beane said. “Losing Brett for nine weeks, losing for Coco for two months, losing Sweeney for the rest of this year … When you start taking players away it makes it more difficult.”

Glean what you will from that. Sheets appeared to be the A’s top trading chip, and we know he won’t be dealt now. We’ll see how this impacts the A’s decision-making with the non-waiver trade deadline one week away …

–In other health-related news, closer Andrew Bailey (lower back) and outfielder Rajai Davis (hamstring) remain day-to-day. I didn’t get a chance to grab Bailey this morning to see how he’s doing.

–Reliever Cedrick Bowers was recalled to take Sheets’ roster spot.

A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Gross RF, Watson LF, Pennington SS; Mazzaro RHP.

White Sox — Pierre LF, Vizquel 3B, Rios CF, Konerko DH, Quentin RF, Kotsay 1B, Ramirez SS, Castro C, Beckham 2B; Garcia RHP.

Joe Stiglich