No one knows better than Tommy Milone that his spot in the Oakland rotation comes with no guarantees.
Pitch well in the season’s final six weeks and he can figure he’ll keep getting the ball every five days.
Pitch poorly and the A’s have options. Brett Anderson, the A’s opening day starter, is on an injury rehabilitation assignment and is being groomed to return as a starter after a stretch in which the A’s thought the club might be best served with Anderson joining the bullpen.
Bartolo Colon is on a 15-day sabbatical thanks to a groin injury, but the expectation is that he will be back in early September, and when he returns, it will be as a starter.
Milone knows all this, but he is far from obsessed by it.
“You know what – I really can’t afford to think like that,’’ the left-hander said after allowing three runs, one earned in 4.2 innings against the Indians Sunday. “I’ve got to pitch my game, and hopefully they’ll stick with me.’’
Milone said getting sent down earlier this month seemed to be, ultimately, a good thing, although it hit him hard.
“Getting sent down, obviously, was not what I wanted to happen,’’ he said. “But in the long run it could be good. Being back up here feels good.’’
Milone said he felt “energized’’ by being sent down and coming back.
“It was an eye-opener,’’ Milone said. He had a 1.74 ERA at Triple-A and in his return he allowed just one earned run. With a little better defense behind him, he likely would have gotten credit for Sunday’s win.
“Those first few innings felt really good,’’ he said. “I was able to throw the ball where I wanted to, kept the ball down, do pretty much what I was working on when I got sent down. I’m a little bit frustrated I didn’t get deep in the game. They were fouling pitches off, pitch count got a little high. It is what it is, but I’m glad we were able to pull it off.’’
–Josh Donaldson may be getting back into the swing of things.
Or he may just be getting lucky. It all depends on your point of view.
In the first 27 games after the All-Star break, he had four RBIs. Sunday, he had a run-scoring grounder and a pair of RBI singles. Getting an RBI in each of three different plate trips speaks to a focus at the plate. And he had the A’s only RBI Saturday, so he has RBIs in four of his last seven trips to the plate.
He came up in the first inning Sunday after a single by Jed Lowrie and a Derek Norris double off Cleveland starter Scott Kazmir.
“I knew Kazmir was in trouble,’’ Donaldson said. “I didn’t want to let him get out of it without at least one run scoring.’’
The result was a grounder that brought Lowrie home with the game’s first run.
In the second inning Donaldson came up with two on and two out and delivered a single to center. In the eighth he came to the plate with a man on second, again with two out, and another single delivered the final run in the A’s 7-3 win.
“There are times in baseball when you get a little lucky, and I think maybe I did with the singles,’’ Donaldson said. “I found a couple of holes.’’
–Dan Otero, the one-time closer at Triple-A Sacramento isn’t going to close for the A’s. But he’s putting together a case for his being used in increasingly more significant situations.
That’s already happening. On Sunday Otero was brought into a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning, faced six batters and got five outs, allowing no runs. That lowered his ERA to 1.42. And he got the pitching win when Chris Young and Alberto Callaspo hit solo homers in the bottom of the fifth to give the lead back to Oakland for good.
“He’s really been one of the unsung heroes,’’ Melvin said. “He gets the last of the fifth, pitches the sixth, then gets the first out of the seventh. In his case, the numbers really are indicative of the job he’s done.’’
Otero said whether he comes into the game in the fifth inning or the seventh, or later, he’s just trying to keep it simple.
“You get into trouble trying to make it too complicated,’’ he said. “The job is to get outs, whether it’s the first inning or the last one. That’s all I’m trying to do.’’
And with considerable success.