The A’s have asked much of their starting pitchers in the first half.
They are using a rejiggered rotation after the All-Star break to maximize the amount of time each will get off. To do that, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young have gone with newly acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to handle the first two games after the All-Star break Friday and Saturday against the Orioles in Oakland.
Gray will go on Sunday against Baltimore, giving him a full seven days between starts. The A’s have the following Monday off, meaning if Kazmir throws an inning or two in the All-Star Game, he, too, would still have a full seven days of rest when he starts against the Astros.
And Chavez, who is down to pitch the second game against Houston on the homestand, would have a full 10 days off.
This is important to the A’s because until this season, Chavez has been a reliever, so his arm doesn’t have the history of being stretched out to the point where he’d get 200 innings in a season, although he’s on that pace now.
“We want to give extra time to Sonny and Kazmir and Chavez,’’ Melvin said after the A’s finished the first half with a 59-36 record with a 4-1 win over the Mariners.
“But again, it’s not like when you start with Samardzija and Hammel that we don’t feel confident,’’ Melvin said. “We have five really, really good pitchers. It enables us to give some guys a bit of a rest.’’
What this does is give the pitchers who have had the heaviest burden, both in terms of pitching in a pennant race and pitching the most innings, Gray (125.2 innings entering Sunday), Kazmir (117.1) and Chavez (114.2) extra time off.
Samardzija (108) and Hammel (108.2) aren’t all that far behind, but they chalked up most of those innings pitching for a Cubs team that entered the last day before the All-Star break tied for the fewest wins in the National League (40).
The A’s do have options at Triple-A Sacramento, Melvin said, in Drew Pomeranz and Tommy Milone, both left-handers.
“We’ll see how it plays out,’’ Melvin said. “This is the current construction.’’
Pomeranz, his fractured right hand mended, was taken off the disabled list Sunday and the left-handed pitcher was optioned to the River Cats, where he joins the rotation for the time being.
Pomeranz made an impressive injury rehabilitation start Saturday, striking out seven in four innings, giving up one hit and walking none. The one hit was a homer.
Melvin said it was “terrific’’ to have the kind of depth in the rotation that having Pomeranz and fellow lefty Milone gave the A’s.
“Drew has shown he can do it in the rotation or in the bullpen,’’ Melvin said. “So he’s opened up some options for himself. He’s pitched well in both roles.’’