Ryan Dull, as much as anyone, has been the backbone of the A’s bullpen this year.
The rookie reliever hasn’t gone on the disabled list, ranks in the top 10 in the American League in games pitched, has a 2.32 ERA, has allowed just 14 percent of inherited runners to score and hitters are averaging just .078 against him with runners in scoring position.
Dull was, however, a non-factor in the A’s bullpen in the last week until Sunday, when he reappeared to throw 1.2 scoreless innings in helping the A’s beat the Red Sox 1-0.
Manager Bob Melvin said he’d seen Dull tiring five-sixths of the way through his first complete big league season, and planned to set him down last week for three games in Houston, But when the first two games against Boston proved to be blowouts, Melvin tacked that on to Dull’s time off.
“It’s been a long year,’’ Dull said without asking for time off. “But this is what we love to do, play baseball.’’
Melvin’s gambit paid off when Dull entered in place of Kendall Graveman in the seventh inning Sunday with two men on and Dustin Pedroia up. At that moment, there was no hitter more locked in than Pedroia. He’d singled in his previous two at-bats. He’d had 23 hits in prior 37 at-bats, a simply stunning .621 batting average.
In a 0-0 game, there was no one the Red Sox would rather have had at the plate. There was also no one Melvin would rather have taken his chances with. Melvin won out, Dull getting Pedroia to line out, setting up an Oakland walkoff win in the ninth.
“It was a high-leverage situation,’’ Melvin said. “And he looked refreshed. It wasn’t the easiest of assignments for him.’’
–Sonny Gray played catch out to 120 feet Monday and Melvin said he was throwing a little harder at 60 feet. The A’s aren’t going to rush him at all, and it remains a coin toss whether or not Gray will pitch for Oakland again this season.
–Felix Doubront and Chris Bassitt, both in the middle of recovery from Tommy John surgery, threw before Monday’s; game, and Melvin was impressed with the way both me looked at throwing 60 feet. The manager said Doubront talked about feeling “brand new.’’ Melvin said the challenge now is “a matter of holding them back and trying not to get them too eager. There’s definitely been progression.’’ The A’s won’t know for a while yet whether either or both pitchers will be available for the start of spring training or if they’ll have to be eased back into pitching later in the 2017 season.
–Andrew Triggs, who came out of Friday’s start suffering some back pain, has not yet been cleared to throw.
–Marcus Semien has been moved into the leadoff spot against right-handed starting pitching with Billy Burns and Coco Crisp having been traded. He’s struggled in that position, hitting just .167 with just two walks for a .205 on-base percentage. Melvin is being patient, knowing the A’s don’t have a classic leadoff hitter on the roster. “He’s trying to do things a little bit different as far as taking some pitches,’’ the manager said. “He hasn’t gone through a hot streak yet in the leadoff spot. But if anybody has the ability to do it, he can be productive anywhere in the lineup.’’
–The A’s claimed right-handed starter Donn Roach on waivers from the Tigers and assigned him to Triple-A Nashville, where he will be eligible to work for the Sounds in the playoffs, Nashville short of starters with Raul Alcantara and Jharel Cotton being called up this week to pitch for the A’s. Roach started the season in the Mariners organization before moving to the Tigers on an Aug. 9 waivers claim. He was 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA at Triple-A Toledo. He pitched in the big leagues, mostly as a reliever, with the Padres in 2014 and the Cubs in 2015.