Fernando Rodriguez is a major Tommy John success story, throwing harder and sharper than ever out of A’s bullpen

Fernando Rodriguez is three years' removed from Tommy John surgery, and his is a complete success story..

Fernando Rodriguez is three years’ removed from Tommy John surgery, and his is a complete success story..

Much has been made of the A’s issues with pitchers having to undergo ligament replacement in the pitching elbow, or as it’s better known, Tommy John surgery.

Jarrod Parker has not pitched since 2013, twice having undergone Tommy John surgery. This year alone, Felix Doubront and Chris Bassitt have had Tommy John procedures. Each man will miss all of 2016. Just when or if any of the three will pitch in 2017 is up in the air.

There is an upside to all this Tommy John angst. His name is Fernando Rodriguez.

Rodriguez could hit 96, maybe 97 mph on the radar gun on a good day in his first three big league seasons with the Angels, then the Astros. The A’s picked him up before the 2013 with the id that he’d be a strong middle innings reliever, but almost immediately that was scuttled by his needing Tommy John surgery.

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A’s enjoy good news on injury front for once

Jed Lowrie was back in the A's lineup batting fifth and playing second base Wednesday.

Jed Lowrie was back in the A’s lineup batting fifth and playing second base Wednesday.

Assuming you consider any injury news that doesn’t involve the A’s putting someone on the disabled list to be good news, then the A’s had a very good day on the injury front Wednesday.

The activated second baseman Jed Lowrie from the disabled list and said that catcher Josh Phegley would be able to come off the DL on Friday.

Henderson Alvarez, he of the sore shoulder, seems to be past the bulk of the soreness and has begun to throw. He threw up to 75 feet Tuesday and 90 feet Wednesday. The progression will get him to 105 feet, then 120, after which it will be time to get him back on a mound and back on track to rejoining the A’s rotation, probably in mid-June or a little later.

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Coco Crisp is back as an everyday player for A’s

Coco Crisp has gone from part-time outfielder to full time and is back as the A's leadoff hitter.

Coco Crisp has gone from part-time outfielder to full time and is back as the A’s leadoff hitter.

The A’s have struggled to find any kind of identity this year, and the struggle continued when Oakland bullpen couldn’t hold off the first-place Mariners, who rallied for two-run homers in the eighth and ninth to escape with a 6-5 walkoff win.

Even in defeat, outfielder Coco Crisp is doing what he can to give the A’s an identity. They were winners back when he was healthy from 2012-14, going to the post-season each year during that stretch.

He was mostly a non-factor with neck problems in 2015 when the club finished dead last, and coming into to this season he was seen as a fourth outfielder, having ceded both center field and the leadoff spot to Billy Burns.

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Yonder Alonso’s glovework keeps A’s defense together

Yonder Alonso is making fans in A's clubhouse with his defense at first base.

Yonder Alonso is making fans in A’s clubhouse with his defense at first base.

Yonder Alonso didn’t have a hit Monday night in Safeco Field, although it took a nice running catch from former Giant Nori Aoki to deny him.

Nonetheless, Alonso had a quietly huge night for the A’s in a 5-0 win over the Mariners.

In the second inning, he helped starter Rich Hill get out of a bases-loaded jam by spearing a grounder at first base hit by Aoki and throwing a strike to the plate for a force.

In the ninth inning, with Ryan Madson pitching in relief, Alonso snared a bullet off the bat of Dae-Ho Lee and turned what could have been an RBI double into a double play, snuffing out almost the Mariners’ last breath.

The A’s have almost gotten too used to the smooth defense Alonso brings to first base, although pitcher after pitcher, including Hill Monday, is sure to point out the high level at which Alonso is playing defense.

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Zach Neal to make his first Major League start Wednesday; A’s get good news on Josh Reddick, Henderson Alvarez

Zach Neal will get his first big league start in his second MLB game Wednesday in Seattle, subbing for Sonny Gray.

Zach Neal will get his first big league start in his second MLB game Wednesday in Seattle, subbing for Sonny Gray.

As expected, the A’s will go with Zach Neal in Wednesday’s final game of the series in Seattle.

Neal, 27, will be making his first big league start in what will be his second big league game as he takes the spot in the rotation of Sonny Gray, who went on the disabled list Sunday with a strained right trapezius.

Manager Bob Melvin said the club was impressed with Neal in his May 11 appearance in relief. At that time he was being called up just to give the battered A’s bullpen some support. He wound up pitching three innings. And while he gave up three runs, he was one out away from allowing just one run before a two-out, ninth inning homer by Jackie Bradley Jr., who remains one of the hottest hitters in the game.

Neal has been among the best pitchers in the Pacific Coast League, owning a 5-1 record and 2.53 ERA. His normal day in the Triple-A Nashville rotation would be Tuesday, so he’ll be pitching with an extra days’ rest.

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A’s lose 5-4 as Yankees complete four-game sweep

The New York Yankees celebrate at the end of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Sunday, May 22, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The New York Yankees celebrate at the end of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Sunday, May 22, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

OAKLAND — Dealt another medical punch to their ailing roster earlier Sunday, the A’s badly needed a splash of something good on the field.

They did not get it.

The Yankees rallied to beat the A’s 5-4, completing the first four-game sweep in Oakland by a visiting team in 17 years.

On a day the A’s placed ace Sonny Gray on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his neck and shoulder area — officially a strained right trapezius — manager Bob Melvin had hoped his starter Sunday, Jesse Hahn, would give the team a lengthy outing.

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A’s explore rotation options with Sonny Gray landing on disabled list; RHP Zach Neal could get Wednesday start

Sonny Gray landed on the disabled list Sunday, leaving the A's scrambling with now 13 players on the DL.

Sonny Gray landed on the disabled list Sunday, leaving the A’s scrambling with now 13 players on the DL.

In the course of a four-game series with the Yankees, the A’s have put their best position player and their best starting pitcher on the disabled list.

Right fielder Josh Reddick fractured his left thumb Thursday with a slide at second base Thursday and is out for 4-6 weeks.

Sunday morning came the word that another All-Star, Sonny Gray, is disabled. The right-hander, who has struggled through a Major League-worst 9.61 ERA in May, has been diagnosed as having a strained right trapezius. For the moment, lefty reliever Daniel Coulombe has been been recalled to take his spot on the roster, but the A’s will need a starter for Wednesday’s game in Seattle.

Gray, who had been saying all along he felt fine, said Sunday morning he’d gotten a cortisone shot after his May 13 start in St. Petersburg, Fla. against the Rays. But he’d been rocked in his next start against the Yankees, lasting just 3.1 innings Friday, leading to the move to the DL. He said he doesn’t expect to be out more than the 15-day minimum.

In looking at the options for Wednesday’s game against the American League West-leading Mariners, one suggestion is that the A’s might bring up Daniel Mendgen. The right-hander has rocketed from Double-A Midland to Triple-A Nashville and has allowed just two runs in his last 27 innings with the Sounds.

But as recently as Saturday an A’s executive said that Mendgen, a 2014 Houston draftee acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade mid-2015, was not on Oakland’s immediate radar with his having only made four starts above Double-A. He hadn’t been part of the conversation, but now he almost certainly will be.

It’s more likely that the A’s will go with Zach Neal, who has been up and pitched once on May 11 in Boston, giving up three runs in three innings in his MLB debut. Neal is 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA with the Sounds this year. More significantly, he’s got significant Triple-A experience, 48 games, 46 of them starts, and, as the numbers show, the 27-year-old has gotten to the point where he’s knocking on the door.

Lefty Dillon Overton is an option as well, but he hasn’t had Neal’s success this year, going 2-4, 4.37 in seven starts for Nashville. Neal is on the A’s 40-man roster and Overton isn’t, and that plays in Neal’s favor.

One option, lefty Eric Surkamp, is off the table for the moment. He was optioned to Nashville just five days ago and won’t be eligible for another five days, meaning Wednesday’s start is currently out of the question. He was 0-3 in five starts with a 4.09 ERA. But he started and allowed two runs in 4.1 innings in Seattle April 8 and the A’s won the game 3-2, although he did not get the decision. So if yet someone else goes on the DL, he could be an option because of his recent Safeco Field experience.

In talking with the media Sunday, Gray said it was best to go on the DL now, get past the problem and get back to the rotation. He had become increasingly frustrated as his streak of rotten games stretched to five and last year’s All-Star became one of just four MLB starters with qualifying innings with an ERA over 6.00, 6.19.

“It’s unfortunate,” Gray said. “We’ve had some things, injuries, nicks and things not really go our way. I think that’s why we kind of made the decision — do you knock this thing out now and come back in 15 days and feel strong and your body feels a little refreshed and everything. I think it will be a huge benefit in the long run.”

Manager Bob Melvin seems reasonably confident that a short stint on the DL will get Gray turned around.

“I think it has affected him, at least the last couple of times out,” Melvin said. “I don’t think it’s really affected his velocity. But it’s affected the command. It’s like pitching with a rock in the bottom of your neck, the upper part of your shoulder. I think it was affecting his extension some and certainly the command.

“After going through this a couple of times, we need to get this out of there and iron it out so he can throw the baseball where he wants to. At this point, it hasn’t gotten any better.”

Gray is the 14th A’s player to go on the DL this year and the 13th currently disabled. That’s the most in the big leagues currently and the most for any A’s team since at least 1979. Currently riding the pines are an entire big league starting rotation: Gray joining Henderson Alvarez, Chris Bassitt, Felix Doubront and Jarrod Parker.

Others on the list include relievers R.J. Alvarez and Liam Hendriks, catcher Josh Phegley, infielders Mark Canha, Jed Lowrie and Eric Sogard and outfielders Reddick and Sam Fuld. Oakland has had at least six players disabled every day this year and at least nine every day since May 9.

In the same Wednesday game that Gray will now miss, Phegley and Lowrie, both of who are off on injury rehabilitation assignments, are expected to be activated.


A’s injury tsunami threatening to engulf 2016 season

Eric Sogard is having trouble believing the A's injury woes just aren't slowing down.

Eric Sogard is having trouble believing the A’s injury woes just aren’t slowing down.

The good news for the A’s is that catcher Stephen Vogt, after being hit hard by a pitch on the right wrist Friday, is only expected to miss one game.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said the veteran hopes to be in the lineup for Sunday’s series finale with the Yankees.

The bad news is, as second baseman Eric Sogard puts it, “there are too many guys joining me on the list.’’ That would be the disabled list, where the A’s have a dozen injured players – half a major league roster – parked.

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A’s options to replace Josh Reddick in lineup limited

Josh Reddick is lost to the A's for 4-6 weeks after fracturing his left thumb.

Josh Reddick is lost to the A’s for 4-6 weeks after fracturing his left thumb.

It’s time for the A’s pain train to call it a day.

One quarter of the way into the season the A’s use of the disabled list is already more than half of 2015’s DL numbers.

When Josh Reddick goes on the DL Friday, the A’s will have used to the DH 13 times and 12 of the 13 will still be in the trainer’s room.

The A’s have spent a lot of time the last few years talking about the need for versatility and depth. They began the spring with what they hoped were plenty of both, but things are beginning to sour.

The options for the A’s heading into Friday, when Reddick will officially go on the disabled list.

Max Muncy, called up earlier this week, could play right field. He’s a left-handed hitter with a little power and good on-base numbers. Oakland has been grooming him to play some third base, but he has spent half his season so far in the outfield and – mark this down – has a decent throwing arm.

Or Coco Crisp could play center field full time with Billy Burns shifting from center to right. Burns is not a natural right fielder. He played one game there earlier this year, on Sunday when he got in eight innings with Reddick getting the day off. But he has taken some fly balls there and could make a go of it. His arm isn’t great, but it’ll do.

Or Crisp or Khris Davis could move to right. This is not a great option for the A’s in that neither has a strong throwing arm and right field is a position where a strong throwing arm is a major asset.

The A’s will call up either Andrew Lambo or Jake Smolinski to take Reddick’s place on the roster. Smolinski has better numbers, but Lambo is a left-hander with power, and maybe the A’s can run into a bit of luck with him the way they did with Brandon Moss a few years ago.

Luck? That doesn’t sound much like the 2016 A’s.


Liam Hendriks likes the look of current A’s bullpen

A's Liam Hendriks has been slow to recover from elbow injury, but he likes what he sees from rest of bullpen.

A’s Liam Hendriks has been slow to recover from elbow injury, but he likes what he sees from rest of bullpen.

Liam Hendriks’ right elbow isn’t responding to treatment as quickly as Hendriks and the A’s had hoped.

As it happens, though, that’s all right, because as Hendriks puts it “the way the bullpen is going right now, they’re not exactly missing me.’’

In the last six games entering Thursday’s start of the series with the Yankees, A’s relievers have allowed just four earned runs in their last 16.1 innings, a 2.20 ERA that has corresponded with the A’s winning five of those six.

It wasn’t always thus, however. When Hendriks went to the disabled list with what he calls a pinch in his right triceps on May 8, both he and the A’s pen as a whole were in trouble. Hendriks had gotten off to a terrible start to the season with an 8.27 ERA in 11 games.

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