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Henderson Alvarez closing in on a spot in A’s rotation

Starter Henderson Alvarez is probably two more minor league starts from being in the A’s rotation.

Alvarez threw 4.2 innings for Triple-A Nashville, giving up one run on three hits and three walks. The control wasn’t quite what the A’s had been looking for, but Oakland manager Bob Melvin said the reports he got were that the strike zone was tight.

“He felt good,’’ Melvin said. “It’ll be five days and 75 pitches, and then after seven and 90. Maybe those will be his last two.’’

After that, the 2014 National League All-Star with the Marlins could fit nicely into a rotation that has seen three potential starting pitchers, Jarrod Parker, Felix Doubront and Chris Bassitt, out for the season needing surgery.  Alvarez is becoming available 10 months after having shoulder surgery.

The most recent is Bassitt, who underwent Tommy John surgery in Cincinnati Friday morning and he came out of it pleased.

“Surgery was a success,’’ Bassitt said in a tweet. “Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.’’

The surgery, performed by Dr. Timothy Kremchek, involved an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction with an ipsilateral palmaris longus graft, the ipsilateral palmaris longus being a small tendon near the flexor carpi.

A statement put out by the A’s said Dr. Kremchek was pleased with the surgery and the outcome of the procedure. Bassitt will return to Oakland on Sunday and his rehab is due to start Monday.

Bassitt began the season in the A’s rotation, where he spent about half of the 2015 season. He was 0-2 with a 6.11 ERA and .294 opponents’ batting average, but before his right elbow started to trouble him he’d been effective, 0-0 but with a 2.79 ERA and .213 opponents’ batting average.

 

–Saying that at this point in the season “no one is 100 percent healthy,’’ Danny Valencia is back on the A’s roster and in the starting lineup for Friday.

With heavy rains having inundated Baltimore for most of the day, the Camden Yards infield doesn’t figure to be in prime shape, but Valencia, back after missing 15 days on the disabled list thanks to a hamstring issue, isn’t concerned for the extra strain the wet grounds might put on a not-quite-perfectly healthy left hamstring.

Valencia said “you can’t go out and play’’ with concerns like that on his mind, and said he’s ready to go after playing games with Class-A Stockton Monday and Wednesday as part of an injury rehabilitation assignment.

“We’ve have all played in the rain before,’’ Valencia said. “Nothing is going to stop me.’’

He said he’s anxious to see if he can help turn around the fortunes for the A’s, who come into the series having lost a season-high four consecutive games.

Melvin had him in the lineup batting seventh both because Khris Davis has hit well lately in the cleanup spot but because the manager wants to ease Valencia back in.

 

NOTES

–Coco Crisp is back with the A’s after missing Wednesday’s game while visiting a doctor for a non-baseball issue. The time off has given his heel injury time to clear up, although Melvin said he would have liked to have had Crisp have dry grounds to he could do some pregame running.

–Billy Butler got hit second consecutive start against a right-handed pitcher Friday. He had two RBI Wednesday in a game started by Felix Hernandez, and he was in Friday because in 35 plate appearances against the Orioles Ubaldo Jimenez he has 10 hits and six walks, good for a .457 on-base percentage. It’s just the fifth start against a right-hander for the right-handed Butler this year but “we are trying to get our best matchups,’’ Melvin said.

–The A’s were among the approximately two dozen teams taking a look at Tim Lincecum as the free agent pitcher had a Friday showcase. Melvin said he’d seen Lincecum at his best when he pitched for the Giants against Melvin’s Arizona Diamondbacks and said depending on what kind of velocity he shows, the right-hander “could be very impactful. Being from the Bay Area, you can’t help but pull for a guy like that.’’

–The day off for Chris Coghlan was his first non-start since April 16. He’d taken over for Valencia at third base while he was on the disabled list.

 

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Chris Bassitt’s Tommy John surgery deemed a success

Chris Bassitt won't pitch again this year after Friday's Tommy John surgery.

Chris Bassitt won’t pitch again this year after Friday’s Tommy John surgery.

A’s starting pitcher Chris Bassitt underwent Tommy John surgery in Cincinnati Friday morning and he called it a success.

“Surgery was a success,’’ Bassitt said in a tweet. “Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.’’

The surgery, performed by Dr. Timothy Kremchek, involved an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction with an ipsilateral palmaris longus graft, the ipsilateral palmaris longus being a small tendon near the flexor carpi.

A statement put out by the A’s said Dr. Kremchek was pleased with the surgery and the outcome of the procedure.

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A’s Billy Butler in search of playing time and RBI production

Billy Butler has little playing time and little production; he wants to change that.

Billy Butler has little playing time and little production; he wants to change that.

It was 22 games into the 2016 season that Billy Butler drove in his first run for the A’s.

As Oakland prepares to play its 30th game of the season Friday night in Camden Yards against the Orioles, he has three RBI. Three.

Needless to say, that’s not what the A’s were hoping for when they signed him as a free agent two years ago and nothing at all like what Butler expects from himself.

It’s becomes a little easier to swallow in that two of the three RBI have come against former Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez.  But when we say “little,’’ that understates it. Miniscule or even molecular might be closer to the point. After all, Butler had averaged 80 RBI per season over his last four years in Kansas City before heading west.

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A’s give Rich Hill more options on upcoming road trip; veteran left-hander could get as many as three starts

Rich Hill could start as many as three times on A's upcoming road trip. He's 3-0, 0.95 on the road.

Rich Hill could start as many as three times on A’s upcoming road trip. He’s 3-0, 0.95 on the road.

The A’s will make a minor alteration to their starting rotation heading into a weekend series in Baltimore against the Orioles.

Rich Hill will start Friday and Jesse Hahn Saturday, changing the order in which the two pitched on the homestand. This keeps the 36-year-old Hill on an every-fifth day rotation and gives an extra day off for Hahn, who isn’t fully stretched out yet.

Although manager Bob Melvin didn’t say so, the chance gives the A’s the possibility of throwing Hill three times on Oakland’s upcoming road trip through Baltimore, Boston and Tampa Bay.

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Weirdness continues for A’s starter Sonny Gray vs. Mariners

Sonny Gray says he's feeling good, but the results have been, in his words a little weird.

Sonny Gray says he’s feeling good, but the results have been, in his words, “really weird.”

It says something that Sonny Gray gave up seven earned runs in seven-plus innings Tuesday and said afterward “this was the best I felt this year.’’

What exactly it says is a little bit of a cypher. Gray has stumbled out of the starting blocks in 2016, going 3-3 with a 4.84 ERA in six starts.

That’s his highest ERA at any point in the three-plus seasons Gray has been a big league starting pitcher. And the seven earned runs matched his career high, set on Aug. 6, 2014 against the Rays and again on Sept. 14, 2015 against the White Sox.

Tuesday night was, Gray said, “a weird game.’’

“You pitch into the eighth inning and you come out with a bad start,’’ Gray said. “It’s a really weird game tonight.

“I thought I threw the ball well. That’s definitely the best I’ve felt all year. It was really unfortunate the way it turned out.’’

The A’s were more-or-less within striking distance after seven innings, down 4-1. But the Mariners opened the eighth with a double and two singles, knocking Gray out of the game. And reliever Marc Rzepczynski was clobbered Kyle Seager, who took all the mystery out of the game with a three-run homer.

“It’s important to get to the eighth inning,’’ Gray said. “But you look back, and I didn’t really do my job. I didn’t put us in with a good chance to win. Pitching into the eighth is good and all, but not when you give up seven runs. It’s just a weird game.’’

The early homers were something of an anomaly. Gray hadn’t given up more than one homer in a game in eight consecutive starts dating back to last year, when he allowed 17 in the entire season. He’s allowed five with five months of the season yet to play.

“I hung a curveball a little in, and he turned on it,’’ Gray said in describing the first homer from Leonys Martin in the second inning. Robinson Cano went deep to open the third.

“The second one, I had a feeling he was going to swing. I left it up, and he got it. I felt great. They got those two big home runs, then they added on in the eighth.

In my other starts, I was a little sporadic with location and I was not throwing strikes. Tonight I felt great. I didn’t feel any different than I felt the previous two years. It’s just not really going my way.’’

 

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Chris Bassitt coming to terms with Tommy John possibility

Chris Bassitt is facing the possibility of needing a Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery.

Chris Bassitt is facing the possibility of needing a Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery.

Chris Bassitt said he took the news hard when he learned he’d probably need tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery in his right arm.

The A’s starter will get a second opinion from Dr. Timothy Kremchek Thursday in Cincinnati, after which a final decision will be made. An MRI discovered a tear in the ligament, but the exact size of the tear is under review.

If the tear is small, there is a chance the recommendation will be rest and rehabilitation followed by strengthening work. Bassitt is steeled for the possibility that surgery would have to be done.

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A’s Jed Lowrie geared up for Astros arrival this weekend

Jed Lowrie would like nothing better than for A's to come up big against his 2015 team, the Astros, this weekend.

Jed Lowrie would like nothing better than for A’s to come up big against his 2015 team, the Astros, this weekend.

When Jed Lowrie played for the A’s in 2013 and 2014 he really wanted to beat the Red Sox and the Astros, the two teams he’d played before arriving in Oakland.

Last year he was back with the Astros, and boy, did he want to beat the A’s. And now he’s back in Oakland and the Astros are coming to town. Nothing has changed.

“Oh yeah, I want to beat them for sure,’’ Lowrie said. “That’s the way I’ve always been, though. Whatever jersey I have on, I am here to win.

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A’s Sonny Gray can’t wait to erase Wednesday from mind

Sonny Gray struggled through two innings Wednesday. It left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Sonny Gray struggled through two innings Wednesday. It left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Wednesday night wasn’t the first time Sonny Gray has been off this month. It was, however, the first time it really cost him.

Gray couldn’t find home plate with a GPS system, walking four and throwing 65 pitches in just two innings. He’d never had such a short start, but he wasn’t about to argue when manager Bob Melvin told him he was done.

“No arguments,’’ Gray said. “I don’t know when that last time was that happened.’’

It was clearly Gray’s worst performance of the season. At the same time, He’s struggled this entire month, which is troubling, because his previous Aprils have been outstanding.

Last year he went 3-0 for the month with a 1.98 ERA and for his career he was 7.1 with a 2.02 ERA.

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A’s call up Sean Manaea; he’ll debut Friday vs. Astros

Left-hander Sean Manaea will make his first big league start Friday against the Astros, and A’s manager Bob Melvin said the club expects to keep him in the rotation long term.

“I think once you bring up a guy like this, you are thinking more for the long haul,’’ Melvin said before Wednesday’s game with the Tigers. “We think he’s ready to go. You make your reps here in the big leagues based on performance. He wouldn’t be coming here if we didn’t think he had the ability to stay here.’’

The 6-foot-5 24-year-old has a fastball that sits at 96-97 mph, a good curve and an improving changeup, which is why the A’s insisted on getting him from Kansas City when they traded Ben Zobrist to the Royals at the trade deadline last July. When the season started Manaea was ranked as the second-best prospect in the organization and the 48th-best in the big leagues according to Baseball America.

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