Henderson Alvarez shoulder problems crop up again; A’s shut down his rehabilitation assignment for second time

Henderson Alvarez had hoped to join A's rotation this week. He won't.

Henderson Alvarez had hoped to join A’s rotation this week. He won’t.

The riddle that is Henderson Alvarez’s right shoulder jumped back into the forefront with the A’s Sunday with the news that he had more shoulder pain during what was supposed to be his final injury rehabilitation assignment start Saturday night in Nashville.

After pitching three innings without difficulty, Alvarez went out to start the fourth inning against Round Rock and felt a recurrence of the shoulder pain that has plagued him off and on. He had shoulder surgery last July and then in what was supposed to be his last rehab start May 15 had to be shut down after five innings.

“He was feeling some pain,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve shut him down. Unfortunately when we have him right on the verge of getting him back here, something pops up.

“It’s a setback. Is it worse? That’s tough to tell. He said there was pain in the shoulder. He was aware enough to stop. But where we go from here, we’re not sure yet.’’

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A’s struggle to fill Saturday starting slot; it won’t be Alvarez

Henderson Alvarez will pitch Saturday, but for Nashville and not A's.

Henderson Alvarez will pitch Saturday, but for Nashville and not A’s.

The A’s still don’t have a listed starter for Saturday, but they know who won’t be starting against the Angels – Henderson Alvarez.

Not that the subject hasn’t come up. Alvarez will join Triple-A Nashville Saturday for what is expected to be his final injury rehabilitation start, an expected 70-pitch stint. So the A’s did think briefly about skipping Nashville and plugging Alvarez into the Oakland rotation.

Ultimately they decided that was tempting fate. A month ago when Alvarez was making what was then thought to be his final injury rehab start, he felt some discomfort in his shoulder and had to be shut down for over a week, then get gradually built back up.

“It has crossed our minds,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “But at this point that’s not going to be the case. Based on what happened last time he really needs to get to that threshold. Trust me, I’d love to do it, even if we knew it was going to be 70 pitches. It would be really exciting and he’d be excited about it, too.

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Can the A’s wait two weeks for rotation help to arrive?

Rich Hill believes he is two weeks away from returning to A's rotation.

Rich Hill believes he is two weeks away from returning to A’s rotation.

There’s a reason to believe the next two weeks are crucial for the A’s.

Not for getting back into contention, mind you. Just for getting back into competitiveness.

Contention is a way off just now with the A’s 12½ games out of first place in the American League West.

Oakland is 10 games under .500 at 27-37, and the A’s haven’t distinguished themselves in June (3-8) after a terrible May (11-17).

The 11-man disabled list – the 11th man landed there Tuesday, starting pitcher Sean Manaea – could be going on a diet. Reliever Liam Hendriks is due to come off the disabled list in the next week or so.

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Sean Manaea to DL with pronator strain; Eric Surkamp up

Sean Manaea is on the 15-day DL with a left pronator strain.

Sean Manaea is on the 15-day DL with a left pronator strain.

To no one’s great surprise, the A’s are using the disabled list for a 16th time in 10 weeks with left-hander Sean Manaea headed to the DL.

Manaea came out of Monday’s game against the Rangers feeling discomfort in his left forearm. He’d been having a little issue with the forearm for a while, but the problem became particularly acute Monday when he came out of the game after 4.1 innings.

The A’s were leading Texas 9-2 at the time and he would have been eligible for the win had he remained in the game for two more batters. That didn’t happen.

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A’s bullpen proves to be music to Bob Melvin’s ears, again

Fernando Rodriguez pitched two hitless, walkless innings of relief for Sunday's win.

Fernando Rodriguez (33) pitched two hitless, walkless innings of relief for Sunday’s win.

In any city in either of the big leagues, there’s never a trouble differentiating between a winner’s clubhouse and a loser’s.

The winners get to play music. The loser’s don’t. And for the first seven game of this A’s just-completed swing through Houston, Milwaukee and Cincinnati, Oakland’s clubhouse’s silence qualified for library levels.

The music finally broke out Sunday in a 6-1 victory over the Reds that at least meant Oakland could fly back to the Bay Area with the solace of having won the finale.

Everybody takes part in the silence. Interviewees talk in hushed tones. Player-on-player conversations are muted. Mostly no one finds much of a reason to talk.

But not everybody is equally at fault for the losses. Yes, all of baseball, including the A’s, takes a win-as-a-team, lose-as-a-team approach to the game, but the reality is that some parts of the team are always going to be more culpable than others.

In the case of the A’s, members of the bullpen have pitched well enough to deserve music whenever they feel up to it. On Sunday, Fernando Rodriguez threw two scoreless innings followed by one each from John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.

Despite the A’s being 10 games under .500 at 26-36, that level of success is not new. In the final five games of the road trip, A’s relievers threw a combined 13.2 innings. Not only did the relievers not give up any runs, they only allowed one hit. The pen over that stretch inherited six runners. None of them scored.

On Sunday, the relievers brought the win home, allowing just one base runner.

Asked about the music, manager Bob Melvin deadpanned, “is that what that is?’’

Melvin said it was “miserable going home every night’’ during the losing streak. But given a 4-1 lead, the relievers made sure pitching on a very warm day was no impediment to a much-needed victory.

“Fernando was a rested as anybody we have in the bullpen,’’ Melvin said. “He’s been good with men on base, he’s been good against righties and lefties. I knew I could use him for two innings, then go to our guys we feel good about winning the game with.’’

The five innings without a hit – the only base runner was a hit batter from Rodriguez – was close to the A’s norm.

“We can do that,’’ Melvin said. “Probably our biggest strength on our team right now is the bullpen, particularly when we’re ahead. We just need to get a lead. We’ve had so many games when we’ve been behind.’’

Sunday, for once, the A’s weren’t behind. The relievers made sure that didn’t change.

And that, more than anything, was music for Melvin’s ears.


A’s turn again to Eric Surkamp to step into rotation Tuesday

Eric Surkamp will get promotion from Nashville to start against Rangers Tuesday.

Eric Surkamp will get promotion from Nashville to start against Rangers Tuesday.

The A’s aren’t quite ready to go with the next generation of starting pitching they are working to put together in the minor leagues, deciding that Tuesday’s start against the Texas Rangers will go to veteran Eric Surkamp.

The left-hander has been called up to the A’s three times previously, getting a total of six starts, going 0-3 with a 6.41 ERA and a 1.950 WHIP.

“We have a ix of guys, and when somebody goes down, there’s an opportunity for somebody else, and he’s in that mix,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s been up several times and continues to get opportunities, in this case because of injury.’’

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A’s add some local picks to finish off 2016 draft


Collin Theroux, from Oklahoma State via Serra High, was the A's 32nd round draft pick.

Collin Theroux, from Oklahoma State via Serra High, was the A’s 32nd round draft pick.

The A’s took their final 30 picks in the June draft Saturday, finishing with 35 collegiate players and six high school athletes.

Of the 30 players picked Saturday, 25 were collegians and five preps. The overall breakdown includes 19 pitchers, five catchers, eight infielders and nine outfielders.

Some notable picks from Saturday included some locals, including Collin Theroux, a catcher from Oklahoma State who attended Serra High and catcher Jarrett Costa from Westmont College who went to Washington High in Fremont.

The 24th round pick, outfielder Robert Bennie of East Stroudsburg, is the brother of current A’s minor leaguer Joe Bennie. And Oakland’s final pick of the draft, shortstop Brett Bittiger from Pace University, is the son of current A’s professional scout Jeff Bittiger.

The complete 2016 draft list:

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Khris Davis gets Saturday off after being hit on elbow again

Khris Davis was out of the lineup for the A's Saturday after being hit by a pitch on his left elbow Friday.

Khris Davis was out of the lineup for the A’s Saturday after being hit by a pitch on his left elbow Friday.

Left fielder Khris Davis was back on the bench Saturday with elbow pain, one day after having returned to the lineup.

Davis was hit by a pitch last Sunday on his left elbow. That forced him to miss games Tuesday and Wednesday in Milwaukee, his former home, but he was cleared to play Friday though he was cautioned to wear a protective elbow pad, just in case.

He wore it, but in his second plate trip Friday he was hit on the same elbow. The ball mostly caught the pad, but enough of it touched flesh that he was feeling pain during and after the game and again Saturday morning.

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Wild pitches are the undoing of Sonny Gray for once

Sonny Gray had two wild pitches help to beat him Friday in Cincinnati.

Sonny Gray had two wild pitches help to beat him Friday in Cincinnati.

Sonny Gray leads the league in wild pitches, and the A’s are perfectly happy that he do so. Most of the time.

The movement Gray has on his pitches is like nothing most other pitchers can muster. Batters swing and miss at his stuff all the time, even when it’s in the dirt, one of the reasons he was an All-Star last year.

Gray generally isn’t bothered by wild pitches, mostly because he’s able to pitch around the potential damage they cause. Friday night in Great American Ball Park, he couldn’t.

His first wild pitch came with the A’s in a 1-0 lead and gave the Reds their first runner in scoring position. Seconds later a grounder flattened out on third baseman Danny Valencia, scooting by him for a game-tying double.

After an infield hit got the runner to third base, a second wild pitch brought the go-ahead run home.

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A’s draftee Daulton Jefferies a huge Sonny Gray fan

Daulton Jefferies couldn't be happier about being drafted by A's

Daulton Jefferies couldn’t be happier about being drafted by A’s

(Updated with Friday’s draft picks at the bottom)

The A’s first day of drafting couldn’t have gone better for Daulton Jefferies.

Not only did the Cal Golden Bears’ right-handed starter get picked by Oakland along with two University of Florida starters who are his friends, A.J. Puk and Logan Shore, but he’s going to the team that employs his favorite pitcher, Sonny Gray.

“One of the great things about being at Cal is I could just jump on BART and go to the Coliseum and see all those Cal guys, Bob Melvin, Marcus Semien, Mark Canha,’’ Jefferies said. “My top guy, though, has always been Sonny Gray.

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