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Ryan Dull benefits from some time off, as do the A’s

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stepohen Vogt, was sharp Sunday after getting almost a week off.

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stepohen Vogt, was sharp Sunday after getting almost a week off.

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.

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Sonny Gray starts strengthening exercises; no throwing yet

Sonny Gray remains optimistic he'll pitch for A's again this year, but for now, he's just starting strengthening exercises on his right forearm.

Sonny Gray remains optimistic he’ll pitch for A’s again this year, but for now, he’s just starting strengthening exercises on his right forearm.

Starter Sonny Gray remains hopeful that he will be back on the mound for the A’s as a starter in September, but progress is coming along more slowly than he would like.

There is still inflammation in his right forearm, and as long as that’s the case he won’t be able to throw a baseball even to play catch on the side.

Gray did, however, stars a series of shoulder-strengthening exercises on Friday while waiting for the inflammation to subside.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to be,” Gray said. “But I’m still hoping I’ll be back out there again this year. That’s the plan.”

Manager Bob Melvin said replacing Gray isn’t done easily.

“He’s shown that he’s one of the elite pitchers in the league,” Melvin said. “He’s had a little bit of a tough time this season, but I don’t think that deters from how we feel about him and about how the rest of the league looks at him.”

Gray’s absence due to injury has led the A’s to scramble for starting pitching. When the club turned to Sean Manaea to start Friday’s series-opener against Seattle it brought an end a string of eight consecutive games with different starting pitchers – Jesse Hahn, Dillon Overton, Gray, Manaea, Kendall Graveman, Zach Neal, Ross Detwiler and Andrew Triggs.

That’s two thirds of the 12 different starters the A’s have used this year – Rich Hill, Daniel Mengden, Eric Surkamp and Chris Bassitt being the others.

And there may be more when August turns into September. Hahn is due off the disabled list in a week or so, but manager Bob Melvin named three minor leaguers Friday who were candidates to get a start in Seattle before the year is over – Mengden, Jharel Cotton and Raul Alcantara.

Cotton came within one out of a perfect game his last time out in just his second start since joining the organization as part of the deal that sent Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers on Aug. 1. And Alcantara, who started the season at Double-A Midland (5-6, 4.80) has blossomed since joining Triple-A Nashville (3-0, 0.70 in four starts).

“We don’t want to see that again,” Melvin said of the A’s setting an Oakland record by having used different starters in eight straight games. “We’re probably status quo with the rotation the next time around. Then we’ll see when Jesse comes back. We still have Mengden, Cotton, Alcantara; they may be a little big later in coming.”

 

–Sean Doolittle threw a 20-pitch bullpen to hitters Tyler Ladendorf and Max Muncy Friday afternoon and could so be pitching in a game after having been on the disabled list since June with a left shoulder strain.

Doolittle threw all his pitches and came out of it fine, Melvin said.

The plan for the left-handed reliever is to either throw another set again hitters or have him head out on an injury rehabilitation assignment. That will depend on how he feels when he reports to the Coliseum Saturday.

Melvin said the A’s have been trying to be cautious with Doolittle, who began the year as the closer but who has been on the disabled list since June 25 and who has missed about seven weeks’ worth of games.

“We’ve been pretty conservation with him for obvious reasons,” Melvin said of the staff ace. “He’s a big part of what we do here. We want to make sure he comes back strong. So we’re not pushing the envelope too quickly.

“Knock wood. Everything looked really good today. The ball came out of his hand nicely and he was able to throw all of his pitches.”

 

NOTES

–Hahn (right shoulder strain) is down to throw a bullpen session Saturday. If all goes well, he’ll head out after that for an injury rehabilitation assignment and could be back with the A’s by next weekend or shortly thereafter.

–Second baseman Jed Lowrie, on the disabled list with a bunion on his left foot that has him walking gingerly will be seeing yet another specialist about what to do next. He’s talked with the A’s doctors and one outside specialist so far and has gotten conflicting information on what to do next. He’d like to avoid season-ending surgery.

–The Mariners originally planned on starting lefty Ariel Miranda Friday, but he pitched in relief in a 15-inning game Tuesday, so the club called up right-hander Joe Wieland to make his third big league start. The first two were with the Dodgers, both last season.

–Lefty reliever Patrick Schuster, put on waivers earlier in the week by Oakland, was claimed Friday by the Phillies.

 

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Revolving rotation isn’t something specific to the A’s

Replacing Sonny Gray in the A's rotation is a big deal, but teams all over MLB are having to do similar fixes.

Replacing Sonny Gray in the A’s rotation is a big deal, but teams all over MLB are having to do similar fixes.

There are times covering a baseball beat – or, presumably, any beat – when you run the risk of getting so close to the story that it’s hard to see the story.

There’s a saying about forests and trees that applies.

I mention this now because it seems that I’ve spent the entire season writing about A’s players being called up, being sent down and going on the disabled list. Especially going on the disabled list.

And there are some numbers to suggest that my assumption that the A’s are setting records for all this roster rumbling isn’t far off. The A’s 25 uses of the disabled list are the most since the club moved to Oakland in 1968.

There are some numbers, however, that suggest it’s time for me to chill about all this.

The A’s have had nine starting pitchers go on the disabled list this year – Henderson Alvarez, Chris Bassitt, Felix Doubront, the since-traded Rich Hill (twice), Sean Manaea and Jarrod Parker in addition to Sonny Gray, who landed on the DL for the second time Sunday morning.

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A’s scrambling in rotation with Sonny Gray sidelined

Sonny Gray landed on the disabled list Sunday with a forearm strain, leaving the A's scrambling for starting pitching.

Sonny Gray landed on the disabled list Sunday with a forearm strain, leaving the A’s scrambling for starting pitching.

The A’s have lost another starting pitcher to the disabled list, ace Sonny Gray landing there Sunday morning with the A’s calling up right-handed pitcher Chris Smith from Triple-A Nashville.

Gray came out of Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Cubs after five innings in which he’d allowed two runs on five hits with what was diagnosed as a strained right forearm. It’s the second time on the disabled list this year for the right-hander, who had a flexor injury earlier in what has been his worst season – 5-11 with a Major League-worst 5.74 ERA.

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Dillon Overton to be fifth rookie to make a start for A’s

Lefty Dillon Overton will make his Major League debut Saturday starting against the Angels.

Lefty Dillon Overton will make his Major League debut Saturday starting against the Angels.

Dillon Overton will be the fifth rookie to make his first Major League appearance and start for the A’s this year when he takes the ball for Oakland Saturday against the Angels.

Rookies having already made the jump are Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs and Zach Neal, although it says something about the A’s mad scramble to find starting pitching in the middle of having an entire starting rotation on the disabled list that Triggs and Neal are seen as relievers and simply got starts because the A’s needed somebody, anybody.

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Billy Beane trying to find a fix for A’s injury woes

Billy Beane has his hands full looking for solutions to the A's injury epidemic.

Billy Beane has his hands full looking for solutions to the A’s injury epidemic.

It’s a given that medical dramas will always have a strong appeal to television viewers.

It’s less so for watchers of baseball. Hospital trips get in the way of plot lines rather than sustaining them. The injured party may be the center of attention on the small screen, but the player is simply out of the picture in baseball.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Oakland, where the A’s are in the words of executive vice president Billy Beane “living under the shadow of this injury epidemic.’’

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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.

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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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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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A’s likely to promote Andrew Triggs for doubleheader; Henderson Alvarez longshot option for Wednesday start

The rainout between the A’s and the Orioles in Camden Yards Friday was interesting in that it stopped raining just a little after the postponement was announced.

The weather map looked grim, to be sure, and the outfield was drenched, but it wasn’t raining much at all between 7 p.m. and at least 8:45 p.m. EDT.

The Oakland roster is going to be impacted by this in a couple of ways. For one, the A’s will be able to call up a 26th player for the second game of Saturday’s day/night doubleheader.

It’s likely to be Andrew Triggs, who has been up briefly twice before. Normally a player needs to be in the minor leagues for 10 days before being recalled, but the rules for a 26th player are somewhat different, and one of the difference is that for the one game the 10-day rule is waived.

Since Triggs didn’t pitch on Thursday, he would be well-rested. And teams almost always use the 26th player rule to add pitching because of the fear of burning through the bullpen in the space of 18 innings in a single day. So the possibility of bringing back a position player like infielder/outfielder Tyler Ladendorf seems remote.

Manager Bob Melvin said Friday night the club was still mulling its options.

After they get through with that decision, they are going to have to get to work on deciding on a pitcher for Wednesday in the series finale in Boston. Because the A’s are using two starters, Rich Hill and Jesse Hahn, Saturday, five days later they won’t have a fully rested pitcher.

If Hill or Hahn has an especially short outing, then that pitcher might be able to come back on three days’ rest. Otherwise, the A’s will have to bring up someone from the minor leagues.

That someone could be left-hander Dillon Overton, who was scheduled to start Friday for Triple-A Nashville, who is 1-2 with a 3.38 heading into that start and who would be starting on a regular five days’ rest. Or it could be lefty Eric Surkamp, who threw Wednesday, could be asked to start on seven days’ rest.

The easy call is Surkamp, because Overton isn’t on the current 40-man roster, although moving Chris Bassitt to the 60-day disabled list would create an opening.

But there is another option. Henderson Alvarez, 10 months out from shoulder surgery, is supposed to have two more starts on an injury rehabilitation assignment before joining the A’s rotation. He is scheduled for five innings and 75 pitches scheduled for Tuesday. The A’s could hold him back an extra day and hope he can give them five solid innings before turning the Wednesday game over to the bullpen.

The A’s aren’t going to force the issue on Alvarez, but all the reports about his health are good, and having him strong and stretched out is all that’s left before he’s back could be a possibility.

It’s at least a concept the A’s will have to look at.