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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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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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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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Alvarez keeps inching closer to being ready for rotation; Doubront’s Tommy John surgery seems to go well

Henderson Alvarez had a good 30 pitches throwing to hitters in Stockton Monday. He'd like to be in A's rotation by next month.

Henderson Alvarez had a good 30 pitches throwing to hitters in Stockton Monday. He’d like to be in A’s rotation by next month.

Will Henderson Alvarez be in the A’s rotation a month from now?

There’s no telling, but Alvarez is optimistic after throwing 30 pitches against hitters in Stockton Monday.

“It felt good, real good,’’ Alvarez said on returning to the A’s for Tuesday’s workout. “I threw all my pitches, and they all felt good.’’

The A’s signed Alvarez as a free agent shortly after the Miami Marlins made him a free agent by not tendering him a contract in December. They apparently weren’t willing to gamble on his health, but the A’s took a flier who was a 2014 National League All-Star with a 12-7 record, 2.64 ERA and 1.235 WHIP.

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