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Henderson Alvarez, Andrew Triggs both done for the season as Oakland’s starting rotation continues to take injury hits

Henderson Alvarez, who had hoped to pitch the final two-thirds of the season with Oakland, has been shut down for the year because of ongoing shoulder pain.

Henderson Alvarez, who had hoped to pitch the final two-thirds of the season with Oakland, has been shut down for the year because of ongoing shoulder pain.

After six months of hoping that Henderson Alvarez would  be able to join their starting rotation, the a’s have given up for this year with Alvarez’s right shoulder continuing to give him trouble.

Manager Bob Melvin said Alvarez, who pitched three innings on an injury rehabilitation assignment last week, continues to feel discomfort. He will leave the team sometime this week and will visit Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedist who performed the original surgery on Alvarez’s right shoulder in July, 2015.

At the same time, the A’s say that Andrew Triggs, the reliever-turned-starter who came out of his last start after one inning after back trouble, won’t be pitching again this season.

“Henderson is having a tough time again with his shoulder,’’ Melvin said. “He’ won’t probably pitch this year, and he’s going to see Dr. Andrews again. Unfortunately he’s hit another hurdle and I really feel bad for him. This is a guy who has worked so hard to get back with us. He’s been right on the cusp a couple of different times, then has had to go back on the rehab cycle, which is very difficult to do.

“My heart goes out for him. Hopefully we get this thing settled, whether it’s another surgery we’re not sure. But this is an issue that has been with him all year. This is a great kid who loves to pitch. Always has a smile on his face.’’

Alvarez was twice one injury rehab start away from joining the A’s rotation. The first time was in June and then again about a month later he was close again. Melvin said he was guessing, but Alvarez might never have been right after that first time he was shut down.

The A’s have had Alvarez, who signed last winter as a free agent with the A’s willing to take a gamble on a right-hander who was a 2014 National League All-Star, undergo a series of MRIs since June in an effort to locate the problem. None so far has been able to do so, which is why Melvin said another surgery might be necessary.

“Dr. Andrews will make that decision,’’ Melvin said.

As for Triggs, who had hopped the back pain was just a minor setback, he hasn’t even been allowed to begin strengthening exercises. He came out of a Sept. 2 start after one inning and had he remained healthy, his next start would have come up Wednesday.

“I doubt he will pitch again this year,’’ Melvin said. “We don’t have a schedule for him to throw yet.’’

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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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Daniel Mengden will get Saturday’s start for A’s, who will spend weekend playing on turf cut up by two NFL games

Daniel Mengden will get called up by the A's to start Saturday vs. the Red Sox.

Daniel Mengden will get called up by the A’s to start Saturday vs. the Red Sox.

Daniel Mengden made the trip from Nashville to Oakland will make Saturday’s start against the Red sox.

Manager Bob Melvin said Mengden, who will be activated before the game, has pitched better that his 1-5 record and 5.73 ERA with Oakland would suggest.

The club likes his assortment of pitches and when they sent him down the last time, it was because they saw signs of midseason weariness in him. He was 8-2 with a 1.67 in his time with Triple-A Nashville.

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Marcus Semien balances fatherhood and playing ball

 

Marcus Semien misses newborn son Isaiah, born on Monday

Marcus Semien misses newborn son Isaiah, born on Monday

Marcus Semien plays with single mindedness of purpose, one of the characteristics the A’s most like about their shortstop.

Things have been a little different for him this week, though. He rejoined the team Friday in St. Louis after missing a three-game series against the Indians to be with his wife, Tarah, at the birth of their first child, son Isaiah.

Like many first-time fathers, he’s torn between being with his family and being with his team.

“Just about any time I’m not at the park I’m on FaceTime with them,’’ Semien said Monday. “It sucks to miss this time of his life.

“It’s been four days already, and I’ve missed a high percentage of his time.’’

That time away is something many players go through, and Semien, who hadn’t missed a game all year for Oakland before taking three days and eventually going on paternity leave, is learning that the hard way.

The A’s will be home Wednesday night and start a 10-game homestand, so there will be some time for caching up.

“I spent the first couple of nights in the hospital with them,’’ Semien said. “I miss that.’’

 

–No part of the A’s has been more in flux than the starting rotation, and with the rosters eligible to expand from 25 players to 40 beginning this weekend, the rotation roulette may not yet be over.

Manager Bob Melvin said no decision has been made on what to do with the rotation for the final month of the season, but with Oakland currently having three relievers – Andrew Triggs, Zach Neal and Ross Detwiler – filling in thanks to injury repletion, there are minor league starters the club could bring up.

Of them, one who immediately piqued Melvin’s interest was Jharel Cotton, who came within one out of a perfect game in his second start for Triple-A Nashville after the A’s acquired him in the trade of Josh Reddick and Rich Hill. Since joining the Sounds, Cotton is 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA.

The manager also mentioned Raul Alcantara, who is 4-0 with a 0.89 in seven starts for Nashville after being promoted from Double-A, and Daniel Mengden, who has struggled in nine starts with the A’s, going 1-5 with a 5.73 ERA but who is 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA with the Sounds.

 

NOTES

–The new timetable for reliever Sean Doolittle is for him to rejoin the A’s on Friday when the Red Sox visit the Coliseum. The lefty, out since June 26 with shoulder trouble, will throw in a game Tuesday with Nashville as a final tuneup before coming off the disabled list.

–Billy Butler passed the last of his concussion protocol tests Sunday in St. Louis and was activated by the A’s Monday. He and the A’s say he’s good to go, although he wasn’t in the starting lineup against the Astros.

–Henderson Alvarez (shoulder surgery) will pitch Tuesday with Class-A Stockton in his ongoing bid to get back with the A’s before the season’s over.

–Jesse Hahn, on a rehab assignment with right shoulder strain, is due to start Wednesday for Stockton, after which he’s expected to be cleared to return to the rotation.

–Sonny Gray played catch Sunday for the first time since landing on the disabled list on Aug. 7 with a strained right forearm. His strengthening exercises have been going well, so much so that manager Bob Melvin now believes having Gray return to the club to pitch this season is at least possible.

–Catcher Josh Phegley, hospitalized since Friday with synovitis in his right knee, is due to get out of the hospital Tuesday. It’s a complication from the surgery in the knee he had midseason. The A’s had hoped he’d be available for the final month of the season but they now believe it’s unlikely he will catch for them again this season.

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Doolittle likely to be A’s first returnee from the DL

Sean Doolittle will get to throw one inning Friday in Nashville on injury rehab assignment and could be back with A's soon thereafter.

Sean Doolittle will get to throw one inning Friday in Nashville on injury rehab assignment and could be back with A’s soon thereafter.

The A’s are looking increasingly like they will get reliever Sean Doolittle off the disabled list next week but won’t have starter Jesse Hahn or catcher Josh Phegley back until after the rosters expand from 25 players to 40 on Sept. 1.

Down the line in September the club still has hopes of seeing both Henderson Alvarez and Sonny Gray on the mound.

Doolittle, currently in the middle of an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Nashville with his left shoulder strain under control, is scheduled to throw one inning Friday for the Sounds. If he comes through it feeling good, he could be activated this weekend in St. Louis or next week in Houston.

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Ryan Dull trying to rediscover his focus in grueling season

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stepohen Vogt, is trying to fight his way out of an August skid.

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stephen Vogt, is trying to fight his way out of an August skid.

When reliever Ryan Dull began the season by not allowing any of the first 36 base runners he inherited to score, the A’s right-hander knew that kind of unprecedented success wasn’t going to last forever.

Six of the last 10 inherited runners he’s faced have scored. And the season overall is starting to catch up with Dull, whose ERA has gone from 1.98 to 2.34 in his last eight games, losing twice and suffering a blown save during that time.

The second of the losses came Monday night when he grooved a pitch that Carlos Santana hit out in the eighth inning for the only run in Oakland’s 1-0 loss to Cleveland. It was a pitch Dull “wanted back” after he said “I pulled it right over the middle of the plate.”

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Sonny Gray unlikely to start for A’s again this season

It's increasingly unlikely Sonny Gray will be able to start again this year for the A's.

It’s increasingly unlikely Sonny Gray will be able to start again this year for the A’s.

It’s becoming increasingly likely that A’s ace Sonny Gray won’t be starting again this season for Oakland.

Gray, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7, the day after feeling a right forearm strain while facing the Chicago Cubs, said Monday he wanted to get word from the training staff when he might be able to start throwing again.

That being said, Gray knows it won’t be any time soon. And given that the minor league season ends Sept. 5 and with it any chance to go out on an injury rehabilitation assignment, Gray’s hopes for getting another start are flickering.

“I’m hoping; I’d like to get out there again,’’ Gray said before Monday’s series opener with the Indians. “But I’m not ready to throw now. I know that even if they cleared me to throw when I go in there to talk to them, I’d be forcing it by going out there today.

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Henderson Alvarez willing to pitch relief, if that’s what it takes to get back on a big league mound for A’s this year

Henderson Alvarez hasn’t talked to the A’s media for a couple of months now, not because of any Trump-ish view of the media, but simply because there hasn’t been much to say.

With a month and a half left in the season, that’s changing. The right-handed starter on whom the A’s had high hopes sat down Saturday and talked to me about his optimism that despite everything, he would pitch for the A’s this season.

And if that means pitching in relief for the first time since 2011, he’s cool with that.

“I wouldn’t go against what the manager wants to do,” the Venezuelan-born Alvarez said through an interpreter. “I’ve always been a starter, but mostly I just want to contribute.”

The A’s still see Alvarez as a starter, but for the moment the club has to deal with the realities of time. The season is over in just over seven weeks. That’s plenty of time for Alvarez to build up his arm strength if he was going to throw an inning here or there out of the bullpen, but maybe not enough to build up to being a starter.

On top of that, the minor league season ends on Sept. 5, meaning he has just two weeks to get into an injury rehabilitation game before the A’s minor league affiliates call the regular season quits. He’s about ready to start throwing bullpen sessions, but gearing up that quickly seems undoable.

Still, Alvarez is getting geared up to pitch again, and that has him feeling good, because this season hasn’t gone at all the way he’d hoped. Right now, pitching in relief sounds pretty good to someone his teammates say just wants to compete.

“If it’s relief, I’d be encouraged,” Alvarez said. He’s pitched in relief seven times in the minor leagues. He has been in 92 Major League games, and all of those have been starts. “I just want to be out there.”

Oakland took a flier on the 2014 National League All-Star, signing him as a free agent last December, knowing that there was no way he would be able to pitch for the club for at least the first six weeks of the season.

Alvarez had spent the second half of the 2015 on the disabled list in Miami following July surgery on his shoulder that year. The A’s medical team checked him out and determined it was reasonable to expect Alvarez back in May or June.

And it wasn’t unreasonable. He made three injury rehabilitation assignment starts in May, but in the last of them felt discomfort and had to be shut down for three weeks. Then came two more starts in June, but in the second of those there was more discomfort and another two months was lost to recovery and slow buildup.

“It was very disappointing both times to get as close as I did,” Alvarez said. “There was no warning, but these things happen. It’s not in my control.”

“It’s definitely been a difficult season. But I never gave up. And now I’m feeling good again.”

Alvarez played catch up to 105 feet Saturday and will play up to 120 feet Sunday, after which he says he expects to start throwing bullpen sessions.

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Sean Doolittle heading out on injury rehab assignment

Sean Doolittle is heading out on an injury rehab assignment and could be back on next homestand.

Sean Doolittle is heading out on an injury rehab assignment and could be back on next homestand.

Sean Doolittle could be back with the A’s when they return from a seven-game road trip to Texas and Chicago that starts Monday.

The Oakland lefty, who hasn’t pitched since June 25, is being sent out on an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Nashville. Manager Bob Melvin said the plan calls for Doolittle to throw as many as three times in the week he’s gone, beginning with an inning on Monday.

Doolittle threw 20 pitches to hitters Friday and came off the mound feeling good about the state of his shoulder.

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Jesse Hahn feeling `great,’ says DL stint should be brief

Jesse Hahn should be back in A's rotation when his DL time is up on Aug. 20 or shortly thereafter.

Jesse Hahn should be back in A’s rotation when his DL time is up on Aug. 20 or shortly thereafter.

Jesse Hahn’s stay on the disabled list won’t be a long one.

The A’s starter is eligible to come off the DL on Aug. 20, and between now and then he’ll make one injury rehabilitation start as a tuneup for his right shoulder.

“I feel 100 percent, I’m ready,’’ Hahn said Thursday before heading out to throw on flat ground before the series finale against the Orioles. “I feel great.”

The plan is for the right-hander, currently diagnosed as having a right shoulder strain, to follow up Thursday’s session with a full bullpen

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