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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Teammates happy for Coco Crisp, but sad to see him go

His A's teammates are sorry to see Coco Crisp leave, but happy he'll be in a pennant race with Indians.

His A’s teammates are sorry to see Coco Crisp leave, but happy he’ll be in a pennant race with Indians.

The official announcement of the trade of Coco Crisp to the Indians will come down Wednesday morning.

For the A’s, it came Tuesday night as his now former teammates said their goodbyes before Crisp packed up and left, there being no need for him to watch an Oakland 3-1 loss to Houston. It was the A’s 75th loss against 57 wins, a record that screams out for roster shakeups.

The A’s are packaging a bunch of cash to go with Crisp to the Indians, and Cleveland will send a mid-level prospect or two to the A’s in return. Whoever it is the A’s get, he won’t join Oakland as Crisp’s replacement. That will be Triple-A second baseman Joey Wendel, who should be in Houston in time for Wednesday’s series finale.

“Coco was great; he did a lot here in Oakland on the field and with fans and he was a great teammate,’’ Kendall Graveman said in the wake of pitching seven innings and taking his ninth loss of the season. “We played one last game of cards and I won; I told him `you can’t leave me a loser’. I think maybe he let me win.

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Kendall Graveman moves in as ace of A’s rotation

Kendall Graveman served up a 5-1 win over the Indians Wednesday.

Kendall Graveman served up a 5-1 win over the Indians Wednesday.

How does a pitcher who began the season with a 1-6 record and 5.48 ERA morph into becoming the ace of his team’s rotation?

The answer, if you are Kendall Graveman, is to rediscover the best qualities of his sinker while pitching for an A’s team that lost one starter, Rich Hill, to a trade while seeing another ace, Sonny Gray, on and off the disabled list in the midst of his worst big league season.

Graveman stretched his record to 10-8 Wednesday with his ninth win in his last 11 decisions. He threw a shutout his last time out against the White Sox and had Cleveland, the team with the American League’s best record, blanked for 6.2 innings of a 5-1 Oakland win.

He is, in fact, the A’s ace.

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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.”



–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.



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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Sonny Gray can’t fight his way out of the wilderness


Sonny Gray, a Cy Young candidate last year, continues to have his troubles for A's in 2016.

Sonny Gray, a Cy Young candidate last year, continues to have his troubles for A’s in 2016.

The A’s starting pitching has been in a funk all year, and the man at the head of the class, Sonny Gray, continues to struggle in ways he’s never struggled before.

Gray was hammered for seven runs in five innings Thursday and other than one swing from center fielder Jake Smolinski the A’s offense was nowhere to be found in a series-opening 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

From the time he came up midway through 2013 through the end of the 2015 seasons, Gray had started 74 times for the A’s and had allowed seven runs just twice. He’s made 18 starts this year, and Thursday was the fourth time he’s allowed seven runs in a game.

His confidence, he says remains good. But this season has taken a toll.

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Josh Donaldson has spread his wings since leaving the A’s; History Channel spotlights him in `The Vikings’ in August

Josh Donaldson hasn't stopped hitting since moving to the Blue Jays, and he's a part-time actor, too.

Josh Donaldson hasn’t stopped hitting since moving to the Blue Jays, and he’s a part-time actor, too.

Josh Donaldson felt almost at home in the Coliseum before Friday’s A’s-Blue Jays game.

Sitting on the couch of equipment manager Steve Vucinich, the third baseman caught up with members of the organization with which he rose to national prominence in 2012-14.

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Rich Hill wants to stay, but deadline deal is possible


Rich Hill doesn't want to leave Oakland, but scouts are sizing him up for a possible trade.

Rich Hill doesn’t want to leave Oakland, but scouts are sizing him up for a possible trade.

There were a half dozen or more scouts on hand to watch the A’s Rich Hill pitch Saturday night.

He didn’t pitch for the scouts. He pitched for the A’s, his first game back from the disabled list, and threw six two-run innings.

A group of scouts will be watching all of his Oakland starts this month, figuring he is the player most likely to be pried loose from the A’s as the trade deadline nears. Even after more than a month on the DL he’s tied for 10th in the American League with eight wins, and his 2.31 ERA would be second in the league if he has enough innings to qualify.

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Cuban star Lazaro Armenteros likely to sign with A’s Saturday

The international signing period for Major League teams starts Saturday, and the A’s are expected to make as big a splash as any team with the signing of 17-year-old Cuban outfielder Lazaro “Lazarito’’ Armenteros.

Sources say Armenteros, who played for the Cuban national youth team before defecting to Haiti and eventually the Dominican Republic, is expected to get in the neighborhood of $3 million when the international signing period opens.

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Sean Manaea boosts hope that A’s rotation will be a factor

Sean Manaea is back, and the A's rotation is coming back at the same time.

Sean Manaea is back, and the A’s rotation is coming back at the same time.

A week ago, one could make a reasonable assumption that the A’s weren’t going to have much to play for the rest of the way.

Their starting pitchers hadn’t been doing much. They were in a 17-game stretch in which they were 0-9 with a 5.29 ERA. And that’s a scary long time to go without a win for an entire rotation.

Only once, almost two decades ago, had an A’s rotation gone dry longer, an 18-game stretch from July 24-Aug. 12, 1997. And if the A’s history of the last two decade says anything, it’s that the A’s are at least competitive when their rotation gives them a chance.

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