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Jharel Cotton’s long trip from Virgin Islands to join A’s starting rotation plus a double dose of Alcantara

Jharel Cotton, who came to the A's in the Josh Reddick-Rich Hill trade with the Dodgers, makes his MLB debut Wednesday.

Jharel Cotton, who came to the A’s in the Josh Reddick-Rich Hill trade with the Dodgers, makes his MLB debut Wednesday.

When Jharel Cotton was 7 and hanging around his house in the Virgin Islands watching TV, he said his stepdad told him he needed to get outside

He did as told, ran into a local baseball game, liked what he saw and said he wanted to play, too. On Wednesday, 17 years later, he makes his Major League debut as the starting pitcher for the A’s in the series finale against the Angels.

The 5-11, 195-pound right-hander moved to the Virginia when he was 16 in order to play a higher level of high school baseball and eventually made it to East Carolina University where the Dodgers made him a 20th-round pick in the 2012 draft.

He was making some progress toward to Dodgers rotation this year when he got word that changed everything.

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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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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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Ross Detwiler, Andrew Triggs get this week’s starts for A’s; Oakland opts to wait a while on going younger in rotation

 

Lefty Ross Detwiler, who began the season with Cleveland, will start for the A's Wednesday.

Lefty Ross Detwiler, who began the season with Cleveland, will start for the A’s Wednesday.

While the A’s were awaiting word on the status of ace Sonny Gray’s right arm, they filled the open spots in this week’s rotation, saying left-hander Ross Detwiler and reliever Andrew Triggs will get the starts Wednesday and Thursday against the Orioles.

Gray and second baseman Jed Lowrie (left foot) both had MRIs taken Monday morning and the club is waiting for their doctors’ analysis of the pictures before deciding what comes next.

“The results aren’t back yet,’’ Melvin said of Gray, who came out of Sunday’s start after five innings with pain in his right forearm. The manager said it was too soon to know if the pain Gray felt was abating any.

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Hill likely back on Sunday, but A’s still a starter short with Daniel Mengden sent down; Dillon Overton could go Saturday

Rich Hill is optimistic he will start Sunday, but with Daniel Mengden sent down, A's still need Saturday starter.

Rich Hill is optimistic he will start Sunday, but with Daniel Mengden sent down, A’s still need Saturday starter.

The A’s have sent their scheduled starter for Saturday, Daniel Mengden, to the minor leagues, leaving couple of open spots in the rotation for this weekend in Cleveland.

Rich Hill, Oakland’s winningest pitcher at 9-3, 2.25, hopes he’ll start Sunday against the Indians. After making 20 throws from 60 feet without a bandage covering his blistered left middle finger and 50 throws in a regular bullpen session with the blister covered, Hill said “I do think it’s real possible I can pitch on Sunday.’’

There is, always, the chance that Hill could be traded between now and then, but he doesn’t want to go and the A’s don’t seem in any hurry to pull the trigger on a deal. Sunday could be big, because it’s the day before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

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Rich Hill isn’t pulling a Scott Kazmir, at least not yet

It was 51 weeks ago that Scott Kazmir reported to the Coliseum ready to start for the A's only to learn that he'd been traded to Houston.

It was 51 weeks ago that Scott Kazmir reported to the Coliseum ready to start for the A’s only to learn that he’d been traded to Houston.

It was 51 weeks ago on a Thursday afternoon that media coming into the A’s clubhouse before an afternoon game against the Blue Jays were treated to the odd sight of Scott Kazmir sitting in street clothes in the office of A’s manager Bob Melvin.

Kazmir, who’d rebuilt his career with the A’s, was supposed to be Oakland’s starting pitcher that day. Instead, the A’s traded him to Houston in a deal that netted the A’s pitcher Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham.

Kazmir is now with the Dodgers. Mengden is now in the A’s rotation. Nottingham is now with Double-A Biloxi in the Brewers’ organization while the player the A’s got from Milwaukee in trading him, Khris Davis, is the A’s current home run leader.

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