Dillon Overton ready for a second crack at A’s rotation

Lefty Dillon Overton returns to the A's rotation Tuesday against Houston.

Lefty Dillon Overton returns to the A’s rotation Tuesday against Houston.

Dillon Overton will be coming off a long break to jump back into the A’s starting rotation Tuesday against the Astros.

The A’s rookie lefty had been preparing for a Monday start for Triple-A Nashville, but his ticket to Oakland got punched when Rich Hill came out of his Sunday start after throwing just five pitches thanks to a blister. Tuesday’s original starter, Sean Manaea, wound up throwing five innings of relief against the Blue Jays.

The Nashville Sounds were just getting back from the Triple-A All-Star break, so Overton said he had only thrown a pair of bullpen sessions in the last week when he got the word Sunday he was Oakland-bound.

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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.


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 MRI inconclusive, but he feels OK; Dr. James Andrews will get next chance to decipher MRI

Henderson Alvarez status is up in the air after MRI on shoulder comes back inconclusive.

Henderson Alvarez status is up in the air after MRI on shoulder comes back inconclusive.

The A’s are putting the return of Henderson Alvarez on hold after an MRI of the right-handed starter’s shoulder didn’t tell the medics exactly what was going on.

“We got the MRI back, but it was inconclusive,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “So we’re going to send the MRI to Andrews, who did his surgery. And then we are going to treat him asymptomatically.’’

Shoulder specialist Dr. James Andrews should get back to the A’s in a day or two with his conclusions about the MRI.

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Sean Murphy’s death hits A’s clubhouse hard

The news of the death of former A’s minor league pitcher Sean Murphy Tuesday hit the A’s clubhouse hard.

Many of the players who have spent time working their way through the minor league system were close to Murphy, 27, whose cause of death wasn’t immediately known.

“When I was going through rehab last year he’d had Tommy John surgery and we worked out together all the time,’’ infielder/outfielder Tyler Ladendorf said. “I think we played together for about four years. It’s just a shock. Everybody wants to know what happened.

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A’s Mark Canha having trouble finding much playing time

Mark Canha isn't getting much of a chance to celebrate or do much else on the field in the early weeks of the A's season.

Mark Canha isn’t getting much of a chance to celebrate or do much else on the field in the early weeks of the A’s season.

As an unknown quantity last year, then-rookie Mark Canha wasn’t supposed to play much. He wound up getting some early chances and capitalized.

Canha is a known quantity this time around with 16 homers, 70 RBI and a slash line of .254/.315/.426 as Rule 5 pickup. He was supposed to get a big contributor, but that’s not how it’s worked.

He played in 10 of the A’s first 13 games a year ago, but in only four of the first 13 this time around and in just one of the last nine. And he was on the bench again Tuesday as the A’s opened a 10-game road trip in Yankee Stadium.

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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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Gray feeling better after bout of what he believes was flu; he’ll start Wednesday; Kendall Graveman fighting flu now

Sonny Gray (center) is feeling better after missing Monday's opening day start with what was probably a 24-hour flu bug. He'll start Wednesday for A's.

Sonny Gray (center) is feeling better after missing Monday’s opening day start with what was probably a 24-hour flu bug. He’ll start Wednesday for A’s.

Sonny Gray now doubts it was food poisoning that kept him from a third consecutive Opening Night start Monday. He’s willing to put the blame on a 24-hour flu.

One thing the A’s right-hander does know is that either way he’d just as soon not spend any more time in hospitals getting IV fluids pumped into him.

Gray, who will now start Game 3 of the season against the White Sox Wednesday, would have been willing to pitch regardless, but he said Tuesday in retrospect it was the right call for him to be skipped.

“It’s just one game of 162,’’ he said. “It was upsetting not to start, it really sucked, but there’s nothing you can do about it.’’

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