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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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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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Joey Wendel, Chad Pinder A’s new platoon at second base

Joey Wendle will be half of A's second base platoon.

Joey Wendle will be half of A’s second base platoon.

Joey Wendel, who was almost certainly going to be called up after the rosters expanded from 25 to 40 on Thursday, got a jump on the competition when he was promoted Wednesday from Triple-A Nashville to Oakland and immediately went into the A’s starting lineup.

The arrival of Wendel, picked up from the A’s in the Brandon Moss trade of two winters ago, does a minor remake of the A’s infield. Max Muncy, who had been getting most of the work at second base, will step into the outfield as a backup with Wendle and Chad Pinder, called up last week, moving into a platoon at second base.

“I didn’t think it would be this soon,’’ Wendle admitted. He was called into Nashville manager Steve Scarsone’s office Tuesday night and told him he’d been promoted.

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Ryon Healy confident after bummer of a day defensively

Ryon Healy will have to prove to the A's that he can handle third base defensively heading forward.

Ryon Healy will have to prove to the A’s that he can handle third base defensively heading forward.

The second inning Monday scarcely could have gone worse for Ryon Healy.

The A’s rookie third baseman had the first play of the bottom of the second come his way. Houston’s Yuli Gurriel’s slow roller was going to be a difficult third out of the inning, Healy got to the ball, and bounced a throw to first base. Gurriel had a hit, and short of a laser throw on the fly from Healy, he would have had a single, no matter what.

Marwin Gonzalez followed with an inning-ending grounder, or it would have been inning-ending if Healy hadn’t muffed the pickup. Now the Astros had two men on with two out and Teoscar Hernandez at the plate.

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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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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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Home runs are cutting both ways for the A’s

 

Sean Manaea is going to have to learn to keep the ball inside the fences if he's going to have success with A's.

Sean Manaea is going to have to learn to keep the ball inside the fences if he’s going to have success with A’s.

It’s easy to look at the A’s and their hitters’ home run production since the All-Star break – 26 homers in 17 games – and think the power game is going Oakland’s way.

It’s not.

That’s because the A’s pitcher are being entirely too liberal with the gopher ball themselves.

Two homers off lefty Sean Manaea Tuesday in a 5-4 loss accounted for all the Angels’ runs. And while the A’s hitters have been blasting balls at a 50 percent higher rate post-All-Star break (1.53) than they had been before (1.01), the pitchers are picking up the pace, too.

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Ryon Healy quickly becoming an A’s clubhouse favorite

Ryon Healy (48) has a new fan in A's catcher Stephen Vogt (21)

Ryon Healy (48) has a new fan in A’s catcher Stephen Vogt (21)

Ryon Healy has been with the A’s for a week now, and already the rookie third baseman is making an impact.

He homered in his second start, a three-run shot that went a long way to producing a 5-4 win over Toronto. He doubled as part of a five-run inning in his fourth start, driving in a run. Game 5 saw him drive in two runs with a double in a game the A’s won in 10 innings.

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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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