Wild pitches are the undoing of Sonny Gray for once

Sonny Gray had two wild pitches help to beat him Friday in Cincinnati.

Sonny Gray had two wild pitches help to beat him Friday in Cincinnati.

Sonny Gray leads the league in wild pitches, and the A’s are perfectly happy that he do so. Most of the time.

The movement Gray has on his pitches is like nothing most other pitchers can muster. Batters swing and miss at his stuff all the time, even when it’s in the dirt, one of the reasons he was an All-Star last year.

Gray generally isn’t bothered by wild pitches, mostly because he’s able to pitch around the potential damage they cause. Friday night in Great American Ball Park, he couldn’t.

His first wild pitch came with the A’s in a 1-0 lead and gave the Reds their first runner in scoring position. Seconds later a grounder flattened out on third baseman Danny Valencia, scooting by him for a game-tying double.

After an infield hit got the runner to third base, a second wild pitch brought the go-ahead run home.

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Power left-handed starter A.J. Puk A’s first draft pick

The A’s used the sixth pick in the draft Thursday to draft a player that many thought might go first in the draft, left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk out of Florida.

Puk, whose fastball touches 99 mph and who has a nasty slider, is the first pitcher taken by the A’s in the first round since they tabbed Sonny Gray in the first round of the 2011 draft. Scouts mostly say they’d like to see him work on a changeup that would make him a three-pitch pitcher and a candidate to be a top-of-the-rotation guy.

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Rich Hill likely to return to mound for A’s Friday

Rich Hill is confident he'll be healthy enough to start in Cincinnati this coming weekend

Rich Hill is confident he’ll be healthy enough to start in Cincinnati this coming weekend

Rich Hill didn’t do much Sunday. Not much except prove to himself that he’ll be back in the A’s rotation come Friday in Cincinnati.

Hill took some time pregame in Minute Maid Park to play catch with bullpen catcher Phil Pohl. It was no big deal, except that Hill didn’t feel any discomfort in his left groin.

He had been feeling it as recently as Sunday morning. But the physical therapy work he’s been doing with the A’s training staff had him ready all smiles.

He and Pohl played catch at about 90 feet

“I did throw, and it went great,’’ Hill said. “With a day off tomorrow to rest it, the idea is I’ll throw a bullpen on Wednesday. I’m pretty optimistic for Cincinnati.

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Coco Crisp, Khris Davis both good to go as Sonny Gray returns

Coco Crisp was back in the A's lineup Sunday after missing Saturday's start with an Achilles heel issue.

Coco Crisp was back in the A’s lineup Sunday after missing Saturday’s start with an Achilles heel issue.

The A’s got some news on the injury front Sunday. In contrast to the way injuries have played themselves out this season, the news was good.

Coco Crisp, who left Friday’s game early with an Achilles’ tendon problem and who got only a pinch-hit at-bat in Saturday’s 12-inning game, was back in the lineup.

So, too, was Khris Davis, who was winged in the 12th inning Saturday just above the elbow. The numbness having dissipated, he declared himself good to go.

And then there was the case of Sonny Gray, who was activated off the disabled list to make Sunday’s start against the Astros. He was sidelined two weeks ago by a right trapezius injury, but that seems to be behind him and the only question seems to be how deep into the game will he be able to get after 15 days off.

Gray was down to throw about 80 pitches when he was scheduled to start Sunday with Class-A Stockton. That hasn’t changed much now that the A’s needed him to start in the big leagues.

“We’ll see, it’ll be somewhere in the vicinity, depending on how he gets there and on the inning,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “I do have a pretty deep bullpen today.’’

Melvin said of Crisp “I doubt he’s 100 percent,’’ but it was a positive sign that Crisp was playing because as recently as Saturday the manager was speculating that Crisp might need Sunday off.

As for Davis, he was in the lineup provisionally. He was hit on a nerve above the left elbow and briefly lost feeling in his hand Saturday night. He proclaimed himself ready to go, but the A’s put him through a workout in the batting cage to make sure all was well. If not, Melvin said he was prepared to make some changes.



–Liam Hendriks reportedly felt good after his simulated game with the Stockton Ports. “He was encouraged,’’ Melvin said. “It had been a while since he’d felt really good.’’ Hendriks threw to hitters with extra intensity and came out of the day happy with the progress he’s been making.

–Rotation candidate Henderson Alvarez threw 35 pitches in a bullpen session Saturday. The A’s are mulling over what is next for Alvarez, who is trying to come back after having shoulder surgery last July. It will probably involve him facing hitters, either in a simulated game or on an injury rehab assignment.

–Rich Hill, skipped in the rotation this weekend because of a mild left groin strain, is down to throw a bullpen session Wednesday in Milwaukee, but it’s not clear yet what date next weekend he will return to the rotation in Cincinnati. Because the A’s have off days Monday and Thursday, Melvin and pitching coach have leeway in moving the starters around and assigning extra rest, as needed. The best guess is that he would start Friday so that he and fellow lefty Sean Manaea, due to start next Sunday, wouldn’t be pitching on back-to-back days.

–The A’s were talking 24 hours later about the play Houston left fielder Colby Rasmus made to throw out Jed Lowrie, who was going for a double in the 11th inning Saturday. “When the ball was hit, I thought it would be a double fairly easily,’’ Melvin said. “He was in the right spot, made a great throw. It was a great play.’’

–Much has been made that A’s reliever Ryan Dull has not allowed any of his 21 inherited runners to score, but more than that, hitters are 0-for-32 against him with men in scoring position.

–Reliever Sean Doolittle is on a major streak with one urn allowed in his last 12 games over 11.1 innings. He not only has a 0.79 over that stretch, but he has recorded 20 strikeouts while walking just two, one of those intentional.



Will A’s send down Andrew Triggs after he saved bullpen? Tyler Ladendorf answered the call to pitch the eighth inning

Andrew Triggs (60) stepped up for A's Friday, but he might be headed to the minors Saturday.

Andrew Triggs (60) stepped up for A’s Friday, but he might be headed to the minors Saturday.

The A’s were grateful for Andrew Triggs Friday, that he was able to step up when starter Jesse Hahn floundered in the first inning and give Oakland four innings of work out of the bullpen.

Baseball is a tough master, though. And the A’s are likely to show their gratitude Saturday by sending Triggs down to Triple-A Nashville. The A’s are in need of extra bullpen help after the bullpen was forced to eat 7.1 innings of Friday’s 12-2 loss to the Astros, although admittedly one of those innings went to infielder Tyler Ladendorf.

So Triggs won’t be surprised if the A’s decide to send him down and call someone else up. The pitchers at Triple-A Nashville are well rested, the Sounds game Friday at home against Round Rock was rained out.

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A’s scratch Rich Hill from Saturday start with groin issue; Kendall Graveman moves up from Sunday to take over

Rich Hill has been scratched from his scheduled start Saturday by A's.

Rich Hill has been scratched from his scheduled start Saturday by A’s.

The A’s have scratched left-handed starter Rich Hill, who was coming off winning American League Pitcher of the Month honors, for Saturday’s start against the Astros.

Kendall Graveman will get the start, moving up a day from a scheduled Sunday start. Because of Thursday’s day off, Graveman will be going on his regular fifth day turn.

Hill went 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA and 1.026 WHIP as the only steady arm in the A’s rotation in May. He came out of his final start May 29 against the Tigers with some left groin discomfort but was pronounced ready to go before the A’s left Oakland for Houston.

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Ryan Dull keeps on keeping on by stranding all runners

Ryan Dull picked up his first win of the year Tuesday and still hasn't allowed any of the 21 base runners he's inherited to score.

Ryan Dull picked up his first win of the year Tuesday and still hasn’t allowed any of the 21 base runners he’s inherited to score.

Ryan Dull never gets tired of doing the same thing.

The A’s never get tired of watching him do it.

Dull pitches relief for the A’s, and unglamorous relief at that. He usually gets asked to pitch in the sixth or seventh inning with men on base and the situation dire.

On Tuesday it was the fifth inning, and again the game was in the balance. A soft double had gotten behind right fielder Chris Coghlan and tied the game at 3-all with the Twins. Manager Bob Melvin didn’t think he could go much further with starter Eric Surkamp.

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Fernando Rodriguez is a major Tommy John success story, throwing harder and sharper than ever out of A’s bullpen

Fernando Rodriguez is three years' removed from Tommy John surgery, and his is a complete success story..

Fernando Rodriguez is three years’ removed from Tommy John surgery, and his is a complete success story..

Much has been made of the A’s issues with pitchers having to undergo ligament replacement in the pitching elbow, or as it’s better known, Tommy John surgery.

Jarrod Parker has not pitched since 2013, twice having undergone Tommy John surgery. This year alone, Felix Doubront and Chris Bassitt have had Tommy John procedures. Each man will miss all of 2016. Just when or if any of the three will pitch in 2017 is up in the air.

There is an upside to all this Tommy John angst. His name is Fernando Rodriguez.

Rodriguez could hit 96, maybe 97 mph on the radar gun on a good day in his first three big league seasons with the Angels, then the Astros. The A’s picked him up before the 2013 with the id that he’d be a strong middle innings reliever, but almost immediately that was scuttled by his needing Tommy John surgery.

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Yonder Alonso’s glovework keeps A’s defense together

Yonder Alonso is making fans in A's clubhouse with his defense at first base.

Yonder Alonso is making fans in A’s clubhouse with his defense at first base.

Yonder Alonso didn’t have a hit Monday night in Safeco Field, although it took a nice running catch from former Giant Nori Aoki to deny him.

Nonetheless, Alonso had a quietly huge night for the A’s in a 5-0 win over the Mariners.

In the second inning, he helped starter Rich Hill get out of a bases-loaded jam by spearing a grounder at first base hit by Aoki and throwing a strike to the plate for a force.

In the ninth inning, with Ryan Madson pitching in relief, Alonso snared a bullet off the bat of Dae-Ho Lee and turned what could have been an RBI double into a double play, snuffing out almost the Mariners’ last breath.

The A’s have almost gotten too used to the smooth defense Alonso brings to first base, although pitcher after pitcher, including Hill Monday, is sure to point out the high level at which Alonso is playing defense.

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