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.