Sean Doolittle will be the A’s closer again.
The only question after he was activated from the disabled list Saturday is whether or not his first game will see him pitching in the ninth inning with a lead.
Doolittle and A’s manager Bob Melvin were going to meet after the A’s pregame workout Saturday to discuss the possibilities, but it’s clear that Melvin wants the left-hander to close, and the sooner the better. Doolittle wants to close, too, but is willing to work his way up the line of succession, if that’s what it takes.
“Whether we put him right in there or give him a lesser role to start, we’ll see,’’ Melvin said. “(Closing) is what he does. We want him to feel good about what he’s doing. And we want to get him through the rest of the season healthy and pitching effectively.’’
Doolittle sees himself closing, but if it doesn’t happen immediately, he says he’s OK with that. It’s all part of the process back from should problems that have limited him to one game this season.
He says he wants more than anything to put himself “on the short list to be the closer next year’’ with the A’s in last place and trying simply to not finish with the worst record in the American League.
“I’ve missed this so much, and I’ve worked so hard to get back,’’ he said. “I went through all the necessary steps that I would have in spring training. Now I can come in here for the last month and a half of the season and pitch well and set me up in good position for next year, put my name in the had to be the closer next year.’’
Mare that even that, however, is simply getting on the mound in whatever role, knowing that he arm is sound and that there shouldn’t be any holdover physical problems heading into 2016.
“That’s probably the biggest thing,’’ he said. “If I had to go into the winter without knowing where I was at from the stand point of my stuff, where it’s at, not really knowing if that all that work paid off. Now we’ll have a better handle on it, having something to show for it.
“It gives you a different look when you spend a season watching from the bench or from your couch when the team is on the road and your spot comes up and you’re not able to contribute. It puts it in perspective how really special this opportunity is to put on this uniform and how much you have to appreciate it and not take it for granted.
`It feels really, really good to be back.’’
–Third baseman Danny Valencia was in the original starting lineup, but right knee pain led to him being scratched and he underwent an MRI to determine the extent of the problem. He’s unlikely to play in Sunday’s series finale.
As a result, Stephen Vogt went from behind the plate and took Valencia’s spot as the designated hitter and Josh Phegley stepped in as the catcher, getting a relative rare start against right-handed pitching.
“Danny was in there, but he’s got a little bit of a lower hamstring, back of the knee soreness,’’ Melvin said. “We took Danny out. We want to make sure he’s not going out there injured.
“The doctor will take a look at the MRI tomorrow, and we’ll have an idea of how many more days he’s going to miss.’’
–To make room on the roster for Doolittle, right-hander Dan Otero was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. At the same time, first baseman Ike Davis was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Doolittle.
–Melvin said that Pat Venditte was carving out a nice role for himself this year and putting himself strongly in the running to be a major player in the A’s bullpen come 2016. The switch-throwing reliever got four outs Friday, including pitching out of a bases-loaded jam. He’s done two things exceptionally well, stranding all six runners he’s inherited and having the first hitters he’s faced go 0-for-7 with a walk against him. “We’ve used him in important roles, and he’s making a case for himself,’’ Melvin said. “He’s making a case to be a significant part of the bullpen next year.’’
–Rookie Mark Canha got just his second start as the A’s cleanup hitter. He’s getting bigger roles as he continues to hit, including 9-for-16 in his last four games, and a longer streak that includes one homer, four doubles and six RBI in his last 10 games. He has 41 RBI for the year, tied for first among all AL rookies.
–With Friday’s 2-1 loss to Tampa, Oakland is 14-28 in one-games. That matches the biggest total of one-run losses for any A’s team in the last 29 years, the 2014 also losing 28 one-runners. They haven’t lost more one-run games since 1986, when Oakland was 22-29 in that category.
–The A’s came into Saturday having allowed homers in 15 consecutive games, tying an Oakland record. They had done it Aug. 6-121, 1987. Curiously the 110 homers allowed by Oakland this year is the third-lowest total in the American League.
–Coco Crisp came into Saturday with three consecutive multiple-hit games, going 8-for-14, .571, after going 7-for-73, .096 in his first 22 games.