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Doolittle comes back, but will he be the closer right away? Valencia scratched with right hamstring problem, has MRI

Sean Doolittle is back in the A's bullpen, and he figures to be closing before too much longer.

Sean Doolittle is back in the A’s bullpen, and he figures to be closing before too much longer.

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.’’

 

NOTES

–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.

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For some reason, A’s hitters can’t go to bat for Bassitt

Chris Bassitt turned in another good start, but lack of support Friday leaves his with his fifth loss.

Chris Bassitt turned in another good start, but lack of support Friday leaves his with his fifth loss.

Look at Chris Bassitt’s 1-5 record and you’d think he was just another rookie stumbling to get his bearings his first months around the big boys.

Look at Bassitt’s ERA, 2.31, and you might think again. He’s unlucky, not floundering.

Again Friday the right-hander gave the A’s a strong start, 6.2 innings in which he allowed just one run. That was one more run than Oakland scored while he was in the game, and he wound up being saddled with yet another loss he didn’t deserve.

Three times in nine starts he’s allowed just one run, and he’s 0-2 in those games. Three times in nine starts he’s allowed exactly two runs. He’s 0-2 in those games, too.

Bassitt hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any start, and the only game he’s won is a game when he threw seven scoreless innings against the Orioles and the Oakland genie came out of the bottle with five runs.

A’s catcher Josh Phegley all but winces when he talks about how poorly the A’s have supported the right-handed Bassitt in his starts.

“That’s the story of the year,’’ Phegley said. “It seems like when we do get pitching performances like that it seem like we can’t come through for him offensively. It’s been a grind on both sides of the ball all year long.’’

Bassitt is tired in the extreme of talking about how well he’s pitched in a loss. He’s all about winning, and he’d be more than happy to give up five runs if the A’s would score six. The one thing he is proudest of is that he isn’t trying to over-think his job, something that fellow starters Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez have talked about with him.

Both of them have more than a little experience in pitching well while the offense snoozes.

“Thankfully Sonny is here and Chavvy is here,’’ he said. “They’ve really taught me a lot, just runs are going to happen. In the past, it would have been completely different where the offense wasn’t going and I was going to try to do a lot more, try to hold them to zero and wound up giving up four or five.

“Then I’d walk away even more mad than I already am. So I’m thankful for Chavvy and Sonny being there and supporting me.’’

The one run the Rays got off Bassitt was entirely his doing, although it was far from clean.

He hit Logan Forsythe with a pitch, threw a wild pitch, then gave up a single to Desmond Jennings. It happened in the second inning, and Bassitt had to pitch from behind the rest of his night.

“Tonight was aggravating in general, because nothing that I was throwing was going where I wanted it to go,’’ Bassitt said. “I was just extremely wild, effectively at some point, but that’s not what I want.

“In the bullpen I felt way too good. In the first two innings I felt way too good. That sounds kind of stupid to say you feel way too good, but it’s true. I pretty much had to bag my curveball because it was not there at all. My slider was kind of there, my fastball was kind of there. I was just trying to throw everything down the middle and hopefully they didn’t hit it.’’

Bassitt loaded the bases on two singles and a walk in the fifth, but after a visit from pitching coach Curt Young, the rookie induced a first-pitch double-play grounder from ex-A’s catcher John Jaso. Two innings later, a walk, a two-out double and a hit batter loaded the bases again. This time it was manager Bob Melvin coming out. He brought in Pat Venditte, and the switch-pitcher got a pop fly to keep it a one-run game at 1-0.

Bassitt was thoroughly grateful.

“He saved me,’’ Bassitt said of Venditte. “He gave our team a chance. He’s been great for us all year. Down in Nashville, up here, I’ve played with him in all the places, and he’s been outstanding.’’

So, too, has Bassitt been.

He just doesn’t have much to show for it.

“He was great again,’’ Melvin said of Bassitt, and not for the first time. “He didn’t have his best breaking pitches, but had a great fastball.’’

Just not much support.

 

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Davis’s season over with lip hip surgery due Thursday

Ike Davis will undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his left hip Thursday and won't be playing again this season for the A's.

Ike Davis will undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his left hip Thursday and won’t be playing again this season for the A’s.

A’s first baseman Ike Davis’s season is over thanks to a labrum tear in his left hip that will require surgery Thursday in Colorado.

Manager Bob Melvin said the results of the MRI Davis underwent Wednesday showed that Davis wasn’t healthy enough to keep on playing. The A’s had cut down his workload in recent weeks in the hopes he’d be able to stay on the field, but that didn’t work.

It’s been an injury-plagued year for Davis, who missed part of the spring with back problems and then spent over a month on the disabled list in May and June with quad problems. The first baseman said Wednesday he believed both those injuries were related to the hip problem, which has dogged him for several years.

“We took a while to get him back (from the quad injury),’’ Melvin said. “I thought once we got him back, he was over that hurdle. I guess it got progressively worse, and he wasn’t saying a whole lot about it.

“Recently, the last couple weeks, it got to where he wasn’t comfortable either swinging or running. It came to a head then, but it just wasn’t getting any better, and the MRI revealed he needed to have surgery.’’

Davis, a potential power bat who had 32 homers as recently as 2012, had just three homers for the A’s this year to go with 20 RBI and a .229 average. He had lost some bad speed this season as the hip injury got progressively worse, and his return to the A’s in 2016 is problematic.

 

–Closer Sean Doolittle could be back in the next couple of days after Thursday’s rehab performance for Triple-A Nashville., one inning in which he struck out the side.

The left-hander, who probably be eased back in as closer once he returns, missed the first couple of months of the season with a strained left rotator cuff, pitched in one game, then went back on the disabled list three days later with a left shoulder strain.

He’s made six appearances on an injury rehabilitation assignment with Nashville, giving up three hits and two runs while striking out 13. Melvin said he talked to Doolittle Friday and the conversation was mostly about the four pitches Doolittle threw Thursday that weren’t strikes.

“He feels great; we’ll probably see him here real soon,’’ Melvin said, adding that the radar gun clocking Doolittle’s fastball was at 92 or 93 mph, depending on the reading.

Asked about another rehab game or if he’d just be activated, Melvin said “we’ll see,’’ adding that the left-hander was still in Nashville Friday night.

“Currently,’’ Melvin said. “He’s currently there.’’

 

–Right-handed starter Kendall Graveman normally would have been down to pitch Saturday, but he’s being held back to Sunday so that ace Sonny Gray can pitch on his regular fifth day.

Graveman said he’s been scouring video to get to the heart of his recent troubles, and said that the extra day will be a help in that regard. After beginning the season 6-4 with a 3.16 ERA through July 4, he has a seven-game stretch in which he is 0-5 with a 6.89 ERA, leaving him at 6-9 and 4.27.

“When I’m going well, I don’t look at video that much,’’ Graveman said. “I do when things start not going my way. I’m trying to evaluate mechanics and my pitch selection.’’

He said that late-season fatigue, common in pitchers in their first full big league season, isn’t an issue.

“My body is feeling pretty good now,’’ he said. “I hit a patch there for a while where I wasn’t feeling good, but lately I’ve been better.’’

 

NOTES

–The altercation involving a group of fans in Section 112 of the Coliseum Tuesday night in the first game of the two-game Dodgers series resulted in about half a dozen ejections, A’s director of stadium operations David Rinetti said Friday. He said he didn’t know of any arrests from the biggest fan uprising of the Coliseum season.

–Left fielder Coco Crisp (ankle, neck) and second baseman Brett Lawrie were back in the lineup Friday after both had missed the previous three games. Melvin said the return was fortuitous because he wants to use both against left-handed pitching – the Rays started lefty Drew Smyly Friday – and “we’re going to face quite a few left-handed pitchers coming up.’’

–The A’s and the rest of the American League West are down to face American League Central teams in interleague play. For Oakland, that means road trips to St. Louis and Milwaukee. The actual schedule has not been released.

–Friday was the return of John Jaso, who was part of the A’s three-man catching platoon of the last two years along with Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt. Jaso is wearing dreadlocks now which, Melvin said, was “not a surprise.’’ Concussion problems mean he’s no longer a catcher, getting an occasional start in the outfield but serving mostly as the DH. Jaso said he misses catching, “but my legs feel a lot fresher now than they would have if I was still behind the plate.’’  He’s had hamate injury problems that have limited him to 37 games and a .309 average.

–Melvin said the at-bats the club has seen from Mark Canha “are as good as we’ve seen from him all year, and that’s including a stretch earlier in the season when he was doing really well and hitting some balls out of the ballpark.’’ He’s playing even against right-handed pitching because he’s hit right-handers, including a .289 average and off of his nine homers. Canha came into Friday with eight hits in his last three games.

–Tyler Ladendorf was activated off the disabled list Friday after missing four months with a fractured ankle and optioned to Triple-A Nashville. He’s likely to be called up when the roster expands in September and the infielder probably would have spent much of the season with the A’s were it not for the injury, “especially with his versatility,’’ Melvin said.

–Melvin said disabled starting pitcher Jarrod Parker is “on the verge’’ of playing catch after his comeback from a second Tommy John surgery was delayed when he suffered a fracture of the medial epicondyle. Even so, he’s a longshot to pitch for the A’s this season.

 

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Pomeranz could be A’s next candidate to close

Drew Pomeranz closed for the A's Wednesday and he could be seen in that role again.

Drew Pomeranz closed for the A’s Wednesday and he could be seen in that role again.

The A’s have spent the last couple of years trying to see if Drew Pomeranz was a fit in their rotation.

They may spend the final seven weeks of the season seeing if he has what it takes to close.

Pomeranz picked up his second save in three tries Wednesday by throwing a perfect ninth inning to preserve Jesse Chavez’s 5-2 over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Asked if Pomeranz was going to be his closer, A’s manager Bob Melvin said only “he was today.’’

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Davis lands on DL after lengthy battle with left hip pain

Ike Davis's bad left hip won't allow him to make plays like this. He went on the DL Wednesday.

Ike Davis’s bad left hip won’t allow him to make plays like this. He went on the DL Wednesday.

Ike Davis went on the disabled list Wednesday after spending much of the last two months with his left hip in ever-increasing pain.

Davis had an MRI on the hit Wednesday morning, and while the A’s were waiting for the results, they and the first baseman decided he needed to be shut down for at least a couple of weeks.

The move to disable Davis, which saw outfielder Jake Smolinski recalled from Triple-A Nashville, leaves his immediate future up in the air.

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Canha earns a career highlight with two hits off Kershaw

Mark Canha celebrates after his double to lead of 10th vs. Dodgers. He would score winning run moments later on Billy Butler's double.

Mark Canha celebrates after his double to lead of 10th vs. Dodgers. He would score winning run moments later on Billy Butler’s double.

Mark Canha’s season wasn’t supposed to go like this.

The A’s thought his right-handed power would be a good fit against left-handed pitching, but before Tuesday night he was hitting just .156 against lefties.

The Rule 5 pickup was earning his keep against right-handers, however, with a .279 average and all nine of his homers.

So it was something of a turnaround, if not outright surprise, to see Canha single twice in three at-bats against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, widely regarded as the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game.

Kershaw has three Cy Young Awards, and while he didn’t get a win Tuesday, he looked every bit the part of the dominator he’s supposed to be.

For Canha, those two hits already are career highlights, even though his career is likely to last for many more years.

“It’s definitely the most memorable game we’ve played, for me,’’ Canha said. “It was awesome.

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McGwire awash in memories on night of his bobblehead

Mark McGwire said "how cool is that" to having A's honor him with a bobblehead of his 1987 self.

Mark McGwire said “how cool is that” to having A’s honor him with a bobblehead of his 1987 self.

Mark McGwire returned to the Oakland Coliseum Tuesday, lean, clean-shaven, short reddish hair. In all, not at all as you probably remember him.

Of course, that McGwire was a bobblehead giveaway on the occasion of the Los Angeles Dodgers making their only visit this season to the Coliseum.

That trim and yet powerful McGwire circa 1987 was the one the A’s chose to commemorate McGwire’s 12-year Oakland career, the dozen years in which he hit 363 homers and won the 1987 Rookie of the Year award with a rookie record 49 bombs.

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Canha has a season full of base running crazy in one inning

Mark Canha signals that he's safe after beating out an infielder grounder to get A's winning rally started.

Mark Canha signals that he’s safe after beating out an infielder grounder to get A’s winning rally started.

Mark Canha is no sprinter. He’s not Billy Butler slow, but he’s not Billy Burns fast. You will probably find him somewhere in the middle.

Whatever speed he has was put on display in the ninth inning Sunday when the A’s scored twice to beat the Astros after Houston had scored three times in the top of the inning to take a 4-3 lead.

The inning began with Canha hitting a grounder to shortstop. It seemed routine, so much so that the Astros’ Carlos Correa made a routine play. With Canha busting it down the line, he was safe.

“There was some adrenalin being a factor there,’’ Canha said. “I went as hard as I could. I don’t think Correa probably thought I could run like that.’’

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Valencia fitting in nicely as A’s latest cleanup hitter option; Monday game to end up coming road trip raises Melvin’s ire

Danny Valencia is making his mark quickly with the A's as a cleanup hitter.

Danny Valencia is making his mark quickly with the A’s as a cleanup hitter.

For the third day running, Danny Valencia is the A’s cleanup hitter Sunday, not bad for a hitter that Toronto had to jettison in their mad dash to rework their roster at the trade deadline.

And for the second day running, Valencia is in the lineup while Billy Butler isn’t.

The cleanup hitter thing may stick, although Butler isn’t in danger of losing his DH job, manager Bob Melvin said.

“He’s got an opportunity, and he’s taken advantage of it,’’ Melvin said of Valencia. “We’ve won a couple of games, and we’ll leave him there for the time being.’’

Valencia, claimed on waivers from Toronto Monday, has started three of the last four games, has hit safely in all three games and as the cleanup hitter has been a hit – four-for-seven with a double, a homer and three RBI.

Butler, meanwhile, is 9-for-55 (.164) with no homers and three RBI over his last 17 games. For the season he’s at .239 with nine homers and 47 RBI, not the production Oakland was hoping for when signing him to a three-year contract as a free agent this off-season.

“It’s the last couple of days I wanted Valencia to DH yesterday and Vogt needs a day off his feet today with a day off tomorrow. So (Butler) is just not in the lineup the next couple of days, but he’ll continue to be in the lineup.’’

There is at least a chance that Valencia will return Tuesday to Toronto, where the A’s will make the first stop of their upcoming seven-game road trip, as the A’s regular third baseman.

Eric Sogard has been losing some playing time with Valencia having made three starts at third and Brett Lawrie moving to second base, taking playing time away from Sogard. At the same time, Melvin is in position to use Sogard some at shortstop to give Marcus Semien some time off, Semien having played in all but one of Oakland’s games this season.

 

–The A’s have a tough road trip coming up, and not just because they play Toronto and Baltimore, the two teams who are pushing the Yankees in the quest to win the AL East title.

There are three games with the Blue Jays first, played in Rogers Centre, which has artificial turf that is tough on the body.

That’s followed with four games in Baltimore, including a Monday night game to end the trip followed by a late-night flight back to Oakland and a Tuesday night game against the Dodgers that will be a tough turnaround, especially with Los Angeles have a day off Monday.

Melvin said he would use his roster liberally, giving days off to Coco Crisp and Lawrie, among others, to keep the turf from having too much of an impact.

There’s not too much he can do about the Baltimore schedule fiasco, however. He won’t pretend it’s not a problem.

“That’s tough. I don’t know how we are playing a night game there on a Monday,’’ Melvin said. “But that’s the way it is. We come back here, get in late, play a night game, then a day game.

“The scheduling for me, especially for AL West teams, is awful. Look at Baltimore. They came out here, took care of playing all three West Coast teams and doesn’t have to come out here again.  This division has it tough.’’

This is the fourth trip this season into the Eastern time zone for the A’s, something that is an issue for the Mariners and Angels as well.

The National League West has similar problems, one reason the Giants’ players brought scheduling up as a concern when they talked to Commissioner Rob Manfred earlier this season.

 

NOTES

–Left fielder Coco Crisp, who came out of the Saturday game apparently with a bad reaction to some medicine, was feeling better Saturday night and was good to go in center fielder Sunday.

–Closer Sean Doolittle will leave Monday to fly to Iowa, where he will continue his injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville. Doolittle, who threw a bullpen session before Sunday’s game, will pitch Tuesday and could throw in several games as he tests his left shoulder to see if it’s ready for a return to the big leagues. Melvin said it’s possible Doolittle, who has only pitched in one big league game this season, could be back with the club sometime on the next homestand.

–The A’s won’t use the day off to change the pitching rotation, so all the Oakland starters will get an extra day off before their next games.

 

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Early returns on Danny Valencia continue to be positive

Danny Valencia is impressing the A's already. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Danny Valencia is impressing the A’s already. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

OAKLAND — The A’s are building for next year and beyond, so self-scouting is a big part of that.

Danny Valencia is a player Oakland wants to learn more about and the early returns continue to be positive after he knocked in two first-inning runs in the A’s 2-1 win Saturday over the Houston Astros.

“He’s been great,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Valencia. “Knocking in runs and that’s what you want guys in the middle of the order to do. We want to give him some opportunities here against righties and we gave him a big one today and he came through for us.”

Valencia’s solo home on Friday night proved to be the winning run and his two-run double in the first inning Saturday had the same effect as the A’s (50-62) won their second straight against the first-place Astros. Continue Reading