Ryan Dull trying to rediscover his focus in grueling season

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stepohen Vogt, is trying to fight his way out of an August skid.

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stephen Vogt, is trying to fight his way out of an August skid.

When reliever Ryan Dull began the season by not allowing any of the first 36 base runners he inherited to score, the A’s right-hander knew that kind of unprecedented success wasn’t going to last forever.

Six of the last 10 inherited runners he’s faced have scored. And the season overall is starting to catch up with Dull, whose ERA has gone from 1.98 to 2.34 in his last eight games, losing twice and suffering a blown save during that time.

The second of the losses came Monday night when he grooved a pitch that Carlos Santana hit out in the eighth inning for the only run in Oakland’s 1-0 loss to Cleveland. It was a pitch Dull “wanted back” after he said “I pulled it right over the middle of the plate.”

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Journeyman Andrew Triggs pitching his way into A’s rotation even if club can’t score for him

Andrew Triggs has caught the eye of his catcher, Stephen Vogt, these last two starts.

Andrew Triggs has caught the eye of his catcher, Stephen Vogt, these last two starts.

The A’s have all but gone out begging for quality starting pitching this year. When they’ve gotten it, they haven’t always supported it.

While Andrew Triggs threw six scoreless innings Monday, the A’s offense was busy being shut down by Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco, and Oakland came up on the short end of a 1-0 game when the Indians’ Carlos Santana delivered a one-out homer in the eighth off reliever Ryan Dull.

The loss was the A’s third in a row, eighth in the last nine games and 17th in the last 23 as 55-72 Oakland has fallen a season-high 19 games under .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League West for the first time.

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Sonny Gray unlikely to start for A’s again this season

It's increasingly unlikely Sonny Gray will be able to start again this year for the A's.

It’s increasingly unlikely Sonny Gray will be able to start again this year for the A’s.

It’s becoming increasingly likely that A’s ace Sonny Gray won’t be starting again this season for Oakland.

Gray, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7, the day after feeling a right forearm strain while facing the Chicago Cubs, said Monday he wanted to get word from the training staff when he might be able to start throwing again.

That being said, Gray knows it won’t be any time soon. And given that the minor league season ends Sept. 5 and with it any chance to go out on an injury rehabilitation assignment, Gray’s hopes for getting another start are flickering.

“I’m hoping; I’d like to get out there again,’’ Gray said before Monday’s series opener with the Indians. “But I’m not ready to throw now. I know that even if they cleared me to throw when I go in there to talk to them, I’d be forcing it by going out there today.

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Butler, Valencia fined; Butler headed to 7-day concussion disabled list after weekend clubhouse fight in Chicago

Billy Butler and Danny Valencia have both been fined and Butler is headed to DL after a weekend fight.

Billy Butler and Danny Valencia have both been fined and Butler is headed to DL after a weekend fight.

DH Billy Butler and first baseman/outfielder Danny Valencia were both handed fines by the A’s Monday after a Friday fight in Chicago between the two raised questions as to whether or not the two men could peacefully coexist in the Oakland clubhouse.

“He’s my teammate,’’ Valencia said when asked about his relationship with Butler. “I have respect for him I think he has respect for me.’’

Before Monday, the lockers occupied by Butler and Valencia were both in the northeast corner of the Oakland clubhouse. Butler’s locker has been moved to the far south side, as far away as could be located from Valencia’s.

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Coco Crisp finds diminished playing time suspicious

Coco Crisp is finding too many days off on his schedule.

Coco Crisp is finding too many days off on his schedule.

Coco Crisp was back in the A’s lineup Tuesday in Arlington, Texas, starting in center field after sitting out Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Rangers.

That’s 94 games this season for the A’s outfielder, which puts him on a pace to play in 127 games by season’s end. And that’s sort of an important number for Crisp, because it means his A’s career may be over come October.

Crisp is concerned that the pattern of his days off is deliberately designed to keep him from reaching 130 games. That’s the number stipulated in his contract that will trigger an automatic $13 million contract with Oakland for 2017. By playing in 129 or fewer games, he would become a free agent.

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Healthy Liam Hendriks inheriting bigger roles with A’s

Liam Hendriks has become an integral part of A's bullpen since putting injury behind him.

Liam Hendriks has become an integral part of A’s bullpen since putting injury behind him.

There hasn’t been a more reliable arm in the Oakland bullpen the last eight weeks than Liam Hendriks.

Or as the Aussie right-hander puts it, “I’m finally pitching like the guy they traded for.”

When Oakland traded starter Jesse Chavez to the Blue Jays last November to bolster the bullpen, it was the club’s first major off-season move and an indication of the esteem they had for Hendriks, who was coming off a season in Toronto where he was 5-0 with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.082 WHIP.

So it was with some alarm that the A’s saw the first 30 games of the season implode on Hendriks, who had an 8.27 ERA, a 1.776 WHIP and a .394 opponents’ batting average in that span. Something had to be wrong, and it was. The club put Hendriks on the disabled list for six weeks with a triceps strain.

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Billy Butler making Bob Melvin, A’s take notice of production

Billy Butler keeps hammering the ball against right-handers, and it's getting him more playing time.

Billy Butler keeps hammering the ball against right-handers, and it’s getting him more playing time.

Billy Butler has seemingly come out of nowhere to be the A’s hottest hitter.

The prize free agent plucked from Kansas City two winters ago struggled in his first year with Oakland, hitting 40 points under his career batting average, just .251, with just 15 homers.

It wasn’t want he or the A’s were looking for after agreeing on a three-year, $30 million deal designed to give the A’s more right-handed oomph.

Things got so bad in the first month of this season that Butler became relegated to being a part-time player, starting against left-handed pitchers but having to check the lineup card every day to see if he might be getting a start against a right-hander.

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Henderson Alvarez willing to pitch relief, if that’s what it takes to get back on a big league mound for A’s this year

Henderson Alvarez hasn’t talked to the A’s media for a couple of months now, not because of any Trump-ish view of the media, but simply because there hasn’t been much to say.

With a month and a half left in the season, that’s changing. The right-handed starter on whom the A’s had high hopes sat down Saturday and talked to me about his optimism that despite everything, he would pitch for the A’s this season.

And if that means pitching in relief for the first time since 2011, he’s cool with that.

“I wouldn’t go against what the manager wants to do,” the Venezuelan-born Alvarez said through an interpreter. “I’ve always been a starter, but mostly I just want to contribute.”

The A’s still see Alvarez as a starter, but for the moment the club has to deal with the realities of time. The season is over in just over seven weeks. That’s plenty of time for Alvarez to build up his arm strength if he was going to throw an inning here or there out of the bullpen, but maybe not enough to build up to being a starter.

On top of that, the minor league season ends on Sept. 5, meaning he has just two weeks to get into an injury rehabilitation game before the A’s minor league affiliates call the regular season quits. He’s about ready to start throwing bullpen sessions, but gearing up that quickly seems undoable.

Still, Alvarez is getting geared up to pitch again, and that has him feeling good, because this season hasn’t gone at all the way he’d hoped. Right now, pitching in relief sounds pretty good to someone his teammates say just wants to compete.

“If it’s relief, I’d be encouraged,” Alvarez said. He’s pitched in relief seven times in the minor leagues. He has been in 92 Major League games, and all of those have been starts. “I just want to be out there.”

Oakland took a flier on the 2014 National League All-Star, signing him as a free agent last December, knowing that there was no way he would be able to pitch for the club for at least the first six weeks of the season.

Alvarez had spent the second half of the 2015 on the disabled list in Miami following July surgery on his shoulder that year. The A’s medical team checked him out and determined it was reasonable to expect Alvarez back in May or June.

And it wasn’t unreasonable. He made three injury rehabilitation assignment starts in May, but in the last of them felt discomfort and had to be shut down for three weeks. Then came two more starts in June, but in the second of those there was more discomfort and another two months was lost to recovery and slow buildup.

“It was very disappointing both times to get as close as I did,” Alvarez said. “There was no warning, but these things happen. It’s not in my control.”

“It’s definitely been a difficult season. But I never gave up. And now I’m feeling good again.”

Alvarez played catch up to 105 feet Saturday and will play up to 120 feet Sunday, after which he says he expects to start throwing bullpen sessions.


Sean Doolittle heading out on injury rehab assignment

Sean Doolittle is heading out on an injury rehab assignment and could be back on next homestand.

Sean Doolittle is heading out on an injury rehab assignment and could be back on next homestand.

Sean Doolittle could be back with the A’s when they return from a seven-game road trip to Texas and Chicago that starts Monday.

The Oakland lefty, who hasn’t pitched since June 25, is being sent out on an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Nashville. Manager Bob Melvin said the plan calls for Doolittle to throw as many as three times in the week he’s gone, beginning with an inning on Monday.

Doolittle threw 20 pitches to hitters Friday and came off the mound feeling good about the state of his shoulder.

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Khris Davis continues to hit like a big kid in Little League

Khris Davis hasn't found hitting homers a hindrance in the Coliseum.

Khris Davis hasn’t found hitting homers a hindrance in the Coliseum.

While searching to come up with an apt description of Khris Davis, A’s left fielder Coco Crisp went back to basics.

“This park can be a little humbling,” Crisp said. “For him, he makes it like he’s one of those big kids in the Little League World Series. That’s what it feels like when you see that guy hit a home run.”

Davis’ first-inning homer would have been semi-normal for a left-handed hitter. He delivered a fly ball that hugged the right field line, refused to bend into foul territory and carried out for his 28th bomb of the season, a new career high.

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