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Kazmir lifted after three innings with triceps tightness

A’s left-handed starter Scott Kazmir left Wednesday night’s start against the Yankees after three innings with what the team described as left triceps tightness.

Kazmir, who came into the start holding down the sixth-best ERA in the American League at 2.56, is the focus of not just the A’s but of many contending Major League clubs. Although the last-place A’s haven’t said he’s available, with the trade deadline coming up July 31 and Kazmir’s contract with Oakland up at the end of the year, the assumption is that he’s available for the right deal.

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Pomeranz has proved to be a big relief to A’s bullpen

Drew Pomeranz's move into relief work has strengthened the pen

Drew Pomeranz’s move into relief work has strengthened the pen

The move of Drew Pomeranz from the starting rotation has been good for Pomeranz, who has a 1.15 ERA in 17 games since coming off the disabled list June 3.

It’s also been good for the A’s, who have had something of a miserable time watching their relievers, until lately. Since June 20, the relievers have a combined ERA of 1.96 thanks in large part to the left-handed Pomeranz, who hasn’t allowed a run in eight games (nine innings) over that span.

More than that, Pomeranz’s ability to warm up in a hurry, face right-handed hitters and throw multiple innings has given manager Bob Melvin options he didn’t have when Pomeranz was in the starting rotation.

“He’s really been the stabilizing force that allows us to get to (closer Tyler) Clippard,’’ Melvin said. “We’ve had bits of success with other guys, but when you have a lefty down there that can neutralize power left-handed bat and he’s a starter who is used to seeing seven or eight righties in the lineup, you’re confident you’re going to get your matchup with him.

“He can give you more than one inning, not that want to do that too often because you might not have him three days in a row. But here recently, when you look at our bullpen numbers, he’s been the key reason for is.’’

Melvin didn’t know if Pomeranz would be available for Wednesday’s game.

 

–The A’s starting rotation has the best overall ERA in the American League at 3.01 with the starters allowing one or zero runs in five of the last eight games and 21 of the last 42 games.

The only real downside to that his starters are racking up lots of innings. Given that, Melvin is looking forward to being able to give every one of his starters a minimum of four days off at the All-Star break.

Even All-Star starter Sonny Gray will get that time off, because he’s pitching on Sunday in Cleveland, and that mean he won’t be pitching during the All-Star Game itself.

As a group, the A’s starters are averaging 6.1 innings per start.

“Any time you have the consistency that we’ve had out of our starters, good health means they’re out there and good performance means they’re out there for a while. The All-Star break will help.’’

As part of that, Jesse Hahn is being pushed back in the rotation to Saturday to give him and extra three days off. He has been dealing with some elbow tightness, but a bullpen session Wednesday went well.

He’s already pitched 96.2 innings this season and is on pace for 193.1 innings after he pitched just 116.2 innings combined between the majors and minors last year.

 

NOTES

–With Cleveland just 250 miles from the site of the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, the A’s and Indians are combining to get their All-Stars to the game after Oakland and Cleveland finish up a series Sunday in Cleveland. The idea is to rent a luxury party bus and have the A’s Sonny Gray and Stephen Vogt and the Indians’ Jason Kipnis and their families make the drive as a group.

–The A’s got newly promoted outfielder Jake Smolinski in Wednesday’s lineup in right field. That means that the only left-handed bat in the Oakland lineup against Yankees’ lefty C.C. Sabathia belonged to Stephen Vogt, who was playing first base. Vogt is hitting .270 with a .349 on-base percentage against lefties this year while his career numbers against southpaws are just .241 and .304

–Lefty closer Sean Doolittle’s first test of his left shoulder went well, Melvin reported. Doolittle, out with a strained left shoulder, was only playing catch, but he walked away feeling good.

–Disabled right-handed pitcher Taylor Thompson is down to throw 20 pitches’ worth of live batting practice Thursday. Thompson has been out since spring training with a right shoulder strain.

–Rain canceled batting practice for the second straight day for the A’s. What was different Wednesday from Tuesday is that the Yankees’ BP session also was washed out.

 

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An odd night for A’s bullpen, but completely effective

Drew Pomeranz got a rare double play at just the right time to help the A's out of an eighth-inning jam.

Drew Pomeranz got a rare double play at just the right time to help the A’s out of an eighth-inning jam.

For a group that picked up a win and a save and contributed three scoreless innings to Oakland’s 4-3, 10-inning win over the Yankees, Tuesday night was something of an odd evening for the A’s bullpen.

It began when the first man out of the pen, Fernando Rodriguez, struck out the only man he was scheduled to face, Alex Rodriguez, in the eighth inning. The ball got by catcher Stephen Vogt, however, and Rodriguez was on first with no one out on a strikeout-plus-wild pitch in what was at the time a 3-all tie.

The A’s went to Drew Pomeranz at that point. He’s the hottest of the A’s left-handed relievers, so the choice made sense, but he’s a fly ball pitcher who doesn’t get many grounders.

Still there he was, inducing a grounder from Mark Teixeira. It went off Pomeranz’s glove to Marcus Semien and the A’s shortstop began a double play.

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Surprised Zobrist takes media crush in the Bronx in stride; Smolinski getting another shot at Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia

Ben Zobrist, his left knee recovering from surgery, is a hot commodity as the trade deadline nears.

Ben Zobrist, his left knee recovering from surgery, is a hot commodity as the trade deadline nears.

Ben Zobrist was caught by surprise when he was surrounded by about a dozen media members Tuesday afternoon.

“I had no idea I’d be drawing a crowd,’’ Zobrist said.

Maybe he shouldn’t have been. With the A’s floundering, a number of teams who aren’t wins-challenged see Zobrist as a good fit. Among those are the Mets and the Yankees, both of whom are said to covet the infielder-outfielder. So the New York media was out in full force Tuesday.

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A’s recall outfielder Smolinski, Bassitt back to Nashville

The A’s have called up outfielder Jake Smolinski as expected, just two weeks removed from claiming him off waivers from the Texas Rangers.

The right-handed hitter, who was hitting .432 with a .458 on-base percentage and nine RBI at Triple-A Nashville, takes the spot of Chris Bassitt, who has been returned to Nashville after filling in for two starts for Sonny Gray, who returns to the Oakland starting rotation Tuesday in New York.

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Bassitt gives A’s a boost, likely to be replaced by Smolinski; Rodriguez shows up big with A’s missing ailing Abad

Chris Bassitt gave the A's another strong start, but he'll be heading back to Nashville with another loss thanks to lack of support.

Chris Bassitt gave the A’s another strong start, but he’ll be heading back to Nashville with another loss thanks to lack of support.

Chris Bassitt will back on the roster of the Triple-A Nashville Sounds any moment now.

There was nothing he could do to change that. Sonny Gray was ill, the A’s needed someone to step in and Bassitt, who had hoped to make the starting rotation out of spring training, answered the call.

He pitched five innings against Colorado, allowing one run, and 5.2 innings against Seattle, allowing two runs. The A’s lost the first game 2-1. The A’s lost the second, 2-1.

Even if Bassitt had won both, he was going back down, because Gray has recovered from this salmonella-inspired illness and will start Tuesday in New York against the Yankees. It’s expected that outfielder Jake Smolinski will get the call to fill his roster spot.

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A’s have no problem living with Burns’ first-pitch propensity; Pomeranz’s move from rotation proves a boost to bullpen

Billy Burns's propensity for attacking first pitches is all right with manager Bob Melvin.

Billy Burns’s propensity for attacking first pitches is all right with manager Bob Melvin.

Billy Burns doesn’t fit the classic A’s profile.

He swings at almost everything he sees. In Saturday’s game, he saw five pitches in four at-bats. That’s not the A’s way.

Generally one of the roles assigned to a leadoff hitter is to see lots of pitches, particularly in the first at-bat, so that his teammates can get an idea of what to expect from that day’s starting pitcher.

Given that Burns’ results Saturday were a single, a double and both of the runs the A’s would get against Felix Hernandez, manager Bob Melvin can live with that.

“We’ll let the second hitter see the pitches,’’ Melvin said, deferring the role of seeing pitches to the usual No. 2 hitter, Stephen Vogt. “Vogt is pretty good at that, too.

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Graveman making Donaldson trade look better and better

News flash: Kendall Graveman is good. Very, very good. His latest seven-inning shutout stint extended his scoreless streak to 16 innings, and he outdueled the bane of Oakland, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, for his latest feat of fine mound work.

This is the Graveman who dazzled in spring training. He ran up against the rocks when the regular season started, but the general consensus among the A’s is that he started rushing when the regular season began. He needed a short stint in the minors to calm himself down and start again. Ever since his recall on May 23, he has been just short of brilliant — nine starts, none in which he’s allowed no more than three runs and the last six in which he’s allowed no more than two. His ERA is 1.78 over those nine starts (12 earned runs in 60 2/3 innings pitched).

A lot of folks didn’t understand the Donaldson trade considering the A’s still had control of his services for another three seasons. But now, they have a 24-year-old starter who could be a mainstay for the next five years. He’s a bona fide candidate for American League Rookie of the Year (along with teammate Biily Burns), and while Donaldson is having an All-Star first half in Toronto, the A’s aren’t so bad off for making the deal. We haven’t even seen Sean Nolin yet, the other starter obtained in the deal (he’s 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA at Triple-A Nashville) or still-teenage shortstop Franklin Barreto, who’s hitting .281 with seven homers at Class A Stockton.
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A’s run production seems better than it really is

The A's have scored in big bunches at times, but for the first 83 games, the timing hasn't been what the A's could have hoped.

The A’s have scored in big bunches at times, but for the first 83 games, the timing hasn’t been what they could have hoped.

Baseball is a game of numbers, and there are some exceptionally strange numbers being carried around by the A’s this season.

Oakland’s 6-20 record in one-run games is at the top of the list and has gotten much ink, or what passes for ink in a digital age.

What about the other end of the equation? What about the blowouts? When Oakland lost by four runs, 9-5, to Seattle Friday, it was the ninth time the A’s had lost by four or more runs.

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Gray likely to start Tuesday, not throw in All-Star game

Sonny Gray is likely to start Tuesday and the following Sunday for the A's and won't be eligible to pitch in All-Star Game if he makes AL squad.

Sonny Gray is likely to start Tuesday and the following Sunday for the A’s and won’t be eligible to pitch in All-Star Game if he makes AL squad.

The A’s would like to see Sonny Gray pitch twice between now and the All-Star break, and manager Bob Melvin is strongly leaning to having Gray, recovering from a bout of gastritis caused by salmonella, start Tuesday in New York.

That would leave him free to start Sunday, July 12, in Cleveland, the last day before the All-Star Game. Doing that would preclude probable All-Star Gray from pitching in the All-Star Game Tuesday July 14 in Cincinnati because Sunday starters are excluded from pitching in the game.

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