Sonny Gray starts strengthening exercises; no throwing yet

Sonny Gray remains optimistic he'll pitch for A's again this year, but for now, he's just starting strengthening exercises on his right forearm.

Sonny Gray remains optimistic he’ll pitch for A’s again this year, but for now, he’s just starting strengthening exercises on his right forearm.

Starter Sonny Gray remains hopeful that he will be back on the mound for the A’s as a starter in September, but progress is coming along more slowly than he would like.

There is still inflammation in his right forearm, and as long as that’s the case he won’t be able to throw a baseball even to play catch on the side.

Gray did, however, stars a series of shoulder-strengthening exercises on Friday while waiting for the inflammation to subside.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to be,” Gray said. “But I’m still hoping I’ll be back out there again this year. That’s the plan.”

Manager Bob Melvin said replacing Gray isn’t done easily.

“He’s shown that he’s one of the elite pitchers in the league,” Melvin said. “He’s had a little bit of a tough time this season, but I don’t think that deters from how we feel about him and about how the rest of the league looks at him.”

Gray’s absence due to injury has led the A’s to scramble for starting pitching. When the club turned to Sean Manaea to start Friday’s series-opener against Seattle it brought an end a string of eight consecutive games with different starting pitchers – Jesse Hahn, Dillon Overton, Gray, Manaea, Kendall Graveman, Zach Neal, Ross Detwiler and Andrew Triggs.

That’s two thirds of the 12 different starters the A’s have used this year – Rich Hill, Daniel Mengden, Eric Surkamp and Chris Bassitt being the others.

And there may be more when August turns into September. Hahn is due off the disabled list in a week or so, but manager Bob Melvin named three minor leaguers Friday who were candidates to get a start in Seattle before the year is over – Mengden, Jharel Cotton and Raul Alcantara.

Cotton came within one out of a perfect game his last time out in just his second start since joining the organization as part of the deal that sent Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers on Aug. 1. And Alcantara, who started the season at Double-A Midland (5-6, 4.80) has blossomed since joining Triple-A Nashville (3-0, 0.70 in four starts).

“We don’t want to see that again,” Melvin said of the A’s setting an Oakland record by having used different starters in eight straight games. “We’re probably status quo with the rotation the next time around. Then we’ll see when Jesse comes back. We still have Mengden, Cotton, Alcantara; they may be a little big later in coming.”


–Sean Doolittle threw a 20-pitch bullpen to hitters Tyler Ladendorf and Max Muncy Friday afternoon and could so be pitching in a game after having been on the disabled list since June with a left shoulder strain.

Doolittle threw all his pitches and came out of it fine, Melvin said.

The plan for the left-handed reliever is to either throw another set again hitters or have him head out on an injury rehabilitation assignment. That will depend on how he feels when he reports to the Coliseum Saturday.

Melvin said the A’s have been trying to be cautious with Doolittle, who began the year as the closer but who has been on the disabled list since June 25 and who has missed about seven weeks’ worth of games.

“We’ve been pretty conservation with him for obvious reasons,” Melvin said of the staff ace. “He’s a big part of what we do here. We want to make sure he comes back strong. So we’re not pushing the envelope too quickly.

“Knock wood. Everything looked really good today. The ball came out of his hand nicely and he was able to throw all of his pitches.”



–Hahn (right shoulder strain) is down to throw a bullpen session Saturday. If all goes well, he’ll head out after that for an injury rehabilitation assignment and could be back with the A’s by next weekend or shortly thereafter.

–Second baseman Jed Lowrie, on the disabled list with a bunion on his left foot that has him walking gingerly will be seeing yet another specialist about what to do next. He’s talked with the A’s doctors and one outside specialist so far and has gotten conflicting information on what to do next. He’d like to avoid season-ending surgery.

–The Mariners originally planned on starting lefty Ariel Miranda Friday, but he pitched in relief in a 15-inning game Tuesday, so the club called up right-hander Joe Wieland to make his third big league start. The first two were with the Dodgers, both last season.

–Lefty reliever Patrick Schuster, put on waivers earlier in the week by Oakland, was claimed Friday by the Phillies.



Don’t look now, but Billy Butler’s no average hitter

Billy Butler is looking for more playing time worthy of his recent surge of hits.

Billy Butler is looking for more playing time worthy of his recent surge of hits.

It’s easy enough to think of Billy Butler as an afterthought in the Oakland lineup.

He doesn’t play every day. He seldom plays defense. For much of the year, he didn’t hit.

The most that could be said about Butler is that he made a lot of money. He signed a three-year, $30 million contract with Oakland before last season as a free agent.

It didn’t look like much of a deal last year when he hit just .251 with 15 homers. And when he got off to a .242 start through the first three months of the 2016 season, it seemed as if the .240-.250 range was his new home.

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Jesse Hahn feeling `great,’ says DL stint should be brief

Jesse Hahn should be back in A's rotation when his DL time is up on Aug. 20 or shortly thereafter.

Jesse Hahn should be back in A’s rotation when his DL time is up on Aug. 20 or shortly thereafter.

Jesse Hahn’s stay on the disabled list won’t be a long one.

The A’s starter is eligible to come off the DL on Aug. 20, and between now and then he’ll make one injury rehabilitation start as a tuneup for his right shoulder.

“I feel 100 percent, I’m ready,’’ Hahn said Thursday before heading out to throw on flat ground before the series finale against the Orioles. “I feel great.”

The plan is for the right-hander, currently diagnosed as having a right shoulder strain, to follow up Thursday’s session with a full bullpen

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Relay play pays huge dividends for A’s in 1-0 win

Max Muncy turned in a relay play that helped save the day for the A's in the first inning Wednesday.

Max Muncy turned in a relay play that helped save the day for the A’s in the first inning Wednesday.

It was the kind of play you’d expect established veterans to have a chance of making. The tight fielder gets quickly to the ball, throws to the second baseman, who relays the throw to the plate for the out.

Except for the “established veterans’’ part, the A’s first inning was scripted just like that. The right fielder was Danny Valencia, who has spent most of his season as Oakland’s starting third baseman. Then there was Max Muncy, who’d been trying to learn to play third base when the A’s need for a second baseman came up.

And the catcher was Bruce Maxwell, the backup who gets only occasionally opportunities to play behind starter Stephen Vogt.

For all their inexperience at their positions Wednesday, those three pulled off the play that saved the A’s in a 1-0 win over the Orioles.

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Jharel Cotton makes a name for himself in Oakland, long distance, no less with run at a perfect game

It took, Bob Melvin said, “about five seconds’’ once the manager had gotten to his office after Tuesday’s win over the Orioles to hear about Jharel Cotton.

The right-handed Cotton was one of three pitchers picked up from the Dodgers in the trade of Josh Reddick and Rich Hill, and the A’s had considered bringing him up to start this week against the Orioles.

They didn’t, and all he did instead was come within one out of a perfect game for Triple-A Nashville against Round Rock. The Express’s Daniel Bernier tripled with two out in the ninth of Cotton’s 3-0 win, becoming the only man to reach base.

Did that performance help Cotton’s case to be called up soon?

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Coco Crisp has empathy for neck issue that likely will end Prince Fielder’s career

Coco Crisp goes through a little bit of hell every day just to continue playing baseball, but it could be worse. He could have opted for surgery to try and correct bulging disk issues in his neck, the same kind of surgery that apparently will prematurely end the career of Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder.

Fielder had cervical fusion surgery in May of 2014 between two disks in his neck and required the same surgery again on July 29 just above the previous surgical area. Fielder, who is signed through 2020 and still owed a ton of money, hasn’t announced his retirement but it appears he will not be able to receive clearance from doctors to play again. A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday in Arlington, Texas, to clarify Fielder’s future.

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Sonny Gray very relieved arm injury isn’t serious, hopes to pitch again before season ends

Sonny Gray was back in the A’s clubhouse Tuesday looking like a very, very relieved man. He got the MRI news on his strained right forearm late Monday night and was ecstatic to learn the test revealed no structural damage. The injury that landed him on the disabled list Sunday is merely inflammation and fluid buildup that should heal on its own with down time.

“Yeah, there’s definitely relief after not knowing for a couple of days what the issue was,” Gray said. “But once you get the news, you can start to put a plan in motion and hopefully it won’t be a significant thing.”

Gray’s just glad the horror stories he’s heard about how elbow injuries requiring surgery often manifest themselves didn’t apply to him.

“I’ve always heard people say you feel something on one pitch and I never had felt that until the other day,” he said. I had no news until last night around 8 p.m. I knew how I felt, but I didn’t know what all the tests were going to say.”
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Bob Melvin shares a special link with Mr. 3,000, Ichiro

Ichiro Suzuki and A's manager Bob Melvin go way back. Ichiro's best year came when Melvin was managing the Mariners in 2004.

Ichiro Suzuki and A’s manager Bob Melvin go way back. Ichiro’s best year came when Melvin was managing the Mariners in 2004.

Ichiro Suzuki got to 3,000 hits Sunday at age 42.

Before turning 27, Ichiro had exactly zero big league hits. To that point, he’d done all his playing in Japan.

When he came to the U.S. as a member of the Seattle Mariners, his first manager was Lou Piniella, who compared him favorable to Brad Pitt in terms of star power.

Ichiro’s second manager was Bob Melvin. The current A’s skipper’s first managerial job was replacing Piniella. Melvin was in Seattle for two seasons, 2003 and 2004. In those two years, he and the right fielder built up a bond while Ichiro was busy hitting – he had 474 hits in those two seasons, part of a 10-year streak in which Ichiro collected at least 200 hits every year.

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Ross Detwiler, Andrew Triggs get this week’s starts for A’s; Oakland opts to wait a while on going younger in rotation


Lefty Ross Detwiler, who began the season with Cleveland, will start for the A's Wednesday.

Lefty Ross Detwiler, who began the season with Cleveland, will start for the A’s Wednesday.

While the A’s were awaiting word on the status of ace Sonny Gray’s right arm, they filled the open spots in this week’s rotation, saying left-hander Ross Detwiler and reliever Andrew Triggs will get the starts Wednesday and Thursday against the Orioles.

Gray and second baseman Jed Lowrie (left foot) both had MRIs taken Monday morning and the club is waiting for their doctors’ analysis of the pictures before deciding what comes next.

“The results aren’t back yet,’’ Melvin said of Gray, who came out of Sunday’s start after five innings with pain in his right forearm. The manager said it was too soon to know if the pain Gray felt was abating any.

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Revolving rotation isn’t something specific to the A’s

Replacing Sonny Gray in the A's rotation is a big deal, but teams all over MLB are having to do similar fixes.

Replacing Sonny Gray in the A’s rotation is a big deal, but teams all over MLB are having to do similar fixes.

There are times covering a baseball beat – or, presumably, any beat – when you run the risk of getting so close to the story that it’s hard to see the story.

There’s a saying about forests and trees that applies.

I mention this now because it seems that I’ve spent the entire season writing about A’s players being called up, being sent down and going on the disabled list. Especially going on the disabled list.

And there are some numbers to suggest that my assumption that the A’s are setting records for all this roster rumbling isn’t far off. The A’s 25 uses of the disabled list are the most since the club moved to Oakland in 1968.

There are some numbers, however, that suggest it’s time for me to chill about all this.

The A’s have had nine starting pitchers go on the disabled list this year – Henderson Alvarez, Chris Bassitt, Felix Doubront, the since-traded Rich Hill (twice), Sean Manaea and Jarrod Parker in addition to Sonny Gray, who landed on the DL for the second time Sunday morning.

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