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.