After weathering a month-long storm of injuries, a light has begun to shine at the end of the tunnel for the Oakland Athletics.
The number of injured on Oakland’s disabled list remains 11 deep — down from 13 — though there has been more good news than bad coming lately to manager Bob Melvin.
The two players who have come off the DL in the past five days have been key contributors. Jed Lowrie has had four hits, an RBI and a run scored in three games since returning from a bruised right shin. Josh Phegley added three hits and and two runs to the Oakland outburst in his return from right knee inflammation on Saturday.
The skipper also revealed during the week that the fracture to right fielder Josh Reddick’s left thumb is closer to the tip than the joint, meaning surgery will not be necessary and he will likely miss no more than four weeks.
Now Melvin can be excited about a soon-to-be reinvigorated pitching staff, as Sonny Gray and R.J. Alvarez begin their rehab process. Henderson Alvarez has also been given the go-ahead to resume his own rehabilitation after recently suffering discomfort in his surgically repaired throwing shoulder.
With Memorial Day weekend often serving as the marker dividing contending teams from the non, Melvin said injuries have made it “difficult” to decipher his team’s position:
“We’ve been a little bit hot and cold, offensively … We feel like we have the ability to get better offensively. But certainly on the starting pitcher end of it, we’ve pretty banged up.”
None of the losses dealt to the A’s, or perhaps throughout the league, has had greater effect than that of Gray (2016 3-5 record, 6.19 ERA). The staff ace is coming off a season in which he finished third for the 2015 American League Cy Young. After posting a 3-1 record with a 2.73 ERA through his first four starts, the 26 year-old experienced the toughest stretch of his career, losing four of his next five starts.
After placing the righty on the DL with a strained right trapezius, Melvin said Gray had been pitching through limited mobility caused by the injury during his scuffle. Now advancing through the recovery stages, the ace has been given the green light to throw off the mound.
Prior to Saturday’s 12-3 win, the manager told reporters:
“We’ll have him throw off the big mound here Tuesday. It will be up and down, but not with any hitters yet. We’re just looking for health from him.’’
He is currently scheduled for a bullpen prior to Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins.
Along with Gray, the starting staff is missing Henderson Alvarez (career 27-34 record, 3.80 ERA), who has yet to take the mound in the green and gold. The organization took a flyer, signing the 2014 National League All-Star to a one-year contract knowing he would miss some time after shoulder surgery.
Things turned bleak when, in what was to be his final minor-league rehab start, Henderson experienced discomfort in his surgically repaired throwing shoulder. After team physicians were unable to find structural damage in the shoulder, the MRI results were forwarded to Dr. James Andrews who cleared the Venezuelan to resume flat-ground throwing earlier in the week.
Being that he has exasperated his 30-day minor-league rehab maximum, the A’s must file “paperwork” to extend Henderson’s rehab assignment, according to Melvin.
As for the starter’s immediate future, the manager said:
“Now you go back to more of strengthening, and throwing, again to get back to where you may go out on a rehab assignment again… Right now, based on the fact that he’s just playing catch, it’s not considered a rehab.”
R.J. Alvarez (career 0-0, 7.39 ERA), who underwent elbow surgery in March, began throwing off the mound during the week as well. A rehab assignment appears to be on the horizon, as he experienced no problems following a 30-pitch bullpen session.
Fellow right-handed reliever Liam Hendriks (2016 0-0, 8.27 ERA) is scheduled for a Monday bullpen session.
Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.