Like a bothersome mite refusing to flee, the injury bug continues to nibble on the Oakland Athletics‘ season.
The A’s (20-25) have had offensive leader Yonder Alonso in the lineup just once in the past six games, though he has thus far escaped a stint on the disabled list. Thirteen times this season, however, his teammates have been unable to been able to do so. After setting a franchise record with 27 DL uses in 2016, Oakland has been forced to make a baker’s dozen injury moves in just 45 games this season — on pace for a total of 47 for the year.
Manager Bob Melvin could offer no explanation for this record-setting rash of injuries:
“I don’t know what to make of it. …With all the technology we have nowadays — our training staff is so cutting edge here, and does such a great job — I wish I had a distinct answer but I don’t. And it seems like it gets worse every year.”
Move No. 13 came early Wednesday when relief pitcher Bobby Wahl was placed on the 10-day DL with a right shoulder strain. Melvin said Wahl had been dealing with some shoulder soreness and biceps tendinitis “on and off for a little bit” but the pain increased, forcing a move, during his two-inning relief appearance in Tuesday’s 11-9 loss to the Miami Marlins (16-28).
His spot on the roster will be filled by Zach Neal, who went 2-4 with a 4.24 ERA in 24 appearances in 2016. He had been 1-2 with a 3.89 ERA in eight games with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds this year. In those eight outings, which includes four starts, he has worked 34-2/3 innings walking just one.
Neal and the Sounds were in Sacramento for a series with the Rivercats over the weekend. But he got the call about his being recalled by the big club shortly after returning to Tennessee. He joked that the plane bringing him to Oakland Wednesday morning was the same he had just taken from Sacramento, but added:
“I’ll take whatever the flight would be to get back here.”
Along with Wahl and Alonso, who was lifted in Tuesday’s seventh inning after being hit on the wrist with a pitch in the sixth, starter Jesse Hahn was removed after just two innings of work with “tightness” in his in his right triceps.
He said, though, that his tightness was not accompanied by any pain:
“I didn’t have any discomfort on the mound, I didn’t feel any pain, but I felt really tight — my body all felt tight, my arm felt tight — between innings, warming up, I just didn’t feel right, didn’t feel extension.”
Hahn said he felt some soreness Wednesday, but added it is normal to feel so the day following a start. He told SFBay that for him the post-start tenderness usually subsides by day three after the start.
Melvin said the big right-hander is “under evaluation,” which began with an MRI Wednesday morning:
“We do a complete diagnostic on these guys.”
The skipper also addressed Alonso, who had been making his fist start since experiencing knee soreness which forced his removal from the A’s May 17 4-0 loss to the Mariners in Seattle:
“We don’t feel like it will be a lingering issue. With the day off tomorrow, we feel like come Yankees series he’ll be back in the lineup.”
Following an MRI during Tuesday’s game, the team diagnosed its first baseman with a contusion.
Melvin and the A’s also got some good news, in regards to the bullpen.
Reliever Sean Doolittle has responded well to bullpen sessions, and will face hitters Saturday, when he will throw a batting practice session in extended spring training.
Doolittle, who has pitched since experiencing pain in his left shoulder on April 29, said:
“After the way I felt today, and the way I’ve been feeling, I’m ready to keep progressing.”
“I feel 100 percent. We have to continue to go through the remaining process, make sure that we don’t cut any corners rushing back, but I’m letting it go 100 percent effort-wise on the mound, and I’m happy with how it’s coming out.”
The manager said that the progression is significant, adding that the late-inning lefty will need to pitch at least once in a real-game situation. And Doolittle’s return can’t come quick enough for Melvin, who has been forced to use 35 players — 18 pitchers and 17 position players — in the first 45 games.