- The Athletics seem unlikely at this point to receive another start from righty Sonny Gray in the 2016 season, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes. Oakland’s medical staff still hasn’t cleared Gray to begin throwing. Without much time in the minor league season to permit a rehab assignment, the road back to the big league hill may not pick up again in earnest until the spring. Manager Bob Melvin suggests that the best outcome at this point may be for Gray to “just throw off a mound and throw a bullpen” to give the 26-year-old “peace of mind about how he feels going into the offseason.”
TODAY, 6:08pm: Butler will also receive a fine, GM David Forst told reporters including MLB.com’s Jane Lee (via Twitter). The veteran DH is headed to the 7-day concussion DL as well.
5:14pm: Valencia will be fined for his role in the ruckus, Slusser tweets.
4:04pm: Slusser now reports the full details of the altercation, which you can find here. In essence, it seems, both players engaged in a verbal dispute after Butler made comments that may have interfered with an endorsement deal for Valencia. It escalated to the point of physical contact before Valencia struck his teammate with one or more punches.
While Butler initially reported being fine in the immediate aftermath of the dust-up, he began exhibiting nausea and vomiting thereafter. Neither player agreed to comment on the matter.
Notably, Slusser adds, Valencia could end up being punished later today. She suggests that he could be suspended or even given his release. The team’s handling of the matter will certainly be closely watched, as it could impact Valencia’s future in the organization and availability to other teams — though clearly this incident hasn’t increased his appeal.
YESTERDAY: 9:48pm: In an update to her original story, Slusser reports that the dispute between Butler and Valencia stemmed from Butler informing “an equipment representative that Valencia had not, in fact, been wearing the spikes that Valencia had told the representative that he was using.”
6:45pm: Billy Butler missed the Athletics’ last two games due to injuries suffered in a clubhouse altercation with teammate Danny Valencia on Friday night, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Butler was absent due to nausea and vomiting, and neither Melvin or Valencia was willing to comment about the alleged incident. As Slusser writes, “no one in the Oakland clubhouse would discuss the matter on the record, but no one denied that it occurred, either.”
The exact nature of the altercation isn’t known, though since Valencia played on Saturday, one could conclude that the A’s didn’t consider it major enough (at least not immediately) to warrant punishment. Valencia didn’t play on Sunday, though Slusser notes that could also have been a baseball decision given Valencia’s poor career numbers against White Sox starter Jose Quintana.
Clubhouse issues have plagued Valencia in the past, which could in part be why he wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline when the A’s unloaded several other veterans. Valencia wasn’t even expected to get regular playing time as Oakland focused on younger players, though he has gotten the bulk of starts in right field in August since he is still swinging a solid bat. The veteran has 15 homers and a .302/.351/.478 slash line through 387 plate appearances this season, and is currently on a streak of two hits in each of his last six games.
Valencia would seem to be a prime August trade candidate if he can clear waivers, though this latest incident isn’t likely to help his reputation around the game. The 31-year-old is eligible for arbitration this winter before hitting free agency after the 2017 season, and his good numbers will earn him a raise from his $3.15MM salary from 2016. It seems like the A’s will pursue a trade against this winter, and a non-tender could even potentially be in the cards (despite Valencia’s strong season) if the club wants to clear the roster for younger talent.
- While it’s still far from a sure thing, the Athletics may yet welcome back righty Sonny Gray this year, manager Bob Melvin said yesterday. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets, the 26-year-old staff ace is beginning plyometric workouts and is feeling better. He recently hit the disabled list with a forearm strain and has struggled all year long, compiling an uncharacteristic 5.74 ERA in 116 innings of work.
- Athletics prospect Chad Pinder has been told he’ll be joining the team on Wednesday, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s not entirely clear yet how Pinder will be utilized, Slusser notes, and he could potentially be a short-term sub while Marcus Semien departs on paternity leave. However, Slusser also notes that fellow right-handed-hitting infielder Tyler Ladendorf is mired in a dismal 0-for-19 slump and is 0-for-26 against left-handed pitchers this season, so Pinder could replace him on the roster. The 24-year-old Pinder was Oakland’s second-round pick in 2014 and has batted .258/.310/.425 in 465 Triple-A plate appearances this season. He rates ninth among Oakland farmhands, per MLB.com, and sixth per Baseball America.
Veteran Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp says that he believes the team is artificially holding down his playing time to prevent his option from vesting, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Crisp says that he’s “extremely hurt” by the team’s “shady” handling of the situation. While GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin have stated that Crisp is sitting against lefties to afford younger players more exposure, he sees more to it — particularly since he is not being used much off the bench. Crisp’s $13MM option vests at 130 games played; entering today’s action, he had appeared in 93 contests, meaning he’d need to take the field for most of the club’s remaining 43 games to reach the threshold. “I’m healthy, I’m playing hard and this has surprised me,” said Crisp, who noted that he has loved playing in Oakland. “This calls their integrity into question, it’s very sad.” The 36-year-old, who owns a .239/.307/.410 slash on the year, indicated that he may not be interested in playing after this season, adding: “The business side sure makes it hard to love the game, and I’ve loved the game since I was six years old.”
Athletics infielder Jed Lowrie will undergo surgery to remove a bunion and repair a ligament in his left foot, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle was among those to report (links to Twitter). He is expected to miss the remainder of the season as a result of the procedure.
The veteran infielder has struggled with the problem for some time, and attempts to battle through it failed. He’ll have the work done now in hopes of having plenty of time to recover in advance of Spring Training next year.
Lowrie, 32, had seemed like a viable trade candidate prior to the foot problem and related struggles. He had been hitting at a fairly typical, roughly league-average clip before suffering through a rough month of July. As things stand, Lowrie owns a .263/.314/.322 batting line over 369 plate appearances on the year. Acquired over the winter to help anchor the Oakland infield, Lowrie has also posted below-average defensive ratings.
There’s no question that the foot malady has played a role, as reporters have documented how much of an impact it has had. Hopefully for both player and team, he’ll be able to return to full health in advance of the 2017 campaign. Lowrie is set to earn $6.5MM next year and can be controlled for an additional season with a $6MM club option, which comes with a $1MM buyout.
- Sonny Gray may not pitch again in 2016, Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jane Lee). While Melvin would ideally like to see Gray on the mound again, “it’s not like we’re going to push him to try to get him out there just to get him out there.” Gray is recovering from a strained forearm and since he has to wait until the inflammation subsides, there isn’t currently any timetable for him to begin a proper rehab process. A season-ending injury would be par for the course for Gray in what has been a lost season for the Oakland ace, as he has battled injuries and posted a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 21 starts.
A slumping Bryce Harper was out of the lineup again tonight for the Nationals owing to a seemingly minor neck issue, but the precise nature of his injury has been the subject of some debate. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post breaks down all the back-and-forth on the topic. In essence, Nats GM Mike Rizzo strongly denied a report from SI.com’s Tom Verducci indicating that Harper may have been playing through a shoulder injury for some time. Rizzo insists that Harper simply has a stiff neck that has not yet required a DL placement.
Here’s more on some injury situations around the game:
- Diamondbacks righty Rubby De La Rosa has suffered a setback in his efforts to come back from a forearm injury, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com tweets. He’s headed for an MRI to see where things stand. It seems as if there’s little reason to expect the 27-year-old to return to the majors this season. That’s a tough blow for the D-Backs, who surely would like to get a longer look at a pitcher who showed a fair bit of promise this year. Over 47 2/3 innings earlier in the season, De La Rosa worked to a 4.15 ERA with 9.3 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.
- The Astros will be without Colby Rasmus for a month or more after he underwent surgery to remove a cyst from his ear, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Rasmus has been struggling for some time, and it’s fair to wonder whether the issue may have played a significant role. He’ll need to return in good form to provide a boost to the ’Stros — and to bolster his fading free agent position.
- Marlins first baseman Justin Bour isn’t progressing in his attempt to return from an ankle injury, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. In fact, manager Don Mattingly says that Bour “went backwards” of late, with the team’s expectation now being that he won’t return until at least early September. That certainly seems to open some room for Miami to look into adding a bat to chip in down the stretch.
- Athletics righty Sonny Gray only just began forearm exercises today, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports. He won’t begin throwing again unless and until the inflammation subsides. At this point, it seems far from certain whether he’ll make it back to a major league hill this season.
- The Mariners may soon send reliever Steve Cishek out on a rehab assignment, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. It appears that his hip labrum issue is indeed as minor as the team had suggested. Meanwhile, fellow pen righty Tony Zych is also finally making some progress and will begin a rehab assignment on Friday. Adding those two arms down the stretch would provide a significant boost to Seattle’s late-inning mix.
The Phillies announced today that they have claimed left-hander Patrick Schuster off waivers from the Athletics and optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Oakland had designated the 25-year-old Schuster for assignment earlier in the week.
Schuster made his big league debut with the A’s this season but surrendered eight runs on nine hits and six walks in 6 2/3 innings. While those numbers aren’t much to look at, Schuster has dominated at the Triple-A level this year, posting a brilliant 1.16 ERA with 39 strikeouts, 12 walks and a 44.44 percent ground-ball rate in 38 2/3 innings. Schuster was at one time the first pick of the Rule 5 Draft (2013) and has an overall solid minor league track record. He’ll give the Phillies a depth option in the bullpen and could get a chance to prove that he can be a long-term piece in their bullpen with a September call-up this season, as he remains on the 40-man roster (which is now at 40 players) after being optioned to the minors.
The Athletics have designated left-hander Patrick Schuster for assignment, per a club announcement.
Schuster joined the A’s on a minor league contract during the offseason and has spent the majority of the year with their Triple-A affiliate, Nashville. As a member of the Sounds, the 25-year-old has recorded tremendous numbers (1.16 ERA, 9.08 K/9, 2.79 BB/9) over 32 appearances and 38 2/3 innings. Schuster wasn’t nearly as successful this season in his 6 2/3 big league innings, though, with eight earned runs allowed on nine hits and six walks. That stint represents the only major league time for Schuster, who was previously with the Diamondbacks and Reds organizations. In 446 2/3 minor league innings, Schuster has put up a 3.26 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.