- The Athletics’ good start will make it less likely that Sonny Gray is traded, though Rosenthal notes that even if Gray was shopped and a team was willing to give up “a ton” for the star righty, the A’s would still face a tough decision about pulling the trigger on a deal. Gray will become eligible for arbitration next winter, and though his arb costs may eventually price him out of Oakland’s comfort zone, Gray would still certainly be “affordable” for the A’s in 2017 (and really a bargain if he continues to post ace-type numbers).
The Athletics announced following tonight’s game that third baseman Danny Valencia will be placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a hamstring injury suffered in yesterday’s contest. Valencia, though, tells reporters that he doesn’t consider the issue to be serious and doesn’t anticipate missing more than the minimum amount of time (Twitter link via the Bay Area News Group’s John Hickey). “I will be very upset not to be in [the] lineup,” said Valencia in reference to the end of his 15-day DL window. The A’s didn’t announce a corresponding roster move, but Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that it’s “clear” that the versatile Tyler Ladendorf will be recalled from Triple-A.
A few more notes from the game’s Western divisions…
- The Padres have placed left-hander Robbie Erlin on the 15-day DL and recalled right-hander Leonel Campos from Triple-A El Paso, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. “He’s had some tightness in his forearm,” manager Andy Green said of Erlin. “He’d pitched through it, was capable of continuing to pitch through it. … We just thought it best at this point in time to shut him down for a couple weeks and get on top of it.” The Padres haven’t announced a replacement yet, but Lin tweets that Double-A right-hander Cesar Vargas was scratched from his start tonight and does not have an injury, making him a definite possibility. The Friars gave Vargas a big league contract and put him on the 40-man roster this offseason despite the fact that he’s never pitched in the Majors. Vargas has a 1.42 ERA through his first two starts this season and has a career 2.58 ERA at that level.
- Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs tells MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez that he’s throwing his fastball between 90 and 94 mph and is ready for a return to the Majors. However, Skaggs is still building up his endurance and says he understands the Halos’ cautious approach to his return. “I haven’t had any input or anything,” said Skaggs. “They said they want to save my innings for the end of the year, which completely makes sense. It’s frustrating for me because I want to pitch more. But it’s a good thing that they care about me, care about my future, about my health.” A healthy Skaggs could be a boon to an Angels rotation that is without C.J. Wilson and is going to be without Andrew Heaney for an indefinite amount of time. Heaney went on the disabled list with a forearm strain and, as of earlier this week, was said by manager Mike Scioscia to have “plateaued” in his rehab from the injury.
- Rockies right-hander Miguel Castro is dealing with shoulder inflammation and could land on the disabled list, writes MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The hard-throwing 21-year-old, acquired in last summer’s Troy Tulowitzki blockbuster, has been outstanding for the Rockies early in the 2016 season, allowing just one run on two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in six innings pitched.
- The Mariners’ revamped bullpen has delivered excellent results early in the season, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Incredibly, as Dutton points out, none of the seven relief pitchers that are currently in manager Scott Servais’ bullpen were on the Mariners’ Opening Day roster in 2015. GM Jerry Dipoto acquired four of the club’s current relievers (Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit, Joel Peralta and Nick Vincent — this offseason, but Dipoto explained to Dutton that he’s all too aware of how fleeting the success could be. “I spent my entire major-league career pitching 400 pitched games in the bullpen,” said Dipoto. “Never did anything else. If you think you’ve got it figured out, you don’t. The bullpen is about as unpredictable as it gets.”
Athletics infielder Eric Sogard is undergoing left knee surgery at the moment, manager Bob Melvin told reporters, including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). Last week, Sogard informed the media that doctors had found loose bodies in his knee and would likely undergo surgery. Sogard said he’s played through pain in his knee the past couple of years, but he’s reached the point where surgery is required. Dr. James Andrews is performing the operation, tweets John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group.
At the time the injury was made known to the public, Sogard was expected to be out six to eight weeks, though a definitive timeline won’t be known until the operation is completed and the club makes some form of announcement. Losing Sogard for an extended period does thin out the Athletics’ infield depth, but as is so often the case in Oakland, the club has enough players that are capable of handling multiple spots to cover in his absence. Jed Lowrie (second base) and Marcus Semien (shortstop) currently comprise the middle-infield duo for Melvin’s team. While the bench lacks a true backup shortstop, Lowrie has plenty of experience and could slide across the infield should a need arise, with Chris Coghlan then presenting an alternative at second base. Should the A’s need to tap into their minor league system to bolster the big league club’s infield depth, versatile Tyler Ladendorf is on the 40-man roster and has played shortstop, second base, third base and all three outfield spots in his minor league career.
Sogard, 29, has spent parts of the past six seasons with the A’s and seen semi-regular playing time in each of the past three. While he’s not a particularly productive bat (career .239/.295/.313 batting line), Sogard is an excellent defensive second baseman that can also handle both shortstop and third base. He’s controllable through the 2017 season via the arbitration process, although with a $1.5MM salary in 2016, he could potentially arise as a non-tender candidate depending on the severity of his injury and/or the extent to which his bat can improve following a pair of difficult years at the plate.
A few notes from the American League…
- Standout Indians left fielder Michael Brantley will soon make his 2016 debut, according to manager Terry Francona. “He’s getting pretty close,” Francona said (link via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com). Brantley is likely to play consecutive games at Double-A Akron sometime during the upcoming week, per Bastian, as he works his way back from a right shoulder injury. Brantley emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous offensive threats during the previous two seasons, slashing a combined .319/.384/.494 with 35 homers and 38 steals, before undergoing shoulder surgery last November.
- Angels southpaw Andrew Heaney still has a ways to go to return from a left flexor muscle strain, manager Mike Scioscia told reporters, including Brian Hall of MLB.com. Heaney started for the Halos on April 5 and put up a decent line against the Cubs (six innings, seven strikeouts, no walks, seven hits, four runs), but his velocity dropped precipitously from the beginning of his outing to the end and he complained of left forearm tightness. The 24-year-old then landed on the disabled list the next day.
- The Athletics will continue using both right-hander Ryan Madson and lefty Sean Doolittle to close games, manager Bob Melvin told Willie Bans of MLB.com. “We’re just trying to do the best we can with, number one, matchups and, number two, with how guys are pitching,” he said. Madson has fared well this year (six innings, two earned runs, five strikeouts, one walk) while going 3 for 3 on save chances. On the other hand, Doolittle – one of the game’s top relievers from 2012-14 – has not bounced back nicely this season after missing nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury. Although Doolittle’s velocity has stayed in line with his career averages, the 29-year-old has yielded four earned runs and three homers in 5 2/3 innings this season.
Athletics infielder Eric Sogard seems set for knee surgery and could be out six to eight weeks, according to various reporters, including the Bay Area News Group’s John Hickey. “They found some loose bodies in the knee near the patella tendon,” Sogard said after an MRI. “And they have to take them out. I’ve played through the pain the last couple of years, but this is the time.” Sogard will seek a second opinion, but surgery seems likely, manager Bob Melvin says.
Sogard began the season on the disabled list with a shoulder problem that is (perhaps obviously) unrelated to his current health issues. He played in 120 games, mostly at second base, for the A’s last season, and he batted a disappointing .247/.294/.304 but with strong defensive numbers. He’s currently on the outside looking in for either Athletics starting infield job, since the team now has Jed Lowrie at second base and Marcus Semien at shortstop.
- Yet another AL West club, the Athletics, received more promising news today on their own shoulder-plagued pitcher, righty Henderson Alvarez. He impressed the club with a two-inning sim game, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports, though he still may need two more before undertaking a rehab assignment. Soon to turn 26, Alvarez was signed to a one-year, $4.25MM deal in hopes that he’d recover from shoulder surgery and return to the solid form he’s displayed in the past with the Marlins.
- In an interview on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link), Athletics manager Bob Melvin implied that Billy Butler will indeed be a part-time player for the club, saying that “for the most part he’s gonna be playing against lefties.” The veteran slugger has “been great about” accepting the reduced role. Obviously, neither Butler or the A’s have to be happy that it has come to this, given the three-year, $30MM deal Butler signed prior to the 2015 season. Butler has been the least-valuable player in baseball as per the fWAR metric since the start of the 2014 season, as he provides no defensive value as a full-time DH and his once-fearsome bat has badly declined.
- Athletics majority owner John Fisher is taking a larger role in the club’s quest for a new ballpark, Phil Matier and Andy Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle report. Fisher appears to be interested in a downtown Oakland location for a new stadium, possibly a site near Laney College if the team can purchase the land. Since purchasing the A’s with Lew Wolff in 2005, Fisher has largely been publicly silent on team matters, with Wolff taking a more visible role as the Athletics’ managing partner.
Athletics left-hander Felix Doubront will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow and will miss the 2016 season, the club announced (h/t: MLB.com’s Jane Lee, on Twitter). The 28-year-old Doubront was recently reported to have been diagnosed with “fibrous tearing” in his left elbow and was seeking additional opinions before deciding whether to proceed with surgery.
The news is disheartening for Doubront, who was set to serve as Oakland’s fifth starter but left his final appearance of the spring due to forearm tightness. He’ll spend the season on the Athletics’ 60-day disabled list and receive Major League service time, though that probably only offers minimal consolation. Doubront currently has four years, 41 days of MLB service time, so that would push him to five-plus and make him arbitration eligible following the season. However, considering the fact that he isn’t likely to be ready to pitch until next summer, the injury makes him a likely non-tender candidate following the season.
Doubront has pitched 155 innings across the past two seasons as a member of the Red Sox, Cubs, Blue Jays and A’s. In that time he’s posted an unsightly 5.52 ERA, although last season metrics such as xFIP and SIERA pegged him more in the 4.30 range. With Doubront on the shelf to open the season, fellow lefty Eric Surkamp stepped into the rotation and worked 4 1/3 innings against the Mariners, yielding two runs. Surkamp figures to continue to get a look early in the season, but the A’s have Henderson Alvarez working his way back from a shoulder injury, and he’ll eventually challenge for a rotation spot if all goes according to plan. Beyond that, the Triple-A rotation currently contains right-hander Jesse Hahn, who spent the 2015 season in Oakland’s rotation but is ironing out some kinks after a rough spring, and top left-handed pitching prospect Sean Manaea, who shouldn’t be too far off from Major League readiness. Suffice it to say, the A’s have alternatives should Surkamp struggle, but the loss of Doubront nonetheless thins out the rotation depth a bit.
Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler has sat four straight days and could be relegated to facing only lefties, Jane Lee of MLB.com writes. Manager Bob Melvin wouldn’t commit to putting Butler back in the lineup Monday against Angels righty Nick Tropeano, per Lee, saying that he’ll definitely play Tuesday when the A’s deal with lefty Hector Santiago. Butler, whom the A’s signed to a three-year, $30MM contract in November 2014, has batted just .262/.323/.386 since the beginning of the ’14 campaign and been the least valuable player in baseball by the standards of fWAR during that time frame. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has been vastly superior against lefties than right-handers historically, though that wasn’t the case last season. So far this year, nine of Butler’s 10 plate appearances have come versus southpaws.
- The Athletics have formally selected the contract of left-hander Eric Surkamp, who will take the hill tonight against the Mariners in Seattle tonight. In corresponding moves, the team announced that first baseman/outfielder Andrew Lambo has been optioned to Triple-A, and right-hander R.J. Alvarez has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list (thus creating a 40-man roster spot). It was reported earlier this week that Surkamp, who enjoyed a strong Spring Training, would get the nod over Jesse Hahn today, but the corresponding 40-man move was not yet known.The 28-year-old Surkamp logged a 3.60 ERA with a 19-to-7 K/BB ratio in 20 spring innings and has a similarly solid track record at Triple-A, where he’s compiled a 3.61 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 across 264 innings. However, Surkamp hasn’t carried that success with him to the Majors, as evidenced by a lifetime 6.47 ERA in 57 innings between the Giants, White Sox and Dodgers.