Athletics righty J.B. Wendelken will return from the injured list in time to be included on tomorrow’s postseason roster, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Oakland placed the righty on the injured list over the weekend without specifying a reason. While the vague nature of his placement and his quick return suggest that he was very likely on the Covid-19 injured list, that doesn’t mean Wendelken ever tested positive. Players can be placed on the Covid-19 IL for experiencing symptoms or if they come into contact with someone who previously tested positive.
Wendelken, 27, has quietly emerged as a key member of the Oakland relief corps. He’s racked up 25 innings with a 1.80 ERA and 3.07 FIP in 2020, averaging 11.2 strikeouts, 4.0 walks and 0.72 homers per nine innings along the way. Dating back to the 2018 season, Wendelken has given the Athletics 74 1/3 innings with a 2.30 ERA, a 3.03 FIP and well north of a punchout per inning pitched. This year, Wendelken ranks well above average in fastball velocity, fastball spin, average exit velocity, opponents’ hard-hit rate and expected ERA, per Statcast.
A deep bullpen mix will be crucial against a formidable White Sox lineup that features multiple legitimate MVP candidates in Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson. That duo, plus the presence of Eloy Jimenez, make Wendelken all the more important, as he’s held opposing righties to a .205/.266/.319 slash in his career — including a .175/.226/.246 slash in 2020. Wendelken may well relish the chance to the White Sox, who traded him to Oakland in exchange for Brett Lawrie back in the 2015-16 offseason.
That’s not the only notable bit of pitching news for the A’s today. The club announced on Twitter that rookie left-hander Jesus Luzardo will get the nod to start Game 1 of this week’s Wild Card series against the ChiSox, with right-hander Chris Bassitt lined up to take the hill in Game 2. Bassitt, like Wendelken, will be in line to make his postseason debut against the team that traded him to the Athletics.