- Sean Doolittle told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jane Lee) that an MRI revealed no structural problems in his ailing left shoulder. Doolittle, who is no stranger to more serious shoulder issues, described his current injury as “more like tightness or soreness that’s just a little more intense than painful,” and “it feels more muscular than anything I’ve ever felt before.” While this diagnosis is certainly positive news, there isn’t yet any timeline for Doolittle’s return, as Athletics manager Bob Melvin said yesterday that the team would likely “be conservative with” Doolittle given his prior injury history.
The Blue Jays have claimed Cesar Valdez off waivers from the Athletics, the clubs announced. He’ll open his tenure at Triple-A Buffalo on optional assignment. Toronto has designated righty Mat Latos to clear a 40-man spot.
Valdez, 32, made it back to the big leagues with the A’s after a long layoff. While he was hit hard in 9 1/3 frames — his first since way back in 2010 — the veteran evidently showed enough to catch Toronto’s eye. Valdez did make an interesting showing last year at Triple-A with the Astros, spinning 180 innings of 3.25 ERA ball with 7.0 K/9 against just 1.0 BB/9.
He’ll take over the 40-man spot that had been held by Latos, who was also occupying a spot in the MLB rotation. With Neil Ramirez heading onto the active roster after he, too, was claimed, there was a need to open space there as well.
Latos, who’s still just 29 years of age, made three starts for the Jays. But he lasted only 15 innings and gave up 11 earned runs on 19 hits — five of them homers — while compiling ten strikeouts against eight walks. On the positive side, Latos was sitting at 91.9 mph with his fastball, up a tick from last year, and had produced an 11.0% whiff rate in the short sample.
- Sean Manaea was scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday but was instead limited to long toss due to some soreness in his ailing left shoulder, writes MLB.com’s Jane Lee. Manaea, who exited his most recent start after experiencing shoulder weakness and a sharp drop in velocity, won’t be activated from the DL when he’s first eligible, Lee notes. She also adds that when asked if Manaea was facing an extended absence, Athletics skipper Bob Melvin simply replied, “Could be.”
- Though Josh Reddick is happy to be a member of the Astros and excited for the next four years in Houston, the right fielder said today on CSN Bay Area’s Athletics Insider Podcast that he hoped last summer to sign an extension with the Athletics (transcript via CSN’s Joe Stiglich, where readers can also find the full audio). “It was definitely somewhere I really wanted to make it happen,” said Reddick of Oakland. “Once we realized the numbers weren’t gonna line up, I think I knew deep down it wasn’t gonna happen because I didn’t hear back from them after I counter-offered what they offered me.” Reddick, who inked a four-year, $52MM deal with Houston this offseason, divulged that the A’s never offered a guaranteed four years in extension talks. He also expressed some lingering surprise that the A’s sold off so heavily in the 2014-15 offseason — the winter in which they dealt Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija and Brandon Moss.
7:45pm: A’s manager Bob Melvin suggested to reporters that Doolittle could be facing an extended absence (link via MLB.com’s Jane Lee).
“We’ve seen this over the course of the last couple of years, that when this pops up, we need to be careful with him,” said Melvin. “I don’t know this is going to be a quick thing. This is a tough loss for us. … Obviously we have our fingers crossed, but my guess is we’re going to be conservative with him.”
2:38pm: The Athletics have announced a series of roster moves involving their bullpen. Lefty Sean Doolittle has been placed on the 10-day DL with what the team is describing as a shoulder strain, while righty Cesar Valdez was designated for assignment.
Oakland will promote two righties to take the open roster spots. Bobby Wahl and Josh Smith are each headed to the majors for the first time this year — and the first time ever in Wahl’s case. The 25-year-old Wahl (Oakland’s No. 18 prospect, per MLB.com) will bring an upper-90s heater that occasionally reaches triple digits to the Oakland ’pen. Wahl has a history of missing bats at a lofty rate but has struggled to limit walks. Smith, meanwhile, has a career 5.46 ERA in 92 1/3 innings with the Reds but was sporting an outrageous 21-to-3 K/BB ratio through 13 2/3 innings at Triple-A this season.
[Related: Oakland Athletics Depth Chart]
It’s rough news for Doolittle, who has dealt with frequent arm issues in recent seasons but had been in fine form thus far. The 32-year-old has allowed three earned runs on five hits and a single walk through his 7 2/3 frames, while retiring 11 batters via strikeout. Doolittle had been in at least a partial share of the team’s closing duties in Oakland, but it seems likely now that fellow veteran Santiago Casilla will handle the vast majority of ninth-inning duties with Doolittle on the shelf.
Injuries are nothing new for Doolittle, who has generally been excellent when healthy but has had durability issues since inking a five-year, $10.5MM extension with Oakland that spans the 2014-18 seasons. The former infielder is earning a reasonable $2.6MM salary in 2017, and he’s guaranteed $4.35MM in 2018 as well (plus a $500K buyout of a $6MM option for 2019). Since signing that deal, Doolittle has had four separate DL stints for shoulder troubles (including this latest trip).
As for the 32-year-old Valdez, he returned to the Majors this season for the first time since the 2010 campaign — a fairly remarkable layoff from which to return. Valdez appeared in four games with the A’s, including one start, but was tagged for 10 runs on 14 hits and four walks with just five strikeouts in a total of 9 1/3 innings. It seems likely that he’ll be able to clear waivers and remain with the organization as a depth option for later in the season.
The A’s announced that right-hander Sonny Gray has been activated from the disabled list on Monday. Per John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (Twitter link), Gray will start Tuesday’s game against the Twins. To clear space for Gray on the active roster, outfielder Ryan LaMarre has been optioned to Triple-A Nashville.
The 27-year-old Gray will take the hill for Oakland for the first time this season with tomorrow’s outing. The 2015 Cy Young candidate was sidelined early in Spring Training by a lat strain that required a three-week shutdown from throwing, and he’s since been building strength back up on a minor league rehab assignment. To say that Gray looked sharp in the minors would be an understatement; in 11 innings between Class-A Advanced Stockton and Triple-A Nashville, Gray racked up 13 strikeouts and allowed only three hits without issuing a walk or yielding a run.
That’s a small sample of work against vastly inferior competition, of course, but the results are encouraging for Gray as he looks to put behind a terrible 2016 season behind him. Last year, Gray was slowed by a strained trapezius muscle and a strained forearm, which led to a pair of separate DL stints and limited him to 117 rather ugly innings. Gray’s ERA soared from 2.73 in 2015 to 5.69 in 2016, and he saw increases in hits per nine (7.2 to 10.2), walks per nine (2.6 to 3.2) and home runs per nine (0.7 to 1.4) as well.
The A’s are off to an 11-14 start to the season, which already has them five games back from the division-leading Astros. While Oakland isn’t likely to make any sort of determination about its course of action this summer on May 1, if the team doesn’t climb back into contention, a healthy Gray would once again be one of the most-discussed trade chips in the game as the non-waiver deadline approaches. Gray is earning a reasonable $3.575MM salary in 2017 after avoiding arbitration in the offseason, and he’s controlled via that arbitration process through the end of the 2019 season.
The Athletics have placed southpaw Sean Manaea on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to April 27, with a left shoulder strain. Manaea left his start after two innings Wednesday against the Angels with shoulder stiffness, but there was hope that he’d avoid a DL stint.
In five starts and 24 1/3 innings this season, the 25-year-old Manaea has pitched to a 5.18 ERA, largely thanks to a 4.44 BB/9 and a 53.8 percent strand rate. Manaea doled out only 2.3 free passes per nine innings and stranded runners at a 75 percent clip last year, when he logged a 3.86 ERA during a 144 2/3-frame rookie campaign. Encouragingly, Manaea has experienced an uptick in strikeouts (9.99 K/9), ground-ball rate (63.9 percent, up from 44.2 in 2016) and swinging-strike percentage (13.8, an increase over last year’s 11.8) so far this season.
With Sonny Gray set to make his season debut Tuesday, the A’s rotation will simply swap him for Manaea for the time being. Kendall Graveman, Andrew Triggs, Jharel Cotton and Jesse Hahn will continue to comprise the rest of Oakland’s starting staff.
- Multiple pieces of good news for the Athletics’ rotation, courtesy of John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group: Right-hander Sonny Gray, who has missed the first few weeks of the 2017 campaign with a lat strain, will make his season debut Tuesday against the Twins. And one of Gray’s fellow A’s starters, left-hander Sean Manaea, likely won’t require a stint on the disabled list. Manaea left his start after two innings Wednesday on account of shoulder stiffness, but he’s “feeling great right now.” Barring a setback, Manaea’s next turn will probably come Saturday versus the Tigers, per Hickey.
SATURDAY: The A’s have announced that they’ve outrighted Alcantara to Triple-A Nashville. They also reinstated infielder Joey Wendle (shoulder) from the DL and optioned him to Nashville.
TUESDAY: The Athletics announced on Tuesday that they’ve designated right-hander Raul Alcantara for assignment as part of a series of roster moves. Additionally, Oakland has placed Rajai Davis on the 10-day disabled list due to a hamstring injury. Right-hander Cesar Valdez and outfielder Ryan LaMarre have been recalled from Triple-A Nashville to fill out the 25-man roster.
Alcantara, 24, made the Athletics’ roster out of Spring Training, though that decision seemingly stemmed in part from the fact that he is out of minor league options. Alcantara struggled tremendously through three appearances (one start) to open the season, however. Through seven innings, the once well-regarded prospect has yielded 13 earned runs (15 total runs) for a sky-high 16.71 ERA. Alcantara has surrendered 10 hits, including three homers, and walked five batters against just two punchouts on the season. That ugly stat line represents a continuation of last season’s woes. In a total of 29 1/3 Major League innings, Alcantara has a 9.51 ERA with a 16-to-9 K/BB ratio and six hit batsmen.
Those struggles notwithstanding, Alcantara certainly has shown some promise in the minors. He was once well-regarded enough to be shipped from Boston to Oakland in a significant trade for then-closer Andrew Bailey, though Josh Reddick clearly proved to be the cornerstone piece of that deal for the A’s. Alcantara, though, posted a 1.18 ERA with a 32-to-3 K/BB ratio through 45 Triple-A innings as recently as last season and has a career 3.52 ERA with 6.3 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 throughout his minor league tenure — a total of 588 1/3 innings.
The Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers have announced that their parent club has signed infielder Max Muncy, apparently to a minor-league deal. He’ll play for Oklahoma City.
The Athletics outrighted Muncy last winter. He played a handful of games with them in Spring Training, but it appears they released him at some point. He has not yet appeared in the Majors or minors in the regular season.
The 26-year-old Muncy has collected 245 big-league plate appearances with the A’s over the past two seasons, batting .195/.290/.321. He’s batted .262/.355/.407 while playing five positions (first, second, third and the outfield corners) over his career at the Triple-A level, indicating that he’s a solid depth option in the high minors, perhaps especially for a team like the Dodgers, who currently have a variety of position players on the DL.