Athletics

A's spring training Day 29: Given green light, Doolittle's debut goes smoothly

A's spring training Day 29: Given green light, Doolittle's debut goes smoothly

MESA, Ariz. — After a delayed start to his spring, A’s reliever Sean Doolittle hopes he can hit the accelerator leading up to Opening Night.

The lefty turned in a 1-2-3 inning Tuesday against Colorado in his Cactus League debut. Having been held back from game action as a precaution, due to two seasons of shoulder problems, Doolittle said trainers have given him the green light to proceed without restrictions.

“I was told I’m normal now — take the training wheels completely off,” Doolittle said after a 4-3 loss to the Rockies.

He added that he thinks five or six outings in Arizona, with the possibility of a couple more in the Bay Bridge Series, should have him ready for Opening Night.

“I feel like my delivery is relatively low maintenance, and I do enough work on the side,” Doolittle said. “Mechanically, I’ll be ready.”

All three outs came through the air — two fly outs and a liner to left. Doolittle threw just one off-speed pitch, a changeup, but said he’ll weave the pitch in more as he gets more outings under his belt.

With Santiago Casilla having made his spring debut Sunday, all of the A’s front-line relievers now have at least one game under their belt. Ryan Madson and John Axford each threw scoreless innings Tuesday, a good sign for Oakland as both veterans experienced a bit of turbulence in early outings.

STOCK FALLING: Daniel Coulombe has a chance to join Doolittle as a second lefty in the bullpen, but he’s struggled to this point in exhibitions. Coulombe was charged with all four runs as the Rockies rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the top of the ninth to steal one from the A’s. He also issued two walks in 1 1/3 innings.

“He’s had a tough spring. especially to left-handers,” Melvin acknowledged. “We expect him to get the left-handers out, and not only have they been hitting him, they’ve been doing some damage too. So he’s gotta tighten that up a little bit.”

Six spots in the bullpen are locked down with Axford, Casilla, Doolittle, Ryan Dull, Liam Hendriks and Madson. In all likelihood the A’s would want another lefty, whether it’s Coulombe or perhaps someone with long-relief potential such as Ross Detwiler. If the A’s carry just four outfielders, they could actually take eight relievers if they desire, which would allow them to keep Raul Alcantara, who is out of minor league options.

NOTEWORTHY: Sean Manaea went 3 2/3 innings and held the Rockies off the board despite giving up seven hits. He was displeased with his slider and fastball command, and it took some good defense — and head-scratching Rockies base running — to help him escape the first unscored upon.

Third baseman Matt Chapman cut down a runner at home with men on the corners and one out. Then first baseman Yonder Alonso made a heads-up play to catch Trevor Story in a rundown after Story unwisely rounded third and broke for home on Stephen Cardello’s infield single.

ODDS AND ENDS: Colorado’s tying and go-ahead runs scored against Kyle Finnegan, who relieved Coulombe in the ninth. Finnegan had done a nice job coming over from minor league camp and nailing down a victory earlier this spring. … With the A’s off Wednesday, Jharel Cotton will pitch in a Triple-A game against the Cubs.

 

Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

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Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

OAKLAND – It really was a freak injury. One swing of the bat, a seemingly inconsequential foul ball.

But during Thursday's loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Matt Olson knew right away something was wrong.

"I generally have a pretty high pain tolerance," the A's first baseman said Sunday. "I couldn't grip the bat when I came back (to the dugout) so I knew something was up."

It turned out Olson had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He underwent hamate excision surgery Friday in Los Angeles, and will be out indefinitely.

"It sucks," Olson admitted. "The timing of it is good and bad. Good because I get five or six days here to get ahead, but it sucks because it's the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point."

A's manager Bob Melvin added: "There are certain guys who you feel like are a little more replaceable than others. He's a tough one. ... He makes everybody in the infield better. All you've got to do is get it over in his direction. He's got a wide wingspan and he picks everything out of the dirt.

"It's tough not having him out there, but that's why we have a Mark Canha, a (Jurickson) Profar, and a Chad Pinder. It gives somebody else an opportunity."

Olson was not given a timetable for his return, but he noted a wide variance in other players with the same injury, anywhere from four to eight weeks. While he's obviously disappointed, he believes the team can survive without him.

"We've got guys -- Canha, Pinder, (Franklin) Barreto, and Profar -- all of those guys are very established and have good at-bats," Olson said. "They're guys who are going to get more at-bats because of it. I don't think it's a bad thing. It sucks for me, but I'm glad these guys are going to get a little more regular playing time."

[RELATED: A's have options at first base in light of Olson injury]

Although he hasn't missed any games yet, Olson joked he has already experienced the effects of sporting a cast on his right hand in his everyday life.

"I had to go to the store today to get stuff for my apartment. I got a ton of stuff. Then I got to the apartment complex, and thought I was going to have to make like five trips because I can only carry things with one hand," he laughed.

As Olson adjusts to life with just one functional hand, the A's must adjust to life without Olson's powerful bat in the lineup and his slick glove in the field. In both cases, it will be a difficult process.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.