Athletics

A's starter Marco Estrada undergoes nonsurgical procedure on back

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USATSI

A's starter Marco Estrada undergoes nonsurgical procedure on back

OAKLAND -- A's right-hander Marco Estrada underwent an ablation procedure on his back Tuesday to try to reduce the pain he's been feeling. The 35-year-old was placed on the injured list last week with what the team called a lumbar strain.

Radiofrequency ablation is a nonsurgical, minimally invasive procedure, which uses heat to stop the transmission of pain to the brain. There is still no timetable for Estrada's return, but he will miss more than one start.

"It's going to be longer than a 10-day period," A's manager Bob Melvin confirmed Tuesday. "It's still kind of undetermined as it goes with him."

Estrada has dealt with back problems for much of his career, including last season with the Blue Jays. It recently flared up again, causing a dip in velocity and trouble locating his pitches. 

"He's dealt with this before," Melvin said. "So maybe some other guys you might say it's going to be a longer period of time, but it just depends on how he feels after this procedure."

Oakland signed Estrada to a one-year, $4 million contract this offseason. In five starts this year, he is 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.

Chris Bassitt, who replaced Estrada in the rotation, made his first start of the season Monday night and tossed five scoreless innings in a 6-1 win over the Texas Rangers.

"We'll let him start again after that one," Melvin said.

Melvin also expects left-hander Brett Anderson to make his next start, despite leaving his last outing with a sprained ankle.

[RELATED: A's have no lefties in 'pen after Buchter demotion]

"I still think Brett's going to be able to pitch," he said. "He's going to have an extra day because of the off day as well, so I think we'll be in pretty good shape there."

Frankie Montas takes the hill Tuesday night as the A's try to make it two in a row over the Rangers.

A's starting pitchers taming Tigers, rest of American League in May

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AP

A's starting pitchers taming Tigers, rest of American League in May

The A's weakness this season was supposed to be their rotation. Recently, they've bucked that notion.

Daniel Mengden is the latest A's starting pitcher to have a dominant outing. He went seven innings Saturday in Oakland's 4-1 win in Detroit, and only allowed one earned run while striking out five. 

"He's got good stuff, he can mix his pitches really well," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Mengden after the win. "He's a true four-pitch guy."

In the last month, the A's five-man mix of Mengden, Frankie Montas, Mike Fiers, Chris Bassitt and Brett Anderson has been among the best in the American League. 

Mengden followed a career first for Montas. On Friday, Montas pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his career and struck out a career-high 10 batters. 

"We knew he had a lot of talent in him, but he's taking it to another level right now," Melvin told reporters Friday when asked about Montas' start.

Coming into their four-game road series with the Tigers, the A's had lost three in a row. They're now riding a three-game win streak, thanks to their starting arms. The trio of Bassitt, Montas and Mengden combined to throw 23 2/3 innings while allowing only three earned runs. They also struck out 22 batters and only walked four.

And the A's soon could have more help on the way.

[RELATED: Melvin raves about Montas after longest outing of his career]

Jharel Cotton pitched in his first rehab assignment in Class A for the Stockton Ports on Thursday. Sean Manaea quietly has been throwing bullpens, and top prospect Jesus Luzardo threw his first bullpen Tuesday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Oakland's starting pitchers' ERA now is just outside the top five in the American League. Though they're still in the bottom of the AL West, the A's are trending up, with reinforcements coming down the road.

A's vs. Tigers lineup: Khris Davis scratched from matinee at Comerica Park

A's vs. Tigers lineup: Khris Davis scratched from matinee at Comerica Park

The A's arrived in Detroit looking for something to snap them out of their funk, and they found exactly what they were looking for in the struggling Tigers.

Bob Melvin's club pummeled the Tigers 17-3 in Game 1 of the series Thursday, and Frankie Montas struck out a career-high 10 batters to lead Oakland to a 7-3 win Friday.

The A's lineup will look a little different Saturday at Comerica Park, though.

Khris Davis initially was scheduled to be in the lineup batting cleanup, but he was scratched from the order and replaced by Robbie Grossman. Grossman will bat sixth and play left field, and Stephen Piscotty will take over Davis’ designated hitter role and bat fourth.

Davis was scratched because of his sore left hip and is day to day. 

Oakland will give the ball to right-hander Daniel Mengden on Saturday. Mengden gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings during a 5-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians in his first start after being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Here are the full lineups for Saturday's A's vs. Tigers game: 

Oakland Athletics (21-25)
Marcus Semien, SS
Mark Canha, 1B
Matt Chapman, 3B
Stephen Piscotty, DH
Chad Pinder, RF
Robbie Grossman, LF
Ramon Laureano, CF
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Nick Hundley, C

Daniel Mengden, RHP (0-1, 6.75 ERA)

[RELATED: Olson's power hasn't been affected by hand surgery]

Detroit Tigers (18-25)
Josh Harrison, 2B
Dawal Lugo, 3B
Nicholas Castellanos, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Ronny Rodriguez, SS
Christin Stewart, LF
Brandon Dixon, DH
Grayson Greiner, C
JaCoby Jones, CF

Matthew Boyd, LHP (4-3, 3.15 ERA)