A's will give Blake Treinen 'soft landing' in return to closer's role


A's will give Blake Treinen 'soft landing' in return to closer's role

OAKLAND – Blake Treinen is back, in more ways than one.

The A's right-handed reliever was activated off the 10-day injured list Wednesday afternoon, and will return to the closer’s role despite some pre-shoulder ailment struggles and Liam Hendriks’ lights-out performance in his stead.

Oakland skipper Bob Melvin made that point clear before Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins.

The ninth inning still belongs to Treinen. Well, soon enough.

“We’ll give him one soft landing before we get him back doing what he’s normally doing,” Melvin said. “And congrats to Liam (on winning relief pitcher of the month). That’s quite a feather. He’s come a long way, not only from last year but from this year, where he started out to where he is now. It’s a credit to him for the hard work. It takes serious conviction, what he’s doing.”

Hendriks has been doing everything right lately. He was named the AL Reliever of the Month earlier Wednesday, after posting a 0.60 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 15 innings with two saves while filling in for Treinen in June. 

That excellence prompted questions about the closer’s role, as much or more than anything else.

But Melvin was crystal clear why he isn’t moving Treinen out of the ninth.

“He has had a pretty good body of work for us,” Melvin said of a closer with 67 saves over two-plus seasons with Oakland. “We want to make sure he’s healthy and he gets out there. You can do all the minor-league rehabbing you want. It’s different when you get to the big-league level, so we want to get him at least a game under his belt where he feels comfortable.”

Treinen made one rehab appearance with Las Vegas, allowing three runs on four hits Monday night.

That stint was more about health than results, and Treinen came away feeling strong.

“It’s good to see the body respond well,” Treinen said. “I was able to get out there and compete a little bit, but it’s important to get back here around the guys. I just want to help continue this good thing we’ve got going and win a few games heading into the All-Star break.”

This stretch before the break offers Treinen a chance to get back in proper flow. He struggled some before going on the IL, allowing 10 runs and nine walks in his last 11 innings.

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The A's are fortunate to have bullpen quality and numbers, so guys can slide in and stop individual skids before they impact the team.

“That’s why you try and create depth in your bullpen,” Melvin said. “When somebody gets hurt, or you’re not seeing the numbers you saw before, you have some depth and guys can step into different roles. That’s what we’re seeing right now.”

A.J. Puk makes MLB debut, Liam Hendriks preserves A's win over Yankees

A.J. Puk makes MLB debut, Liam Hendriks preserves A's win over Yankees

OAKLAND -- A.J. Puk's heart was practically pounding out of his jersey.

For two straight days, the A's 24-year-old rookie had been sitting anxiously in the bullpen, just waiting for his name to be called. That call finally came Wednesday night.

Puk made his highly-anticipated major league debut against the AL-leading New York Yankees, allowing a walk and a single in 1/3 of an inning, but keeping the Bronx Bombers off the scoreboard in a 6-4 A's victory.

"It was great to finally get the first one out of the way," Puk said after the game. "My heart was racing. I was trying my best to calm it down. ... It's the first one. I got it out of the way. Now, hopefully, it's smooth sailing."

A's manager Bob Melvin had warned us that he wasn't afraid to use Puk in a big spot, and he lived up to his word. The 6-foot-7 left-hander entered the game in the eighth inning, protecting a slim two-run lead.

"That's a tough spot, coming in against the Yankees for his first appearance in the eighth inning of a two-run game," Melvin said. "Maybe a little bit of nerves on the first walk. ... We got the first out of the way and look forward to seeing him out there again."

Puk received a boisterous reception from the Coliseum crowd, both as he entered the game and then again when he left.

"I definitely heard it, he said. "It's a special moment. My family was in town. They were able to see me throw in the major leagues for the first time. It was good all around."

Added Melvin: "Usually I don't really take too much notice of the applause for someone coming into the game, but it was pretty significant. You couldn't help but notice that."

Puk exited with runners on the corners and just one out. That's when Melvin turned to his All-Star closer Liam Hendriks for a tenuous five-out save. The right-hander responded by striking out DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge to get out of the eighth and then retiring the Yankees' third, fourth and fifth hitters in the ninth.

"That might've been his best outing of the year," Melvin said. "I didn't do him any favors -- LeMahieu and Judge in the eighth and then he has to go through the ninth. What he's meant to this team this year and the acceleration from his role where he was last year all the way until this year has just been amazing."

Judge's at-bat probably brought back memories of last year's Wild Card Game, in which the Yankees slugger blasted a two-run home run off of Hendriks. But on Wednesday, the Australian closer got his revenge, striking Judge out on a nasty slider low and away.

"When you're in the bullpen, you've got a short memory," Hendriks said. "I'm assuming they showed it (on television) while I was pitching, so that's always fun. It is what it is. Actually, I asked him earlier today, 'Hey, which one was hit harder, the one you hit off me or the one you hit off Soria yesterday?' He played the modest card and was like, 'Man, the wind was blowing out.' I'm like, 'It doesn't matter if the wind was blowing in, that ball was gone.'"

Hendriks let out a thunderous yell after the strikeout but quickly calmed himself down, remembering he still had to pitch the ninth inning.

"My biggest thing is I was trying to make sure that I wasn't too amped because once you scream and then have to go back out again, it's not always the best scenario," he said. "Luckily, I've been pretty good this year at being able to go out there, have my little bit of an emotional attack, then kind of relax and get into the dugout and joke around and take it off a little bit." 

Yankees vs. A's lineups: Oakland looks to continue dominance of lefties

Yankees vs. A's lineups: Oakland looks to continue dominance of lefties

OAKLAND -- The A's look to continue their success against left-handed pitching when they face Yankees southpaw J.A. Happ on Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

The Green and Gold are 21-10 against left-handed starters this season with an .820 OPS, currently the best mark in Oakland history. A's manager Bob Melvin has loaded up his lineup with right-handed bats, with only Matt Olson swinging from the left side.

Chad Pinder, Jurickson Profar and Josh Phegley all return to the lineup to give Oakland three more righties. Pinder will bat fifth, with Profar and Phegley hitting eight and ninth, respectively.

Happ has struggled this season for New York, going 10-7 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 24 starts. The 36-year-old has enjoyed success against Oakland, however, going 4-1 with a 3.47 ERA in 11 career outings, including nine starts.

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The A's will counter with ace right-hander Mike Fiers. The 34-year-old is 11-3 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 26 starts this year, winning his last nine decisions. In six career starts against the Yankees, Fiers is 2-1 with a 5.06 ERA.

Here are the full lineups for the A's-Yankees game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. PT, with first pitch at 7:07.

New York Yankees (83-44)

DJ LeMahieu, 1B
Aaron Judge, RF
Gary Sánchez, C
Gio Urshela, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Mike Tauchman, CF
Cameron Maybin, LF
Mike Ford, DH

J.A. Happ, LHP (10-7, 5.40 ERA)

Oakland A's (72-53)

Marcus Semien, SS
Matt Chapman, 3B
Matt Olson, 1B
Mark Canha, CF
Chad Pinder, LF
Stephen Piscotty, RF
Khris Davis, DH
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Josh Phegley, C

Mike Fiers, RHP (11-3, 3.46 ERA)