A’s manager says team will be ‘conservative’ with Sonny Gray, still undecided on closer

AT&T PARK — After Sonny Gray made just two starts in the final two months of 2016 and strained his lat this spring, manager Bob Melvin explained that the club will be playing it safe with the erstwhile ace.

“I’m not sure on the rotation yet,” Melvin said on Thursday when asked for a target date for the right-hander’s debut. “He feels great. We’re really kind of holding him back. Certainly we have to be conservative to make sure once he gets back he doesn’t have any issues.”

Melvin said that Gray is making progress, but that he’s not yet made enough for the team to predict when he’ll be ready for game action.

“He’s chomping at the bit though,” Melvin said. “So, he’s out to 120 feet I believe today. Not sure what day we have targeted [for him] to get on a mound, but once we get him on a mound then we’ll have a better idea when he’ll be able to come back.”

If you have 3 closers, you don’t have a closer

Melvin has yet to tab a ninth-inning stopper from the trio of Ryan Madson, Santiago Casilla and Sean Doolittle.

“We still haven’t made up our minds as far as that dynamic goes,” Melvin said. “But it’s a luxury to have as many guys as we do that have closed games.”

The skipper said he’d like to avoid entering the season with a bullpen by committee.

Melvin cryptic on the absent Barreto

The A’s brought seven extra minor leaguers up for the three-game series with the San Francisco Giants. As Melvin explained, it’s a way to reward the young guys who impressed in the desert. When asked why that list — which is drawn up by the front office — didn’t include the club’s consensus No. 1 prospect Franklin Barreto, the manager wasn’t in the mood for explanations.

“He was here last year, so there are some reasons for that that I won’t get into,” Melvin said of the shortstop who hit .481 in 16 spring games. “But it’d be nice to have him here, yeah.”

The National League DH

The A’s have a designated hitter in a National League park for the opener of the Bay Bridge Series thanks to an arrangement between Melvin and his counterpart Bruce Bochy.

“I think so,” Mevlin said when asked if he’ll also have a DH on Friday. “I have a little side thing going on with Boch. So I believe I am.”

No AT&T in the A’s future

Asked if there’s a chance that the A’s could end up utilizing AT&T Park as a temporary home at some point in the future while the team builds its new park in Oakland, president Dave Kaval strongly implied that won’t be happening.

“We have a lease here through 2024 which gives us enough time to play here at the Coliseum until our new ballpark is built,” Kaval said. “And if we built at this site, we could build next to Coliseum, and so, I think our focus is playing at the Coliseum as long as we need to before our new ballpark opens in Oakland.

“We like playing in Oakland. We’ve been here 49 years. We have a great history. Maybe the Coliseum isn’t the most perfect venue, but I think it has a lot of great days left and a lot of great games. And we want to make that last piece of history here before we find our new home in Oakland.”

Karl Buscheck
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Karl Buscheck

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