Oakland Athletics plan to keep using the opener, but Brett Anderson’s return could help with rotation depth

OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics will likely use an opener on Friday against the Texas Rangers, ahead of a bulk outing by Chris Bassitt, but they may not have to go to the well many more times during the home stretch.

Injured Brett Anderson — who has started 13 games this season for the A’s with a 4.02 ERA and has averaged five innings per start — threw a bullpen session on Wednesday, and drew rave reviews from manager Bob Melvin.

“It went really good,” Melvin said. “I was actually surprised. The one thing that we’re looking for is the breaking ball, him getting comfortable with the breaking ball, and he felt great with it today.”

Anderson has landed on the disabled list twice this season — once with a left shoulder strain in May (a stay which lasted from May 19 to July 8) and once, most recently, with a strained left forearm. His return would give Oakland five starters on the roster, with the possibility that they could add a sixth — Frankie Montas — once he’s eligible to return from a collective bargaining agreement-mandated 10 days assigned to the minor leagues (even though the season is over).

“There’s a good chance Saturday we’ll try to get him three up-and-downs, maybe 15 pitches [per up-and-down] and then, if all goes well, we’ll probably slot him in somewhere on the road trip,” Melvin said.

Oakland has seen 10 starters spend time on the disabled list, and 13 different pitchers who have started games.

Bassitt is listed as the starter for Friday’s game against the Rangers, but Melvin said, “Whether he’s actually starting the game, I’mnot sure yet, but good chance he’ll be part of it.”

Melvin said that should the A’s get starters back and healthy, they may not have to use the opener much more, but as of now, Liam Hendriks has proven he can at least give them one good inning to start.

“If we get some guys back healthy, maybe we do things differently, but I think Liam has shown that in that first inning, he’s done pretty well, so we’ll play it by ear,” Melvin said. “I think it went a lot better [Tuesday] than it certainly did the first time out. I think for Daniel [Mengden], too, knowing he’s pitching the second inning allows him to get in a little bit better routine and they both pitched well.”

Between Mengden and Hendriks, the A’s faced the minimum over the first six innings, with the pair tossing 5 2/3 no-hit frames.

“I wouldn’t consider it a bullpen game,” Melvin said. “I consider it more of ‘the opener’ type thing, and then a starter comes in behind. With Daniel throwing two days off and throwing 50-some pitches before, we weren’t going to use him more than 50 pitches, but ‘bullpen game’ is a little different for me, in that you’re using all bullpen guys. If we do use the opener again, everybody will be a little bit more comfortable with it based on the fact that it worked out pretty well for us yesterday.”

*****

Wednesday is the final day of Oakland’s 20-games-in-20-days stretch, and Melvin is relieved it’s coming to an end.

“I think everybody is,” Melvin said. “The timing of it wasn’t great, but it is what it is. The teams that we ended up playing during the course of it tax you a little bit.”

During the past 19 games, the A’s have lost two starters, but have managed to go 11-8, dropping two games further behind the Houston Astros for first place in the American League West (though the margin is only 3 1/2 games overall). However, they have drawn closer to the Wild Card-leading New York Yankees — Wednesday’s opponent — and stayed ahead of a crumbling Seattle Mariners team for the second Wild Card spot.

“The fact that we’ve been in almost every one of these games would suggest that some of the guys in the bullpen have been used, and that’s been the case,” Melvin said. “I think everyone’s looking forward to the off day.”

Of the previous 19 games, 12 have come against those three teams. Oakland has gone 6-6.

Ryan Gorcey

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