Oakland Athletics set rotation for second half, plus injury updates on Matt Joyce and Daniel Mengden

OAKLAND — Bob Melvin has been up to Mount Davis before, plenty of times. In his earlier years as the Oakland Athletics manager, he used to run the stairs.

“It’s been years since I’ve been up there, but you take a look at the view, and the views are pretty nice up there, too,” Melvin said.

The view has looked pretty good for the A’s over the last six weeks. Oakland has gone 21-6 in their last 27 games, and sit 13 games over .500 and just three games behind the Seattle Mariners for the American League’s second wild card spot. The A’s will open Mount Davis on Saturday for the second game of the second chapter of this year’s Bay Bridge Series against the San Francisco Giants, at just $10 per ticket.

“The more people you can get in this place, the better feeling it is, and I’ve often said, when it’s 10,000, it feels like 30, or 20 here, and I know our guys are excited about it,” Melvin said.

The A’s, Melvin said, are expecting sell-out crowds all weekend, especially after a tense 2-1 series win at AT&T Park before the All-Star Break. He came short, though, of saying it had a playoff feel.

“It was pretty spirited at their place and from what I understand, it’s going to be pretty crowded here tonight,” Melvin said. “Being the two teams in the Bay Area, it’s a little different feeling. I don’t know if I would call it ‘playoff’ or a ‘postseason’ feeling, but there’s more excitement, doing it six games in a row. It’s pretty exciting for these guys. Based on the fact that we’ve been playing pretty well, this place is supposed to be sold out here the next couple days, and I know everyone’s excited about that.”

Oakland will start journeyman Edwin Jackson (1-1, 2.59 ERA) in Friday’s opener. The A’s will then turn to Trevor Cahill (1-2, 3.10) and Sean Manaea to finish out the series, before throwing Brett Anderson (1-2, 6.08) and most likely Frankie Montas (9-6, 3.42) on the road against the Texas Rangers.

“We wanted to make sure Manaea in the first three,” Melvin said. “We also wanted to give him a little extra rest. The last time he pitched on Sunday I think was the first time in a while that he’d pitched on four days, so I wanted to make sure he got a couple extra days. Jackson’s pitching great for us, was a big boost getting Cahill back, so we wanted those guys to be the first three.”

Jackson hasn’t missed a beat assimilating to his 13th big league team in 16 seasons. Melvin was initially surprised at how quickly that took place, but the longer he’s gotten to talk with the right-hander, the more he sees why he’s been able to blend in so quickly.

“Anybody that’s been with 13 different organizations, it felt like here, he was part of this thing two days into his tenure,” Melvin said. “There’s something about him that allows him to be a part of it real quickly, and on top of that, he’s pitched real well for us. He’s been a really, really good addition for us.”

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The pitching rotation could get crowded soon for the A’s, as Daniel Mengden (right foot strain) made his third rehab start on Thursday, going seven innings and allowing two earned runs on five hits and a walk, while striking out two.

Melvin wasn’t sure quite when Mengden would return.

“It’s nice that we’re getting guys back now,” Melvin said. “We’ll see where this five goes right now. We’ve had injuries, so knock wood, we don’t have as many as we did in the first half. When Mengden’s pitching well, he pitches as well as anybody on our staff.”

In May, Mengden went 4-1 in six starts with a 1.51 ERA, averaging just under seven innings per start, but he had a rough June, going 0-2 in four starts with an 11.57 ERA in 16 1/3 innings.

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Melvin said that, after such a hot conclusion to the first half, he just wants to see the A’s continue apace in the second.

“I think we can be a little bit better on the base paths,” he said. “Defensively, I think we have room for improvement. I like the way we’ve been handling our at-bats. We’ve been getting some tough starting pitchers that we’ve been able to fight through and get into teams’ bullpens.”

The A’s will have a tall task ahead of them on Friday in Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound righty has gone 4-1 in his first nine Major League games, with a 2.89 ERA. Headed into the All-Star break, Rodriguez had thrown at least five innings in each of his last five starts, and he finished the first half with a three-inning shutout relief appearance on July 11.

*****

Outfielder Matt Joyce had an epidural to get rid of some back issues last Friday. He was upbeat in the clubhouse before the game, but isn’t close to returning.

“He’s feeling better, hasn’t done any baseball stuff yet,” Melvin said. “I believe if everything goes well here in the next couple days, he will start baseball activity on Monday.”

Ryan Gorcey

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