With hard-throwing left-hander Jake Diekman expected to arrive in time to be active and available for Tuesday’s series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Oakland Athletics have made room on the 25-man roster for him.
On Monday, the A’s announced that they were designating right-hander Brian Schlitter for assignment, specifically because of Diekman’s arrival from Kansas City, where he had to attend to family before making his way to Oakland.
Diekman, who has equally tough splits against righties (.221 BAA) and lefties (.234 BAA), will be utilized as a full-inning reliever at the back end of the bullpen, allowing manager Bob Melvin to use Ryan Buchter more as a situational lefty earlier in games.
“He’s a tough customer. He’s a guy who certainly misses some bats,” Melvin said when Diekman was acquired on Saturday. “Watching left-handers around the league have to deal with him, I’ve talked to our guys too, and it’s certainly not a comfortable at-bat. It makes us a lot better.”
Though the A’s activated Jharel Cotton from the 60-day injured list (Tommy John) on Monday, he won’t be making his way to Oakland. The right-hander was optioned to Triple-A as he prepares for a late-season relief role.
Like fellow Tommy John patient A.J. Puk, Cotton is expected to come out of the bullpen in order to mitigate his post-surgery innings. Cotton, 27, is 1-2 with an 8.16 ERA during his rehab stint, split between Class-A Stockton and the Triple-A Aviators. He’s given up 17 hits, 13 earned runs and five walks in 14 1/3 innings, with 17 strikeouts.
Briefly a part of the Oakland rotation in 2016 and 2017, Cotton is 11-10 with a 4.95 ERA in 29 major league starts, with 128 strikeouts in 158 1/3 innings. He was expected to be a major contributor in 2018 before tearing his ulnar collateral ligament during spring training.
The A’s officially released catcher Nick Hundley on Sunday after designating him for assignment. Hundley, 35, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-June, and had gone 5-for-25 in his seven minor league rehab games, with one home run and one double.
Before Hundley landed on the IL, the veteran backstop got off to an underwhelming start, hitting .200/.233/.357 (55 wRC+) in 73 plate appearances. He struggled defensively, too, ranking 80th among big league catchers in adjusted framing, 77th in framing runs saved (-2.1), 58th in blocking runs saved (-0.2) and 72nd in runs saved because of his throwing (-0.1).
When starter Josh Phegley left Sunday’s game in the fifth inning with a thumb contusion suffered on a foul ball, Oakland inserted Chris Herrmann, who had been slated to get a day off. When he took a foul ball off the inside of his knee in the ninth, the A’s almost had to go to emergency catcher Chad Pinder, who was playing left field.
Pinder — who’s played five positions this year, but hasn’t so much as caught a bullpen session this season — was nervous.
“Marcus [Semien] was staring at me. [Matt] Olson was staring at me. I had people in the crowd telling me to get ready,” Pinder said, laughing. “I wasn’t looking forward to that.”
Though it’s unlikely that Phegley goes on the injured list, the A’s could easily call up the left-handed-hitting Beau Taylor if he does. He’s hit .274 in 53 games at Triple-A Las Vegas this year, and in eight games with the A’s, has hit .211 with two homers and four walks to five strikeouts, with a .901 OPS. Another option could be top catching prospect Sean Murphy, who has five homers and nine RBIs in his past three games, and in 22 games with Las Vegas is slashing .349/.422/.640.