OAKLAND — Brett Anderson threw three simulated innings on Saturday before the Oakland Athletics’ 1 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers, throwing 15 pitches per inning, including “good” breaking pitches, manager Bob Melvin said. If he feels fine on Sunday, he could rejoin the rotation as soon as this next road trip.
“He felt great,” Melvin said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. That’ll go a long way towards determining what game is next for him. If he feels good tomorrow, my guess is sometime on the road trip.”
That’s big for the A’s, who will also soon get Frankie Montas back from a mandated 10-day stay on the Triple-A roster thanks to a misunderstanding of the collective bargaining agreement. He should return as soon as Monday.
After seeing 10 starters visit the disabled list — including Anderson and ace Sean Manaea — Oakland has employed the opener strategy three times. With Montas and Anderson back aboard, the A’s would finally have five starters on the active roster, not counting Daniel Mengden, who started during the first half of the season before going down with injury and returning as a long reliever.
Mengden — who has come out of the bullpen once as the bulk guy in an opener situation — has given up three earned runs in 10 2/3 innings, with all three of those coming during his first outing as the bulk guy behind an opener. Starters being creatures of habit, Oakland dialed in Mengden’s routine last time out against the Yankees, and he threw 4 2/3 no-hit innings before allowing a single in the sixth.
Also returning to the active roster soon will be outfielder Nick Martini and reliever Ryan Dull. They are expected back on Sunday after their CBA-mandated stay in the minors, even though the Nashville Sounds’ season is over. Martini will likely play left field, as Ramon Laureano has done a bang-up job in center.
Laureano, who has had a monster first 30 games at the big league level, will once again lead off on Saturday, for the fourth game in a row. In his three games there already, he has two homers, is hitting .400 and has an OPS of 1.655.
“He’s doing well with it right now, so we’ve had quite a few guys in the leadoff spot this year, and we’re going to go with the one we think’s swinging the bat best at the time, and/or against the competition we’re playing,” Melvin said. At this point, he seems to do a nice job with it.”
Laureano has hit first, second, fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth, and in his first month in the majors, he’s hit .309 with four stolen bases, five home runs and 13 RBIs.
“Ramon’s also shown that he can hit anywhere in the lineup,” Melvin said. “He stays with the same approach. He’s got some power, he’s got some speed. He’s doing well enough right now to be in the leadoff spot.”
On Laureano’s first day on the job on Aug. 3, he stepped up with two outs and runners on first and second in the 13th inning wearing an 0-for-4 collar. He took a first-pitch slider for a strike, chased a breaking ball out of the zone and then on the fourth pitch of the at-bat against reliever Buck Farmer, lined a walk-off single to right center to score Martini. That earned a shower of tomato juice and beer.
Two days later, he went 3-for-4 with a stolen base and an RBI single. The next week, on Aug. 11, he uncorked a 92 mph, 310-foot throw from center field to double off the Los Angeles Angels’ Eric Young Jr. at first.
He’s hit a pair of two-homer game against the Texas Rangers — becoming the quickest A’s hitter to tally two multi-home run games in franchise history — and scored a game-tying run from first in an Aug. 17 win over the first-place Houston Astros.
Laureano has gotten the lion’s share of the reps in center, instead of the man Melvin has called the center fielder of the future — Dustin Fowler.
“We have any number of guys that have a chance to be in our plans,” Melvin said. “I still think Dustin Fowler is a guy that has a bright future with us. So does Laureano.”
The A’s will rest first baseman Matt Olson against the Rangers, given the recent stretch of 20 games in 20 days. Olson has been crucial in bolstering the infield defense, cleaning up some throws from the already-much-improved Marcus Semien and from vacuum cleaner Matt Chapman at third. Olson is 17th in the majors in defensive runs saved, with 10, and 17th in ultimate zone rating — the amount of ground he effectively covers compared to other fielders.
“We’ve played quite a few in a row, and we have some guys here who we feel like can be productive here for us off the bench, too, so we’ll take a look at it,” Melvin said. “The hard thing about Oly is giving him a full day, based on the fact that if you’re ahead, his defense always plays, and certainly can give you a pinch hit, too. I think he’s proud of the fact that he’s got a nice run going on, and I always get a little bit of a sideways glance from him when he’s not in the lineup to start.”
At some point, Melvin said, he also wants to find a way to rest Chapman, the major league leader in defensive runs saved.