OAKLAND — Ramon Laureano felt like someone was stabbing him in the tibia.
The Oakland A’s center fielder had dealt with soreness in his right shin since the team’s opening two-game series in Japan back in March, but as the pain worsened — first when the team returned to Oakland, and later on a trip to Cleveland — he told himself, “You know what, screw it. I’m gonna keep going.”
He stopped on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the team put him on the injured list with a stress reaction in his right shin, and he’ll likely be out up to four weeks. It’s a sight better than what would have happened had Oakland’s hottest hitter kept trying to push through the pain, and it keeps him on the board for the stretch run.
“If I keep going after I might crack it a little bit. I might be six weeks in a boot,” Laureano said in the A’s dugout on Wednesday. “Or it might be three months, might be a year. You never know. It depends how big the crack might be. You want to play it safe.”
In his first full season in the Major Leagues, Laureano is hitting .284 with 21 homers, 12 stolen bases, 67 runs and 58 RBIs, not to mention eight outfield assists — tied for fourth in the big leagues — as the everyday starting center fielder. He’s one of the main reasons the A’s have the best record in baseball (42-22) since May 16. Since that date, Laureano had hit .326 with 16 homers and 43 RBIs. In the month of July, Laureano was hitting .392 (29-for-74) with eight homers and 18 RBIs in 22 games.
“That one stings,” said manager Bob Melvin. “This guy probably has been playing as good as anybody on our team here the last two months and he’s a true two way player that gives you phenomenal defense and the way he swung the bat here recently, cuts into the production some.”
The injury first presented itself when Laureano couldn’t gain much purchase on the slippery turf at the Tokyo Dome in Japan during the A’s opening series against the Seattle Mariners. He said it worsened throughout the season, expecially in the last three weeks, and affected him when he tried to stop or slow down. Sliding into second base in Minnesota, he felt like someone was stabbing his tibia.
It didn’t much impact his play, though, which didn’t surprise Melvin.
“Not if you know him,” Melvin said. “He gets after it pretty good and I think it just got to the point where it was bothering him more than it was earlier. You have some aches and pains over the course of the season and you know it wasn’t hurting as badly as it was here just recently. He understands too after the MRI that with a stress reaction, if it turns into a stress fracture, now next spring is in jeopardy.”
Now, the only prescription is rest.
“I guess I’m going to sleep a lot, and watch a lot of Netflix,” Laureano said. “I know have a lot of years ahead of me. And it’s tough because we’re playing so good and I want to be out there. But it’s one of those lessons that you can learn from it.”
Phegley to IL: Catcher Josh Phegley was also placed on the injured list with a left thumb contusion — a deeper bone bruise than the A’s had originally thought after Phegley caught a foul tip there this weekend. The issue was not holding a bat, so much as it was the constant pounding he’d take on his glove hand. To take his place, Oakland called up Beau Taylor to help out Chris Herrmann.
“In the meantime, we have Beau here which, you know, we feel good about Beau,” Melvin said. “He’s a little unorthodox and we have two left handed catchers at this point, but hopefully giving Josh this time off and then 10 days (I think we can backdate a day or two), hopefully get him back sooner than later and have kind of our right-lefty matchup.”
Taylor was hitting .274 in 53 games with Triple-A Las Vegas, with seven homers, one triple and 12 doubles.
A’s call up Nick Martini: With Laureano out, the A’s added Nick Martini, who led off last year’s wild card game against the New York Yankees and batted at the top of the order for a good chunk of the season, hitting .296 in 55 games. This year with Triple-A Las Vegas, he’s hit .332 with five home runs in 60 games.
He was called up previously on July 22, but went right back to Triple-A Las Vegas the next day. He led off on Wednesday.
“It looks like we’re a little better balanced for our lineup,” Melvin said. “We had mostly righties at the top, mostly lefties and switches at the bottom. This guy’s a true on-base guy. He’s leading off for us last year and in the wildcard game. To get him up at the top with what Marcus does getting on base too and kind of scoot things back a little bit with the power.”
Martini, though, isn’t a cure-all. The A’s still need to replace Laureano’s production. Melvin thinks that Mark Canha and Chad Pinder can help toward that, as can the returning Stephen Piscotty, once he gets finished with rehab, which should be within two weeks.
Sean Manaea throws six innings in Triple-A: Oakland’s ace continued his rehab outings, throwing six innings on 70 pitches and striking out eight while only allowing a run on Tuesday. He has a minor league option left, so the A’s could extend his rehab past the Aug. 7, 30-day limit for pitchers, but he appears to be on track to need just one more tuneup.
“The results looked a little bit better and we’ll see how he feels today and see how he feels the next time around,” Melvin said.