OAKLAND — Oakland Athletics designated hitter Khris Davis had a bounce in his step as he got out of the clubhouse early for full pregame workouts on Tuesday.
Davis, 30, is “champing at the bit,” manager Bob Melvin said, to get back into a lineup which has averaged fewer than two runs per game since he went down with a grade one groin strain on May 20.
“I think yesterday, with the running that they had him do, I think he felt comfortable,” Melvin said. “He’ll go through everything today. He’ll take BP, he’ll take balls in the outfield, he’ll run the bases tomorrow. If all goes well running the bases, he’ll be in the lineup on Thursday, and I expect that to be the case.”
Davis, despite missing nine days, still leads the A’s in home runs (13) and RBIs (38). Without him, Oakland averaged 1.7 runs per game heading into Tuesday’s tilt against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Melvin moved Matt Chapman up to the two-hole for Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay. He’s hit second six times in his career, and he’s hitting .208 in those games, with seven strikeouts and two walks. His best results have been when he’s hit eighth. In 94 plate appearances (24 games) hitting in the eight-hole, he’s hitting .291.
“We’re just trying to mix it up a bit,” Melvin said. “He’s hit there before, too. We’ve been a bit stagnant offensively, so when you go through times like that, you try to change the mix a little bit.”
With Chapman moving to second, Mark Canha — who’s hit .125 (3-for-24) with just two extra-base hits over the last nine games — will move to Davis’s traditional cleanup spot. Canha — who is slugging .468 this year — hasn’t hit cleanup in 2018, but in his career, Canha is hitting .333 with a .500 on-base percentage, a double, a home run and two RBIs in seven games.
With Blake Snell going for the Rays, Canha was also a natural choice to move up, given that he’s hitting .313 against lefties this season, with five of his seven home runs coming off of southpaws.
“He can hit there, and it’s as much of shakeup as anything else,” Melvin said.
Reliever Liam Hendricks was warmly welcomed back into the clubhouse, albeit briefly, on Tuesday. He’ll head out to throw in Triple-A as part of a rehab assignment this week.
“He threw good in extended [spring training], and he’s on his way to Nashville, I think he leaves tomorrow,” Melvin said. “He’s got a few outings there, and then we’ll see him back at some point.”
Hendricks will likely throw at least four times for the Sounds, including at least one set of back-to-back outings, before he returns to the big club.
Starter Paul Blackburn (right forearm strain) threw four innings in extended spring training three days ago, and will next pitch Thursday in Stockton. Melvin said earlier this week that he’ll likely throw 60 pitches.
After throwing six innings, allowing three hits and one earned run in his first start for the A’s on May 27, Frankie Montas will take his next turn in the rotation, Melvin confirmed. His next start would be his fourth in the Majors, after throwing two for the Chicago White Sox in 2015.
“Deservedly so,” Melvin said. “He pitched really well and had a good bullpen today. Feels really good about where he is right now. When you get off to a start like that, your first start at the big league level, and have that kind of success, you would think it would carry confidence into the next start.”
Reliever Santiago Casilla (right shoulder strain) feels like he’s “turned a corner,” the last few days, Melvin said, which means he’s not feeling the tightness that ended his last outing after just 11 pitches last Friday.
“He seemed to be in good spirits the last couple days,” Melvin said. “We still have some time before he actually does any baseball activities. He’s doing some strengthening stuff, but I know he feels good at this point.”
Melvin, however, doubted that Casilla — who has a 3.32 ERA over 21 2/3 innings in 16 appearances — would be back and ready to throw as soon as he’s eligible.
“I think it’s tough for a reliever to be back on the 10th day,” Melvin said. “You want to make sure he throws some bullpens and maybe even a game or a simulated game. We typically do that with guys. I think it’d probably be a stretch on the 10th day, but I’m not certain.”
The A’s opted to start Bruce Maxwell on Tuesday, after catcher Jonathan Lucroy caught all 13 innings on Monday night. Lucroy last had a day off on May 26. He’s typically taken a day off every five days or so, with his longest consecutive game streak reaching eight this season. The A’s have not had an off day since May 21, and do not have another off day until June 4.
“He’s had a pretty good workload here, and with a guy like Snell, you’d like to have him in the lineup, but we’ve played a lot of games in a row,” Melvin said. “We have six more before we have an off day, and we don’t want to run him out there too much.”
Lucroy is hitting .259 with one home run, 12 RBIs and 11 doubles this season. Maxwell is hitting .182 in 47 plate appearances this season, with four doubles and three RBIs over 15 games.
Ryan Buchter will throw a bullpen on Thursday, the day the A’s leave for Kansas City. He’s thrown out to 105 feet as he recovers from a right shoulder strain.
“That’ll be great to get him back, but it’ll certainly take some time after that,” Melvin said. “He was a key part of the bullpen.”
Before Buchter exited on April 25 with shoulder stiffness, he had a 1.69 ERA in 13 appearances this season.