OAKLAND — Oakland A’s third baseman Matt Chapman completed a successful round of batting practice Sunday and will begin a rehab assignment at Double-A Stockton on Monday.
Before going on the disabled list with an injured right hand, Chapman posted a .793 OPS with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs in 69 games. More impressive, though, was his defense at the hot corner, which put him in discussion for a Gold Glove.
Chapman was on pace to become the most valuable A’s player by WAR since at least 2014, when predecessor Josh Donaldson was worth 7.5 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. At 3.9 WAR, he could still reach that mark. He’s might return for Oakland’s next series against the San Diego Padres if all goes according to plan.
Manager Bob Melvin is doing his best to rotate his bullpen in an effort to keep his best arms fresh. It’s been easier to do that over the past couple of weeks with Emilio Pagan returning from Triple-A Nashville as a much better pitcher than he was in April.
Acquired in an offseason trade that sent Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners, Pagan started the season shaky, posting a 5.93 ERA in April. His slider was hit hard and he developed an over-reliance on his fastball, Melvin said. Since coming back to the A’s following a brief minor league stint, Pagan has lowered his ERA to 2.86.
On Saturday, Pagan pitched a scoreless eighth inning in a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians.
“It really has gotten to be a deeper bullpen with the emergence of Pagan,” Melvin said. “We can stay away from [right-hander Yusmerio Petit] and rest him a little bit more.”
Melvin said more confidence and a “tougher to identify” breaking ball have been key to Pagan’s advancement. His slider is coming in a bit firmer now — from 84 mph to 85 mph according to Statcast — and it’s generating far more whiffs. In April, opponents swung and missed on the pitch just 11 percent of the time. In May and June, that rate has jumped to almost 50 percent.
Injured starting pitcher Trevor Cahill is expected to pitch in a simulated game in Arizona on Tuesday as he works his way back from a strained right Achilles. If that outing goes well, he could make a rehab start in Triple-A Nashville.