OAKLAND — Outfielder Matt Joyce was the prototypical Oakland Athletics on-base machine last season, drawing walks in 12 percent of his plate appearances to fuel a healthy .335 on-base percentage. He also hit 25 home runs.
This year, though, Joyce’s numbers diminished even as he continued to earn free passes at a high rate. His on-base percentage was .311 when the A’s placed him on the disabled list earlier this month due to back soreness. On Monday, manager Bob Melvin announced the 33-year-old suffered a setback and will revisit Dr. Robert Watkins in Southern California to address the issue.
Outfielder Nick Martini, who replaced Joyce on the roster, has given Oakland a lift since coming up from Triple-A Nashville. In some respects, Martini is doing the things that made Joyce so valuable in 2017. He has a .419 on-base percentage through 16 games, and with Joyce’s DL stint now likely extended, he’ll continue to get opportunities at the top of the order.
“His timing with Joyce down has been very good,” Melvin said. “Talk about the right guy at the right time, he’s putting together tough at bats and moving himself all the way to the leadoff spot where he’s doing a good job.”
Martini, 28, will hit in that leadoff position Monday against Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada. He’s reached base multiple times in four of his past five starts, often displaying an ability to patiently wait for a pitch to hit.
The A’s noticed that discerning eye when Martini was with the team in spring training, and they have been impressed with the way he’s carried the skill into his first-ever big league season.
“Very advanced approach,” Melvin said. “He’s not afraid to get behind in the count, and he’s not afraid to take a couple of pitches. You like that from a guy who’s leading off. Can get two-strike hits, has a short stroke and uses the whole field.”
With multiple off days coming up, the A’s shortened their rotation to four, sending down starter Frankie Montas and calling up reliever Ryan Dull. Melvin said the move gives his bullpen an extra arm.
“We’ve used the bullpen quite a bit,” Melvin said.
Starter Jharel Cotton was in the clubhouse Monday after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this year. He’s been doing sock throws — one of the early steps toward his eventual recovery.
Andrew Triggs (tricep) started throwing for the first time since going down in May, Melvin said, while Paul Blackburn (elbow) remains shut down.
NOTABLE QUOTE: “I like the roster that we have. If we don’t do anything else, I’m happy with it. If we do, it’ll be a nice surprise.” —Manager Bob Melvin on trade deadline