OAKLAND — Bob Melvin inadvertently broke a little news on Tuesday, before the Oakland Athletics hosted the Toronto Blue Jays.
Asked about other possibilities of adding to the rotation after the non-waiver trading deadline passed, Melvin said, “You mean Luzardo?”
The A’s No. 2 prospect, left-hander Jesus Luzardo, would make his next start at Triple-A Nashville. Luzardo, 20, hadn’t even been told of his impending promotion. Still, despite his rapid advancement through Oakland’s farm system, it’s almost certain he won’t make his big league debut this season. Almost.
“It’s not something we’ve discussed,” said general manager David Forst. “I don’t rule anything out, but I don’t expect him to be up here … I’m not going to get into our thinking. I don’t think it’s the best thing for him or for the team, but that could change on Sept. 1.”
Still, Forst cautioned, Luzardo’s promotion to the big leagues — he started the year at Single-A Stockton — is “unlikely.” He has an innings cap of 120 to 125 innings, which he’s on pace to reach by the end of August. What’s not unlikely is the A’s finding more pitching help, post-deadline.
“It has to be the right fit,” Forst said. “It didn’t come together today. We’ve seen in recent years a lot of important deals get done in August, so we’re still optimistic.”
Headed into Tuesday, A’s starters had thrown 584 2/3 innings out of the 977 innings pitched by the Oakland staff this season — about 59.8 percent. That averages out to about 5 1/3 inning per start, which is somewhat sub-optimal. The A’s, however, have found a way to make it work. That’s what happens when you can shorten a game with two mid-to-high-90s guys in Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino, and newly-acquired reliever Jeurys Familia.
“The good thing we have is we have a closer that isn’t afraid to throw two innings,” Melvin said of Treinen. “He’s been a starter before, we’ve used him one-plus. He’s our most rested guy at this point, so you always take a look at that. We have some off days coming up, so if we’re in some close games, we could potentially use him for more than one, but we have to make sure these guys are healthy.”
The Familia deal — which the A’s made two weeks in advance of the deadline — has already paid dividends. He’s subbed for a worn out Treinen at times, and has thrown six innings in four games, allowing just three hits and going 2-0.
“We got Familia, and that’s a big one for us,” Melvin said. “He’s already been instrumental in quite a few wins, so we feel good about that, and if nothing happened today, I feel good about the roster, I said yesterday, and that has not changed.”
Not making the wrong move at the deadline was arguably just as important as making the right one to get Familia before it.
“You have a tight group on top of that,” Melvin said. “When you make these deals, you also think about who you have to subtract. We feel like we have a good group here and don’t want to take anybody from this 25-man group at this time. That could play into it as well.”
Instead of getting a starter to take the pressure off the current group — Frankie Montas was sent down to get work at Nashville with a series of four off days in the next three weeks coming up, and Daniel Mengden is on his way back — the A’s can work to shorten games from the back end. That strategy helps preserve the likes of Sean Manaea, who’s on pace to far surpass his career-high innings total of 158 2/3 (he’s currently at 135 1/3).
Familia gives the A’s something akin to the 2016 Kansas City Royals, or, if you look right across the way, the Golden State Warriors, with their vaunted Death Lineup. Instead of the Hamptons Five, think of Familia, Trivino and Treinen as the Hegenberger Three.
“You saw the difference between us and Colorado,” Melvin said. “They had guys that were out there for seven-plus. We just do it a little bit differently. We probably have a little more depth in our bullpen. Just different ways to do it.”
Don’t forget the fact that the A’s lead the majors in runs (83), home runs (24) and batting average (.293) in the eighth inning, and they lead the majors in runs scored in the ninth (53) and the seventh inning or later (210). If their relievers can keep the game in-hand, Oakland can most certainly win after an opposing starter leaves.
So, with all that, the A’s stood pat at the deadline. They still have some relievers on their radar for potential waiver trades. They’re just five games back of the Houston Astros and two back of Seattle entering play on Tuesday.
“We don’t have the ability to match those teams move for move,” Forst said. “Hopefully, those teams making moves is a compliment to the way we’ve played. We know who we have to try and keep pace with.”
The A’s announced that pitcher Daniel Gossett would undergo Tommy John surgery. After consultation with Dr. Keith Meister in Arlington, Texas today, he’ll go under the knife to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm on Aug. 1. He’s the third A’s pitcher to undergo the procedure this year, following top prospect A.J. Puk and Jharrel Cotton, who has started doing dry throws on his road to recovery. Opening Day starter Kendall Graveman had the surgery on Monday.
Gossett was 4-0 with a 1.63 ERA in seven games (five starts) for the Sounds, and most recently pitched for the A’s on June 3. Two days later, he headed to the DL with an elbow flexor strain. In five starts with the big club this year, he was 0-3 with a 5.18 ERA.
“We’ve been hit hard with that this year,” Melvin said. “Obviously, it’s unfortunate, and these are injuries that keep you out for a while. You always talk about depth in the rotation, trying to create as much depth as you can, and to have this many guys go down and be out as long as they are certainly hurts us.
“It gives somebody else an opportunity, but unfortunately, I know he’s a hard-working kid and he’s come a long way. We saw some really good games from him this year, and I believe he’ll rehab this thing and be back, strong as ever, but unfortunately, it’s going to take a while.”
One of those opportunities went to Edwin Jackson, who recalled his first career win — a six-inning start against Randy Johnson while with the Los Angeles Dodgers — in the clubhouse before the game. It was 15 years ago, but it still felt like yesterday to Jackson.
He won his 100th game on Monday, and remembered that during his first season with Los Angeles, he was teammates with Ricky Henderson, who has a locker at the Coliseum and was in the A’s clubhouse before the game.
Injured right-hander Daniel Mengden (right foot) threw seven innings on July 25 in a rehab start for Nashville, but couldn’t get out of the first on Monday, throwing 41 pitches.
“We don’t want guys throwing too many pitches early,” Melvin said. “I know he was upwards, close to 40 pitches in the first inning, or 30-some. I think it’s more about just making sure we keep him healthy, and with what’s been going on with our rotation, we want to make sure we do.”
Paul Blackburn (right elbow) is still sore after going on the disabled list on July 8.
“He still has some soreness in there. It hasn’t gotten to the point where he can throw yet,” Melvin said. “Unfortunately, we’re still in the same position with him right now. [Andrew] Triggs threw yesterday for the first time. I think he throws again tomorrow.”