OAKLAND — The shifts in fortune have been frequent and drastic for the A’s, who were swept by the Yankees over the weekend while simultaneously coping with injuries to two of their most indispensable players.
Just four days ago, the A’s were coming off a sweep of the Texas Rangers and exhibiting the swagger of a team ready to make a push in the American League West. Now they’re saddled with a four-game losing streak after Sunday’s 5-4 loss, and coming to grips with right fielder Josh Reddick and No. 1 starter Sonny Gray being the latest to join the disabled list.
Thirteen players total occupy spots on the DL, most in the majors and the most for an A’s team since at least 1979. Depth and flexibility were viewed as this team’s biggest strength entering spring training, particularly with their starting pitching. But as the A’s prepare for a three-game series at Seattle, only two of the five pitchers in their season-opening rotation are healthy, Rich Hill and Kendall Graveman.
Two other starters, Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront, were lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery. Gray’s return date from a strained trapezius is unknown after he joined the 15-day DL on Sunday for the first time in his career.
The A’s miss second baseman Jed Lowrie, the team’s RBI leader in April who is nearing a return from a shin injury. The addition of right-hander Henderson Alvarez was looked upon as a significant boost for the rotation — until Alvarez suffered a setback last week with his surgically repaired throwing shoulder.
Then Reddick was lost to a fractured thumb Thursday against the Yankees. He’s expected to miss a month at least.
“The disappointing thing is a lot of those are long-term injuries,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said after the game. “Obviously the (two) guys with Tommy John, they’re out. And Josh, I think that one psychologically really hurt a lot. The team looked like it had fought its way back in the Texas series and was playing really well. That one seemed to hurt, especially a player like that after all the other ones.”
Expanding on the team’s rash of injuries, Beane added: “That would impact any team in baseball, and it’s certainly going to have a greater impact on us, given we’re not going to have the depth or the resources” to compensate for the injuries.
Translation: Don’t expect any significant trades or additions aimed at upgrading the current roster in response to the injuries. That may not please a large portion of the fan base that views the A’s ownership group as having plenty of financial clout but being unwilling to invest enough of it in the team.
But keep this in mind on that topic: The A’s have made great efforts over the past year or so to acquire prospects and upgrade their farm system. Any additions made to bolster this year’s team would probably require they part with some of those prospects, and that would run counter to the plan they’ve already set in motion.
Gray’s trapezius strain seems to at least partly explain his struggles over the past month. Beane was asked if it was beneficial to at least get some clarity on Gray’s physical condition and have a plan in place to help him recover.
“Really, there’s no clarity until he’s back out there throwing like he’s capable,” Beane said. “But it gives him a little bit of a breather. Hopefully it gives him a chance to not have it in the back of his mind, which it sounds like it was.
“First when we heard about it, it wasn’t clear to us it was gonna be a DL (situation). But in conversation yesterday, it seemed like it was the best thing. Right now he’s fighting himself a little bit. This can clear his mind a little bit.”
The task for the A’s (19-26), who are eight games back of first-place Seattle, is to continue pushing forward and not allow the wheels to come off in response to their injuries.
“You’re frustrated for the team, frustrated for the individuals who are on the DL,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “It’s unbelievable how many guys we have on the DL We’re about to get two big pieces back in (Josh) Phegley and Jed.
“You don’t want to point to it and say ‘This is why’. You can’t do that because we still have guys here that can get the job done. But to say we’re not missing any of those guys would be a false statement.”