OAKLAND –- After pitching to hitters for the second time Monday, closer Sean Doolittle is ready to get in a game.
The A’s are ready to oblige. The only question is when and where that will happen. Doolittle and manager Bob Melvin both said the lefty’s next outing will be in a game situation, but an exact plan has yet to be mapped out.
Single-A Stockton is on a homestand through next Monday, so that’s a convenient possibility. But Doolittle said an extended spring training game in Arizona is a possibility too.
“It’s time to crank it up a notch and see where we’re at,” Doolittle said before Monday’s series opener against Boston.
He threw 23 pitches to hitters on the Coliseum mound Monday afternoon, mixing in sliders and changeups and throwing at the same intensity that he said he would use in a game. Josh Phegley connected for a homer off him – just as he did in Seattle on Friday – but Doolittle was quick to add that he also struck Phegley out on a changeup Monday.
Doolittle has relied heavily on his mid to high 90’s fastball since making the transition from first base to pitching in 2011. But he wants to come back with better off-speed stuff when he’s activated from the disabled list.
“The slider felt good,” Doolittle said. “Some of the guys said it looked like it was coming out of the same slot (as the fastball). I’m still tinkering with stuff, especially on the slider. But I feel like it’s a definite improvement, and I have a lot of confidence even throwing it to righties.”
As for how many rehab outings Doolittle will require, Melvin said there will be hurdles for the lefty to clear.
“It’s going to be more how he feels after each and every game,” Melvin said. “… We’re gonna have to be comfortable with him. He’s gonna have to go back-to-back (days). The good news is the next one will be in a game situation, and that’s sort of the start of the last step.”
In other injury news, starter A.J. Griffin and reliever Eric O’Flaherty – both dealing with sore shoulders – were scheduled to see a doctor Monday. Melvin said if those appointments go well, both could try playing catch in a day or two.