OAKLAND — The A’s aren’t sure when Rich Hill will make his next start after a blister on his throwing hand opened up again and forced him from Sunday’s start on his very first batter.
That leaves things in a very murky state as the A’s weigh whether to trade their veteran left-hander, and whether potentially interested teams will still be willing to shell out a strong return package for him.
Hill felt the blister open after a 3-1 fastball to Toronto leadoff man Devon Travis in the top of the first of the A’s eventual 5-3 loss.
“It opened up pretty good. I just felt it on the fastball,” Hill said. “I looked down and there was bleeding. … I didn’t want to put the bullpen in that position to have to cover the entire game.”
Hill said it would likely take three or four days for the blister to start to heal before he can try throwing again. Depending on when he does play catch, and assuming he will require a bullpen session shortly after that, it’s quite possible he’d make just one more start before contending teams had to decide whether to pull the trigger on a trade before the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said he didn’t have a read on when Hill might get back on the mound, nor was Melvin ready to announce a Tuesday starter after Sean Manaea was pressed into emergency duty Sunday. Andrew Triggs relieved Hill but quickly exited the game himself after a comebacker off the bat of Josh Donaldson left him with a left calf contusion. Manaea entered to start the second and gave the A’s five innings of two-run ball over 69 pitches.
Dillon Overton is scheduled to pitch Monday for Triple-A Nashville but could be an option for the A’s on Tuesday against Houston. It seems unlikely that Triggs, usually the long man in Oakland’s bullpen, will be ready to go by Tuesday. The A’s just acquired left-hander Ross Detwiler from Cleveland and are sending him to Nashville. He’d need to be added to the 40-man roster in order to pitch Tuesday.
Hill’s blister on his left middle finger originally surfaced after his final start before the All-Star break. He was slated to pitch Friday but the A’s pushed him back to Sunday. He did throw off the mound Friday and said he was perfectly ready to go following that session. He said he’s dealt with blisters before but never one like this that’s been a recurring issue.
Reliever John Axford, who took the loss Sunday, said he could understand how a blister that forms in the wrong place could hinder Hill.
“I can’t really attest to Rich, but I know he’s got the big curve ball and really has to use his fingers as much as he can to get the spin he does,” Axford said.
One scout who was asked about the situation Sunday said he still expected teams to go after Hill even if he wasn’t ready to pitch by Aug. 1. But the question is whether Hill still commands the same return he would get at full strength, considering he’s probably the top starter available this trade season.