SEATTLE – A byproduct of the A’s mix-and-match roster is that designated hitter Billy Butler will find himself on the bench plenty against right-handed starters.
Butler was out of the lineup for the third consecutive day Saturday against the Mariners, as Oakland faced a righty for the third straight day after opening the season facing three lefties in a row. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’s talked the situation over with the right-handed hitting Butler. The veteran will be the DH against lefties and will have to stay ready for pinch-hitting duties when he’s not in the lineup.
“It’s not a strict platoon, but he’ll always be in there against lefties and maybe some select righties,” Melvin said. “The lefties have been sitting for a while, so we want to get them some regular at-bats.”
The above quote definitely was in reference to Chris Coghlan, who didn’t start any of the first three games but is in the lineup for the third consecutive game Saturday. Coghlan is playing left, with Khris Davis handling DH duties. It’s tough to not write Coghlan into the lineup right now after he delivered the game-winning homer Friday to go with an RBI single in that game.
Keeping Davis, who like Butler hits right-handed, in the lineup might simply be an effort to get Davis going after a rash of strikeouts in his first few games. Davis also gives the A’s more speed on the basepaths.
For his part, Butler has looked decent at the plate so far in the regular season. He’s 3-for-10 with two doubles, but has lined into some hard outs too. He’s also saying the right things about his reduced playing time.
“BoMel’s talked to me, he just told me to be ready,” Butler said. “ It’s one of those things where we’ve got a lot of talented guys on this team that have to play as well. It’s just basically waiting for my number to be called, and when I get in there, maximize it.
“You wanna play every day. But more often than not you have to put that in check. Trust me, not being in there is definitely painful. But it’s also painful in itself when I’m not in there and we lose. If we win the game, it cures all.”
Melvin said there’s no timetable to make a decision on a permanent fifth starter. Despite Eric Surkamp being lifted in the fifth Friday night, the lefty performed reasonably well in his first Major League start since 2013. He gave up his only two runs in the fifth, and he could have completed that inning had second baseman Jed Lowrie not booted a potential double-play grounder.
Worth keeping an eye on, however, is the performance of Jesse Hahn at Triple-A Nashville. Hahn threw six shutout innings Friday against Oklahoma City and gave up just two hits. Melvin got a great report on him from Nashville manager Steve Scarsone, so if Hahn continues to pitch well, he’ll become an option for the A’s. Perhaps in Surkamp’s spot, perhaps in someone else’s.
“I think that’s something where we just go start to start,” Melvin said of the fifth spot specifically. “It’s going to be all about performance. If (Hahn) continues to perform, he’ll get the opportunity. And if Surkamp continues to perform, he’ll get some starts. There’s no timetable on any of that.”