OAKLAND — Sean Doolittle took a strong step forward to returning to the A’s bullpen, throwing 20 pitches to hitters Friday afternoon to test his recovering left shoulder.
If he feels good when he reports to the ballpark Saturday, he’ll either have another session against hitters in the next few days or head out for a minor league rehab assignment before potentially rejoining the A’s.
“We’ve been pretty conservative for obvious reasons,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s a big part of what we do here, and we want to make sure he comes back strong. His arm slot was the same, the ball came out of his hand nicely and he felt good enough to throw all of his pitches.”
Doolittle mixed in his changeup and slider to go with his fastball, and though the A’s didn’t have a radar gun on him, he got good reports back on the life on his fastball from Max Muncy and Tyler Ladendorf, the two teammate who took swings off him.
“It was my heaviest workload by far to this point,” Doolittle said. “I still felt good by the end. I still felt strong by the end of it. It was a really good day, I think."
He added that he doesn’t think he would need another simulated game-type situation before heading out on a rehab assignment.
Doolittle has been sidelined since June 26 with a strain in his left shoulder. That comes on the heels of him missing most of last season with shoulder issues, and though Doolittle said this year’s injury is in a different part of his shoulder, the A’s have proceeded cautiously with him.
Another pitcher on the mend could be returning to the rotation soon. Right-hander Jesse Hahn (strained shoulder) will throw off the mound Saturday, and he said the plan is for him to make a minor league rehab start after that, probably on Tuesday. It’s not clear which affiliate he would pitch with. Being that Hahn hasn’t been out long, he would likely be ready to return following one rehab start if he feels good physically.
But with his status, and that of fellow right-hander Sonny Gray (forearm strain) still up in the air, Melvin said the A’s rotation would remain the same for the next cycle through. That means Zach Neal, Ross Detwiler and Andrew Triggs will all make another start.