OAKLAND — The A’s placed Sonny Gray on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right forearm Sunday morning, though it remains unknown how much time he might miss.
Manager Bob Melvin said Gray will first be examined by team doctors, and it stands to reason the right-hander might also undergo an MRI at some point after he left Saturday’s start following the fifth inning with discomfort in the forearm.
Gray wasn’t available for comment before Sunday’s game against the Cubs, but he said Saturday that this was the first time he’s ever had a forearm issue, and that it wasn’t bothering him before Saturday’s game.
This transaction makes it a staggering 25 times that the A’s have used the disabled list this season, which ties the Oakland record from 2008. Eleven different pitchers have started games for the A’s, and they’ve placed eight different starters on the DL since spring training.
Asked about the difficulties for him and pitching coach Curt Young to keep a rotation intact in such a season, Melvin tried to look at the bright side, saying it opens up opportunities for others coming up from the farm system.
But he added: “It seems some years are more difficult than others. I don’t know that I’ve ever been through a year like this. It’s just unfortunate. It’s not like these guys aren’t taken very good care of. We watch them and monitor them closely, whether starters or the bullpen guys. It’s just one of those years that guys end up getting hurt. Unfortunately that’s the case.”
The A’s called up 35-year-old right-hander Chris Smith from Triple-A Nashville to fill Gray’s roster spot. This is Smith’s first return to the majors since 2010. He’s made a total of 50 relief appearances for Boston and Milwaukee between 2008 and 2010, and he’s 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA in 22 starts for Nashville this season.
Zach Neal, who’s recently been pitching effectively in long relief for Oakland, will get a start Tuesday against Baltimore as the A’s simply are trying to identify five healthy starters to carry forward with right now. In the past three days, they’ve placed Gray and Jesse Hahn on the DL and optioned Dillon Overton because of his struggles giving up the long ball.
The A’s have yet to announce starters for Wednesday and Thursday, but certainly two candidates at Triple-A are Jharel Cotton, who is on the 40-man roster, and lefty-hander Ross Detwiler, who is not. Raul Alcantara, who was the A’s top pitching prospect before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2014, has been excellent in three starts since being promoted to Nashville, but he’s scheduled to start Sunday and the A’s may want him to get more experience under his belt at the Triple-A level anyway.
Catcher Josh Phegley was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for Smith. Phegley is already five weeks out from his surgery to remove a cyst from his right knee, and he still hopes to return before the season is over. The problem remains the inflammation in his knee that is making it hard for him to get into a catcher’s stance.
Right-hander Henderson Alvarez played catch for the first time since a second setback from last summer’s shoulder surgery. The A’s remain hopeful that Alvarez might take the mound in a big league game this year, and Melvin hasn’t ruled out the idea that Alvarez could pitch out of the bullpen if he’s not stretched out enough to start.