OAKLAND — Henderson Alvarez is holding out hope that his A’s debut doesn’t wait until 2017.
The right-hander threw 30 pitches off the mound Tuesday and came away encouraged after mixing in his fastball, slider and changeup. The next step would have Alvarez throwing two separate 20-pitch sessions, perhaps Saturday in Arizona, manager Bob Melvin said. The A’s begin their next road trip Friday.
By now, both Alvarez and the team had hoped he’d be entrenched in Oakland’s rotation. The thought entering spring training was that he might return by May from shoulder surgery that took place last July while he was still with the Miami Marlins, who declined to offer him arbitration in the offseason, making him a free agent.
The A’s viewed the 2014 All-Star as a potential top-of-the-rotation addition. But the 26-year-old Alvarez has been delayed by two separate setbacks with his shoulder while he was at the tail end of minor league rehab assignments. The last happened in mid-June, and Alvarez said the six-week rest that followed, during which he didn’t throw a baseball, helped him greatly. But his goal now is to pitch in a regular season game with the A’s before the season wraps.
“To pitch in a game is most important, whether it’s in the bullpen, relief, or as a starter,” Alvarez said through team interpreter Alex Arpiza. “It’d be a way to get off the DL and close out the season right.”
Melvin has offered up the idea that Alvarez could perhaps pitch out of the bullpen this season if there isn’t enough time to get him stretched out to start. The fact that the A’s minor league affiliates end their seasons in early September makes a standard rehab assignment tougher as well.
Regardless, Alvarez wants to get some innings in winter ball in his native Venezuela, “that way by next season I can come in with that rhythm already.”
Billy Butler joined his teammates for the A’s annual team photo Tuesday afternoon, then played catch before batting practice and then headed back to the clubhouse. Butler still hasn’t addressed the media since being punched in a clubhouse fight with teammate Danny Valencia on Friday in Chicago. That incident landed Butler on the seven-day concussion DL beginning Monday. It’s unknown how long he will be sidelined, but general manager David Forst said Monday the A’s would proceed with caution with Butler.
Sean Doolittle threw an inning for Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday afternoon and will make another rehab appearance with the Sounds on Thursday, as the reliever’s rehab assignment has been extended because he wants to get his stuff sharper.
Melvin said catcher Josh Phegley, recovering from knee surgery, could begin a rehab assignment very soon. He was slowed recently by a bout with strep throat.