OAKLAND — The A’s mounting list of injuries grew by one significant addition Sunday morning when Sonny Gray was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained trapezius.
The A’s No. 1 starter received a cortisone shot Friday night after he left his most recent start against the New York Yankees.
“I came out in the fourth and I went straight up here to see the doctor,” Gray said. “They did some tests, and that was the route we decided to go. I think we knew at that point, I’m gonna miss a couple starts, (so) let’s try to get this thing right. That’s kind of when we made the decision there.”
The development would seem to at least partly explain some of the struggles for the A’s ace, who has posted a 10.38 ERA over his past five starts while fighting through the toughest stretch of his big league career. Gray and manager Bob Melvin had been maintaining the right-hander was full strength physically. After Friday’s game, Melvin pointed out Gray hit the mid-90’s with his fastball against the Yankees, some of the best velocity he’s shown.
But Melvin said Sunday morning that he thinks Gray’s problem with the trapezius, the muscle located behind the neck and near the shoulder blade, has affected Gray’s command.
“I think it has affected him, at least the last couple of times out,” Melvin said. “I don’t think it’s really affected his velocity, but it’s affecting the command. It’s like pitching with a rock in the bottom of your neck, upper part of your shoulder. I think it was affecting his (arm) extension some. After going through this for a couple (starts), it’s something we need to get out of there, and iron it out so he can throw the baseball where he wants to. At this point, it hasn’t gotten any better.”
[RELATED: Sonny Gray placed on 15-day DL by A's]
Gray becomes the 13th player the A’s have on the D.L., the most in the majors and the most at one time for any Oakland team dating back to at least 1979. Gray’s departure to the injury list comes just three days after right fielder Josh Reddick — probably the A’s best all-around player — was lost for at least a month to a fractured thumb.
Gray said his trapezius began bothering him during his bullpen session leading into his May 15 start at Tampa Bay. If indeed he wasn’t bothered by a physical issue before then, the injury would help explain the right-hander’s struggles in his last two starts, but not the previous three before that. His first truly rough start came in an April 27 outing at Detroit, and he’s had a tough time righting the ship since then.
Gray’s D.L. stint is retroactive to Saturday. That makes him eligible to return June 4, but Melvin added that Gray would likely need a minor league rehab start before returning. It’s worth considering whether the time on the injury list will also give Gray time to clear his mind and perhaps come back refreshed mentally after his tough stretch.
As for who will take Gray’s next start Wednesday at Seattle, the options include right-hander Daniel Mengden, who has impressed as much as any pitcher in the A’s farm system this season. The right-hander has posted a 0.67 ERA over his first four Triple-A starts after being promoted from Double-A. Mengden would be perfectly on turn to start Wednesday based on his current throwing schedule. But the 23-year-old Mengden is still quite green, having made just a total of eight starts higher than the Single-A level.
Lefty Eric Surkamp, who has made five starts for the A’s this season, was optioned to Triple-A on May 17, meaning he couldn’t come back up until Friday unless he replaces someone going on the disabled list.
Left fielder Khris Davis was out of Sunday's lineup after feeling tightness in his forearm Saturday. Melvin said he was optimistic Davis might be able to DH on Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Seattle.