If there was a silver lining coming out of an A’s loss that looked all too familiar, it was Scott Kazmir’s declaration that he isn’t seriously injured.
The left-hander told reporters in New York that a triceps injury that forced him from Oakland’s 5-4 defeat Wednesday is “minor,” and that he could have made his next start in five days if need be.
Fortunately for Kazmir and the A’s, Wednesday’s abbreviated three-inning outing was his final start before the All-Star break. That gives him plenty of time to recover for the beginning of the second half.
Kazmir said he could have stayed in Wednesday’s game, but manager Bob Melvin and the training staff played it safe. If indeed Kazmir is OK physically, it sets up an intriguing three weeks leading up the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Kazmir, as we know, is one of the most attractive potential trade targets for contending teams searching for starting pitching. A’s general manager Billy Beane said last week he’s still in evaluation mode, using the time leading up to the deadline to determine whether this team has the stuff to make a second-half run.
Wednesday’s loss to the Yankees leaves the A’s (39-48) 10 games back in the American League West, eight back from a Wild Card spot. They showed in 2012 that it’s possible to overcome a double-digit division deficit, but the 2015 squad will need to find a way to clean up its bullpen problems (which surfaced once again Wednesday) if any sort of second-half charge is to materialize.
The 31-year-old Kazmir has enjoyed a terrific season thus far, posting a 2.49 ERA that ranks fifth in the AL. If the A’s do decide to shop him, the question is how much other teams are willing to give up for a player who’s due to hit free agency after this season, and who missed one start earlier this year due to a minor shoulder issue and now has left another game with a triceps issue.
Starting pitching is always a hot commodity around the deadline, and Kazmir would be one of the best on the market. But tied into this is the overall health of the A’s rotation, which has taken some hits recently.
Earlier in the season, the A’s seemed set with a solid five-man rotation plus possible reinforcements coming with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, not to mention some promising minor league arms. But Parker suffered a season-ending setback toward the tail end of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Griffin, who underwent his own elbow reconstruction, has been sidelined recently with biceps tendinitis.
Jesse Hahn, who’s enjoyed a solid first season in Oakland’s rotation, has had his next start pushed back to Saturday due in part to elbow tightness. Sean Nolin is another young starter at Triple-A who would provide depth if Kazmir or another starter is traded, but Nolin is on the DL himself right now with a shoulder injury.
Point is, the A’s won’t be dealing anybody unless they feel good about the health of the reinforcements they have to fill in. That’s something to keep an eye on.
In the meantime, there will be no shortage of rumors to sort through. So enjoy, or fret, or follow it all with objective curiosity. It just wouldn’t be a summer of A’s baseball without the speculation that comes attached with it.