Another reminder was served Saturday of just how unstable the A’s starting rotation is right now.
Ross Detwiler struggled through four innings in a 6-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Detwiler is just one of several temporary fixes the A’s have turned to because of the injuries and inconsistency among their starters.
They’ll rely on another one of those fill-in options Sunday when Zach Neal takes the hill in place of Jesse Hahn, who will remain on the 15-day disabled list because of continued shoulder discomfort.
The A’s hope Hahn can regain his health and be a big piece of the puzzle for 2017. But looking ahead to next season, the A’s will arrive at spring training with lots of contenders, but few sure-fire guarantees, to fill their starting staff.
No fewer than nine or 10 pitchers figure to be in the picture fighting for starting roles next season, though a couple pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery — Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront — likely will be delayed as they each continue their recovery from that procedure.
It will be similar to how the A’s entered this spring, when they had so many names in the hat but little clarity as to who their five starters would be breaking camp.
It figures that three starters will be penciled in for next season — Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea. Gray’s name will inevitably surface in trade rumors this offseason. Expect that the A’s will take a similar stance as they’ve always taken on the topic: They might listen on Gray, but they’d probably have to be blown away by an offer to deal the right-hander.
And considering Gray has struggled to a 5-11 record and 5.74 ERA in 2016, it’s tough to picture a team presenting just such an offer. The feeling here is Gray will return and he and the A’s will roll up their sleeves to remedy what went haywire this season (and there’s the not-so-minor issue of Gray making a full recovery from his forearm issues).
Graveman has been one of the brightest stories of the A’s season in his second full year as a major league starter, and Manaea has done enough to suggest he should take a step forward next year in what will be his second season.
Beyond that? It’s anyone’s guess.
Daniel Mengden and Dillon Overton will be challenging for a spot, and they might even get more opportunities before this season finishes. Jharel Cotton, who has stood out at Triple-A Nashville since coming over from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade, will surely be in the mix. Certainly Hahn factors in if he can overcome his injury woes.
Bassitt and Doubront, as mentioned above, probably can’t be counted on right out of the starting gate because of the lengthy rehabs associated with their reconstructive elbow surgeries.
The wild card — just as he was all of this season — will be Henderson Alvarez. The right-hander has yet to pitch for the A’s due to complications from last year’s shoulder surgery, but he’s set to begin throwing off a mound again after two setbacks as he was nearing the end of two different minor league rehab assignments.
If healthy, and granted it’s a big “if”, Alvarez will fit somewhere in this rotation as an instrumental piece.
The point being in all of this is that this year’s uncertainty with the starting rotation lays the groundwork for next year’s uncertainty. The good news for the A’s is they have lots of options to choose from. It’s just a matter of who steps forward to grasp the opportunity.