OAKLAND – With Sean Doolittle likely to miss the start of the season with an injured shoulder, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he likes his options to cover for the All-Star closer’s absence.
“There’s a good chance he might miss the early part of the season, but boy, we have some depth down there,” Melvin said Saturday before the A’s FanFest got underway. A large portion of this year’s roster, plus Melvin’s entire coaching staff, was on hand Saturday at Oracle Arena for the annual meet-and-greet with fans. It was the first chance for most of the players to get acquainted with each other after a hectic offseason during which the A’s made nine trades involving a total of 27 players. It was also Doolittle’s first chance to address the media after an MRI taken last month revealed a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. The lefty confirmed that his shoulder began bothering him shortly after he started his offseason throwing with his brother, Ryan, also a pitcher in the A’s organization.
“I can’t get the ball 90 feet in the air, and my brother’s getting pissed at me because he’s having to chase it all around the field,” Doolittle said. “After three or four times of doing that, it’s more than just knocking rust off.”
Doolittle said his shoulder didn’t bother him while pitching in 2014. But he did take anti-inflammatory medication late in the season, and he said he was told that could have masked something going on with his shoulder.
“So it probably happened at some point last year. Not having to throw for three or four months, it just sat there inflamed and (got aggravated) when we started the throwing process again,” Doolittle said. … “You don’t know what (the MRI) is gonna find, but it was a big relief knowing the doctors felt very optimistic and confident about being able to treat it without surgery.”
Doolittle said he’s been doing range-of-motion therapy and strengthening exercises for about three weeks now, and he’s scheduled for a doctor’s check-up next week. But neither he nor Melvin is offering a timetable yet for his return.
That means the A’s will spend spring training figuring out who the temporary closer will be, evaluating a pool of candidates that includes recently acquired Tyler Clippard, Ryan Cook, Eric O’Flaherty, Dan Otero and Fernando Abad.
“When you look at the moves we made, depth has been important for us the last couple of years,” Melvin said. “Now when you have a guy like Sean, who’s gonna miss a little bit of time, to have a Clippard, have an O’Flaherty, have a Cook, you have some guys who have done that before, we’re in a pretty good spot to bring back Sean and not have to rush him.”
Doolittle joked that he won’t be missed that much because of the bullpen depth, but Otero said that’s hardly the case.
“It’s not gonna be easy to replace him no matter what kind of depth you have. We’re just going to have to keep it going, have people step in line and keep it afloat until he comes back. We do have some good arms down there, but you can’t replace an arm like that.”
As for meeting all of his new teammates, Doolittle said this weekend is productive from a get-to-know-you angle.
“There’s a lot of guys we have to learn names and faces for,” the closer said. “It’s great that we have names on the back of the jerseys, but we kinda need names on the front too.”