OAKLAND – Sean Doolittle cleared another hurdle in his comeback by facing hitters in a simulated game Tuesday, and he might begin a minor league rehab assignment by the weekend.
The A’s closer, sidelined for all but one game this season with a strained left shoulder, got rave reviews from both the hitters he faced and manager Bob Melvin after a 27-pitch session at the Coliseum.
“He didn’t look like a guy just coming off an injury,” said Mark Canha, who joined Josh Phegley in hitting against the lefty. “He had good ride to his fastball. All his offspeed was solid.”
Doolittle contrasted Tuesday’s session to the first time he faced hitters back in May when he made his first comeback attempt from his shoulder problems. He wound up appearing in just one game before returning to the disabled list. Doolittle said his shoulder feels much stronger now and that his stuff is much crisper.
“It definitely seemed to be more deceptive, and I was able to miss more barrels,” Doolittle said. “Phegley and Canha squared a few balls up the last time I threw live BP to them. This time there were a lot more fly balls and swings and misses. That’s some good feedback right there for sure.”
Though nothing is definitive, Doolittle said he could begin a rehab assignment this weekend if his shoulder feels good when he comes back on Wednesday. Both he and Melvin have said it’s important for him to make it back to a major league mound this season so he feels good about where he stands going into the offseason.
“I thought he threw the ball considerably better than what I saw in his last simulated game, and the feedback from hitters was the same,” Melvin said. “So we’re excited about where he’s at right now.”
Melvin praised the work of long reliever Felix Doubront on Monday night, but said Jesse Chavez would make his next start and that Doubront would remain in the bullpen.
Jesse Hahn still feels some stiffness in his forearm during strengthening exercises, and Melvin said the right-hander won’t start throwing until that goes away.
“We’re in no rush with him,” Melvin said.
Fellow starter A.J. Griffin, whose comeback from Tommy John surgery was interrupted by shoulder soreness, is feeling better. But there’s still no timetable for him to start throwing.