OAKLAND – All went smooth for Sean Doolittle judging from his pitching line Friday night for Single-A Stockton.
He needed just seven pitches to throw a scoreless inning against Rancho Cucamonga in his first official game since May. His left shoulder came out of it feeling good. But the A’s closer said his rhythm was off compared to the crisp form he showed in a simulated game at the Coliseum a few days earlier.
“I was frustrated by that part,” Doolittle said Saturday morning. “I thought I was going to be more in rhythm just because I’ve felt so good doing all my other throwing things. I expect the next time out to be a lot cleaner.”
Doolittle said that second outing would come Sunday for Stockton, though manager Bob Melvin said no decision was made yet on when the lefty will throw next.
Fastball velocity was the dominant topic of discussion during Doolittle’s last rehab stint. His fastball never approached the mid to high-90’s range that he was hitting before he strained his shoulder during offseason workouts. Doolittle wound up returning to the disabled list after just one appearance with the A’s in late May.
His fastball topped out at 90 miles per hour Friday, according to Melvin.
“Obviously we’ll be monitoring the velocity,” Melvin said. “He hit 90. I don’t even know if he hit 90 last time (he was rehabbing). We’ll get the first one out of the way and (he’ll) get a little more comfortable. But he didn’t give up any hits, didn’t walk anybody. He threw the ball over the plate. He felt good, which is most important.”
Doolittle said getting re-adjusted to the gameday routine is an area where he still needs to shake off rust.
“You’ve got to get your body back in the mode of throwing before the game, then sitting around and when the phone rings, being able to flip that switch,” he said. “It didn’t really go as quickly as I wanted it to when it was time to get up and start throwing again. But that’s why we go through the rehab.”
After homering off Dallas Keuchel on Friday night, Danny Valencia draws a start as the designated hitter Saturday over Billy Butler against Astros right-hander Collin McHugh. Valencia was brought in mainly to play against left-handers, but Melvin said the A’s need to give Valencia a longer look.
“We want to find out what we have, and he had a nice night last night,” Melvin said. “He’s got power regardless. If you watch him take batting practice, he’s got significant power. He hit some balls yesterday in the upper deck in left field that we don’t see that often. We wanna see what we have out of him, string some at-bats together whether it’s lefties or righties. He certainly made a good impression.”