BALTIMORE – If Sonny Gray comes out of Saturday’s bullpen session feeling good, the A’s ace will return to the rotation Monday against the Orioles, manager Bob Melvin said.
Scratched from his last start because of back spasms, Gray threw 25 pitches off the mound Saturday and said all felt fine physically. Melvin said trainers want to see how Gray feels when he comes in Sunday.
“After you throw that significantly, if he’s gonna have any issues or stiffness, it’ll be tomorrow,” Melvin said before Saturday’s game. “But if all goes well, we’ll pitch him Monday, Tuesday at the latest.”
That leaves the A’s upcoming rotation still a question mark, but judging from Melvin’s comments, it appears Triple-A Nashville starter Barry Zito – the obvious sentimental choice for many fans – isn’t being considered at this time. For a while, Zito was listed to start Saturday for Nashville but by Saturday morning was scratched according to the Sounds’ team web site. He is still listed on the minor league DL due to a shoulder injury, so his physical state could factor into the decision not to promote him, or it could be that A’s officials simply don’t feel he’s ready to get outs at the major league level.
With Brad Mills being designated for assignment Saturday, the A’s have an open spot on the 40-man roster if they wanted to add Zito. But for now, Melvin said lefty long reliever Felix Doubront is the man being targeted for the fifth starter spot (Aaron Brooks was sent down Saturday as the A’s promoted relievers Dan Otero and Pat Venditte).
“In a perfect world, if Sonny pitches on Monday, we’ll probably have Doubront pitch on Tuesday and try to give Jesse (Chavez) that extra day that he missed (and start him Wednesday). But it’s a fluid situation. We’ll see how it goes.”
Venditte and Otero both have pitched well lately for Nashville, and the A’s bullpen needs reinforcements right now. Drew Pomeranz is dealing with forearm soreness that could sideline him a couple days. Doubront won’t be used if the A’s are targeting him for a potential start, and Fernando Rodriguez threw two innings last night.
Over his last 17 innings with Nashville, Otero has not allowed an earned run, struck out 17 and walked two. Venditte, the ambidextrous pitcher who provides such a unique matchup advantage for the A’s, has held right-handers to a .220 average at Triple-A; lefties to .130.
“It’s a nice little toy to have in your chest, and no one else has one,” Melvin said of Venditte.
Third baseman Danny Valencia is dealing with back and hamstring soreness and is out of Saturday’s lineup. Melvin is hoping Valencia can return Sunday against Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen.
Closer Sean Doolittle hit 93 on the radar gun in Friday’s rehab appearance with Nashville. Melvin said the lefty will make at least one more appearance in the minors before returning.