MILWAUKEE — Just when it seems the A’s are getting healthier, they take another step backward with one of their key players.
On Wednesday, left-hander Rich Hill suffered a setback with his groin injury toward the very end of his bullpen session. He was on pitch 33 of a scheduled 35-pitch workout when he felt a “pull.” Hill is flying back to the Bay Area on Thursday to get an MRI, and manager Bob Melvin said he won’t pitch this weekend.
There’s been no decision yet on whether Hill will join the 15-day disabled list, but it sure seems like a strong possibility.
“We were supposed to throw 35 pitches,” Hill said Wednesday. “On pitch 33, pitch 34, I could really feel it pull and grab, and if that’s happening during a bullpen session, with the intensity we were throwing it at, when you factor in the competition and adrenaline (of a game) …. We’ll see what the MRI says.”
Add this to the list of impactful injuries that have helped send the A’s season sideways. Just Sunday, the A’s got Sonny Gray back from the disabled list, and his encouraging outing against the Astros had Melvin talking about a revitalized rotation with Gray and Hill at the top of it.
Hill was scratched from his start last weekend, and had been tentatively penciled in to return to the mound Saturday at Cincinnati. Instead, the A’s will move up their other four starters one day, an option they have because they are off Thursday. Gray will pitch Friday as planned, but Kendall Graveman will pitch Saturday and Sean Manaea on Sunday. Jesse Hahn, who pitches tonight, will start the homestand opener Monday against Texas, and the A’s have to decide what to do for Tuesday’s start.
“You just have to deal with it,” Melvin said. “You go through injuries over the course of the season, that’s gonna happen. The fact that we’ve had quite a few, there’s not much you can do about it. It’s an opportunity for someone else.”
But there’s no downplaying what it would mean to lose Hill for an extended period. He has by far been the A’s best starter, not to mention their top All-Star candidate. Hill is 8-3 with a 2.25 ERA that ranks second in the American League.
He said he would wait for MRI results before trying to estimate a timetable for his return. He last pitched May 29, and the most that a team can backdate a DL stint is 10 days.
If Hill hits the DL, a healthy return from starter Henderson Alvarez would be even more crucial. Alvarez, working back from shoulder surgery, will throw 2-3 innings Monday for Single-A Stockton, his first official game since aggravating his shoulder in mid-May.
Reliever R.J. Alvarez (elbow surgery) will make another rehab appearance for Triple-A Nashville on Thursday, with fellow reliever Liam Hendriks (triceps strain) doing the same Friday.