In the wake of their 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, the A’s were waiting for clarity on the status of left-hander Scott Kazmir, who left after just three innings because of tightness in his left shoulder.
Manager Bob Melvin said Kazmir was getting an MRI after the game and the test would give the A’s a better idea of whether the issue could be serious enough to land him on the disabled list.
Kazmir hadn’t allowed a hit through three innings and retired the side in order in the third but left the mound in noticeable discomfort. Melvin said he wasn’t aware of the shoulder bothering Kazmir before Wednesday, and that he didn’t think the discomfort cropped up as the result of one specific pitch.
“I think it just started bothering him as the game went along,” Melvin said. “You could tell he was a little uncomfortable after the last pitch when he was coming off the mound. His body language wasn’t great, so we didn’t want to push him.”
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Since returning to the majors in 2013, Kazmir made his only trip to the DL in April 2013 because of a strained ribcage muscle with Cleveland. The A’s, though, have already used the DL for several starters this season; Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin started the season on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Drew Pomeranz is currently sidelined with a sprained AC joint.
Kazmir had a strong April, going 2-0 with an 0.99 ERA in four starts, but has struggled in May. Entering Wednesday’s game, he was winless in five starts this month with a 5.14 ERA.
Kazmir was replaced in the fourth by Dan Otero, who surrendered the game-deciding home run in the fifth to former teammate Yoenis Cespedes. It capped Cespedes’ first series back at O.co Coliseum since the A’s traded him last July, and his reaction can be found here.
Otero, meanwhile, saw his ERA rise to 4.88 after allowing his third home run of the season in 24 innings. Last year, Otero gave up just four homers in 862/3 innings. It’s rare to see a sinkerballer like Otero giving up home runs, but according to the analytics site FanGraphs.com, Otero has not been nearly as effective getting ground balls this year as he was in 2014.
Otero’s ground-ball rate has dipped to 45.2 percent from 56.4 percent last year, while his fly-ball rate has jumped from 19.9 percent to 34.2 percent.
“I’ve never really been a big home run guy,” he said after Wednesday’s loss. “Usually, it has been always like two, three hits that beat me. I did that today, too, and still couldn’t get out of it. I don’t know, just, hitters are good, and when you make a bad pitch, they’re going to capitalize. Right now, I’m just not making enough quality pitches.”
After walking Miguel Cabrera intentionally with a runner on second and two outs, Otero got ahead of Cespedes 0-2 before Cespedes worked the count to 2-2. Otero tried to throw a low changeup that stayed up enough for Cespedes to hit a topspin line drive over the left-field wall.
“Obviously, it wasn’t in a perfect spot, but it wasn’t a terrible pitch,” Otero said. “I tried to bounce it, and that’s what it comes down to – I didn’t bounce it. It was up enough, and he was able to put a good piece of the barrel on it.”
▪ Sean Doolittle made his season debut in the sixth with the A’s trailing 3-0 – not exactly how the A’s envisioned using him this season. But his outing – a scoreless inning with two strikeouts – was encouraging after he missed the first 48 games recovering from a shoulder injury.
Perhaps most striking, though, was how Doolittle recorded those outs. This was not – not yet, anyway – the pitcher who last season regularly came into games throwing a fastball in the mid-90s and relying almost exclusively on that pitch to retire hitters. According to the stadium radar gun, Doolittle topped out at 90 mph and hit that mark only once.
Otherwise, his fastball ranged from 87 to 89 mph. He still threw it 10 of 14 pitches, but mixed in sliders and changeups – pitches he has said he spent part of his recovery trying to improve to become a more “complete pitcher.”
“It was a little different than what we’ve seen,” Melvin said, “but he used his changeup, used his breaking ball, ended up getting out of the inning, and that’s a good start for him. We’ll see how the velocity does in the coming games, but we knew that it probably wasn’t going to be what we’ve seen before out of him.”
Doolittle said earlier this week he feels as if he’s still building up to peak arm speed, since he missed all of spring training and made just five rehabilitation appearances before the A’s took him off the DL. He said he feels confident he can still get hitters out with the deception and location of his fastball despite the dip in velocity.
▪ The A’s went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position in their 1-0 loss to the Tigers on Tuesday night. They were 0 for 10 in those situations Wednesday. The two runs came on a Mark Canha sacrifice fly in the seventh and Eric Sogard’s groundout in the eighth, both after leadoff triples.
“It probably gets to a point where you’re pressing a little bit,” Melvin said. “Recently, we have had some games where this happened, left a lot of guys on base and struggled.”
The A’s are tied with Milwaukee for the most losses (32) and are 6-16 at home, their worst home record after 22 games in Oakland history. They still haven’t won a series at home this season, and they’re 2-15 in one-run games.
▪ Next is a four-game series against the New York Yankees in Oakland. The pitching probables:
Thursday: RHP Kendall Graveman (2-2, 6.04) vs. LHP CC Sabathia (2-6, 5.47)
Friday: RHP Sonny Gray (5-2, 1.77) vs. LHP Chris Capuano (0-2, 7.36)
Saturday: RHP Jesse Hahn (2-4, 3.69) vs. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (4-1, 4.27)
Sunday: RHP Jesse Chavez (1-5, 2.44) vs. RHP Adam Warren (3-3, 3.91)