A’s manager Bob Melvin confirmed this morning that right-hander Chris Bassitt will start Sunday’s series finale against the Seattle Mariners, while Sonny Gray’s return to the rotation is not far behind.
Melvin said Gray is on track to rejoin the rotation on Tuesday in New York. That would make Gray’s final start before the All-Star Break the following Sunday -- making him ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game.
Gray is a near-lock to make the American League roster and had been in the conversation to possibly start the game. Assuming he does pitch on Tuesday and Sunday, Gray would still be able to travel to Cincinnati and take part in the All-Star festivities.
Gray threw his first bullpen session this morning since being hospitalized and missing his last rotation turn with severe gastroenteritis caused by salmonella poisoning. Melvin said he’d gotten a look at Gray’s breakfast plate before the bullpen and that, "He’s not having any issues eating right now."
While the circumstances were frightening, Melvin said it probably wasn’t the worst thing for Gray to miss a start and have longer to rest his arm before his next one.
"I don’t know in the long run, over the course of a long season and as many innings as he has pitched, that it’s not good for his arm," Melvin said. "But once we do get him back, we’d love to have him out there as much as we can."
Bassitt replaced Gray in his last turn and allowed one run in five innings after a difficult travel day from Triple-A Nashville. Although Bassitt said he had almost no feel for his off-speed pitches, he hit 97 miles per hour on the radar gun and avoided the problem that dogged him during his first stint with the A’s this season: He didn’t walk a batter.
"And that’s something we asked him to go down and work on because he has really good stuff," Melvin said. "If he doesn’t put anybody on base via the walk, he’s tough to hit and that’s exactly he did."
Bassitt was pitching on three days’ rest last time, so he’ll also be on a regular schedule for Sunday’s finale, in which he’ll oppose Mariners left-hander Mike Montgomery, who has thrown back-to-back shutouts in his last two starts.
* The A’s lineup for today’s Fourth of July game:
And the Mariners’ lineup against right-hander Kendall Graveman:
* The A’s get to spend their holiday trying to hit longtime nemesis Felix Hernandez. The former Cy Young winner actually hasn’t been as dominant against the A’s this year than in years past: In two starts, the A’s have scored five runs on 13 hits in 12 starts. Still, the A’s have lost both games.
"He’s gotten off the hook somehow," Melvin said. "You would think it’s time for us to get him at some point in time."
Hernandez was 8-1 after May but had a rough month of June, going 2-3 with a 5.51 ERA. It always bears repeating: Lifetime against the A’s, Hernandez is 20-7 with a 2.63 ERA -- and has not lost at the Coliseum since Sept. 19, 2008, a span of 14 starts.
* Melvin was asked this morning about Dan Otero and Ryan Cook, two familiar bullpen faces who are currently at Triple-A Nashville. Cook has given up some runs recently and has a 3.38 ERA in 21 appearances. Otero, meanwhile, has a 1.23 ERA in eight outings -- two earned runs allowed in 14 2/3 innings pitched. Melvin said neither has been forgotten and both remain "very important guys for us."
"They’ve been important to us in the past, and we need to get them right because they’ll give us that much more depth and experience in the bullpen," Melvin said.
Meanwhile, Barry Zito allowed one run in seven innings last night against Colorado Springs. Melvin said his reports are that Zito has "pitched really well" -- but starting pitching has not been an issue for the A’s lately. Their starters have a 2.43 ERA over their last 39 games.
* The A’s have an off-day Monday but will fly to New York immediately after Sunday’s game and spend the off-day there. Typically they use off-days to travel, which cuts down the time players can actually use to rest and adjust to the time change.
"It’s nice to be able to get a full off-day," Melvin said.