Aside from its implications about how the A’s view the remaining two months of this season, Thursday’s trade of pitcher Scott Kazmir had a more immediate impact as well. Kazmir was supposed to start for the A’s Thursday against Toronto, meaning Drew Pomeranz was pressed into emergency starting duty on two hours’ notice.
The A’s intend to have Pomeranz take Kazmir’s rotation spot. But right now Pomeranz, who has pitched out of the bullpen since June, is not ready to carry a normal starter’s workload. The left-hander was tentatively capped at 45 pitches Thursday, and he expended that before the end of the second inning in the A’s 5-2 loss.
Pomeranz had pitched once since July 11 and hadn’t thrown more than 29 pitches since returning from the disabled list and joining the bullpen in early June. He has started for the A’s before, however, including the first part of this season, and manager Bob Melvin sounded confident that Pomeranz will work back into that role.
Still, Melvin acknowledged, “It’s going to be a progression to get him there.”
Pomeranz said he isn’t sure how long it will take to build his endurance.
“I would assume I’ll be around 60 (pitches) or so the next time – 65 makes sense,” he said. “I’ve been throwing short, one hitter to one batter stuff. I don’t know what the increments are going to be each time out.”
Pomeranz said he found out around 10 a.m. Thursday that he would start the A’s 12:35 p.m. game and wasn’t able to prepare much. He struck out the side in the first inning but allowed a two-run home run to Russell Martin in the second and left the game after facing just eight batters.
Melvin confirmed after the game that the plan is to keep Pomeranz in the rotation. The A’s also have yet to name a starter for Saturday in San Francisco – filling the spot left by Jesse Hahn (forearm strain) – and Melvin said he’ll likely have an announcement about that Friday. Right-hander Chris Bassitt, currently at Triple A, is a likely candidate.
The A’s would need to clear a roster spot for Bassitt, and that could be at the expense of Arnold Leon, who was called up Thursday to replace Kazmir and pitched well in relief. Leon threw 31/3 innings, giving up a run on three hits, but the A’s already had fallen behind while being stymied by Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball.
Pomeranz said returning to the rotation will mean facing hitters who have a “little bit different” approach than when they’re hitting in the later innings.
“Obviously I’ve done it before – I’ve done pretty much every role now,” he said. “Just a few adjustments on my side, the way I go into a game, the preparation I think.”
One difference, of course, being that he’ll actually be able to prepare for the opposing lineup next time he takes the mound.
“I mean, it’s an ambush,” catcher Stephen Vogt said of how Thursday morning played out. “Our whole pitching staff got ambushed today, our whole team got ambushed today. That’s the way it works. But Drew did a great job, considering.”
▪ Vogt said the A’s “kind of knew going into today it was going to be a tough game for us to win.” It wasn’t made any easier by having to face Dickey, who came in with a 3-10 record but held the A’s to a pair of third-inning runs in 81/3 innings.
Dickey retired 10 A’s in a row at one point and 15 of 16, and was bidding for his second complete game of the season until he plunked Billy Butler with a knuckler in the ninth. Bo Schultz came in and promptly got Ike Davis, the walk-off hero of Wednesday night, to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Vogt summed up the day this way: “When a knuckleballer’s knuckleball is moving like it was today, you’re not going to get hits. We didn’t have a whole lot of solid contact, let alone hits. (Dickey) was on today. You’ve just got to tip your cap.”
▪ Much of the talk after Thursday’s game naturally still had to do with Kazmir and where the A’s go from here. General manager Billy Beane before the game acknowledged that dealing Kazmir at this point is an indication that the A’s are shifting their focus beyond this season. Yet there are still two months’ worth of games remaining, and Melvin said he likely would address the team at some point about focusing on the task at hand.
“Obviously everybody’s sorry to see Scott go on a personal level today,” Melvin said. “But it’s our job to go out there and focus on one particular day. If you get too far out and you’re worried about what potentially could happen, or what the next shoe to drop is, you’re not focused on what we’re doing today. That will be my rhetoric to guys: Look, there’s nothing we can do about this. We’re going to go out with the same expectations, try to win today’s game and not think too far out.”
As that answer implies, the A’s likely aren’t done making moves, with players including Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard being mentioned as possible trade targets before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Josh Reddick, one of the longest-tenured A’s, said the current team must accept those changes if and when they come.
“No matter who gets dealt, we’ve still got to come out here and win ballgames with the personnel we have,” Reddick said. “It may get tougher, but we’ve got to go out there with the focus to win the ballgame – doesn’t matter who’s out there.”
Reddick has seen a lot of roster turnover in Oakland and said it’s “never easy to deal with” a teammate being traded, especially one as well-liked and respected as Kazmir.
“But we also know how this business works over here,” Reddick said. “All the talk and speculation of him going is something you can kind of try to prepare for. But once it actually happens, it is tough to see someone like that go.”
Pomeranz said Kazmir influenced many of the A’s pitchers during his time in Oakland, including Pomeranz himself, who modeled his changeup grip after Kazmir’s.
“He’s been around; he’s been through some stuff, too, and had a lot of success as well,” Pomeranz said. “You pick up a lot from him.”
▪ The A’s now leave on a five-game trip but won’t have to travel far. After a three-game series in San Francisco, they’ll hop down to Los Angeles for two games against the Dodgers before returning to Oakland for an y 11-game homestand. The pitching probables for the Giants series:
Friday: RHP Jesse Chavez (5-9, 3.21) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (1-4, 4.94)
Saturday: TBA vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (10-5, 3.27)
Sunday: RHP Kendall Graveman (6-6, 3.78) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (5-8, 4.76)