OAKLAND -- The A’s shook up their pitching staff today, placing reliever Ryan Cook on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain and optioning starter Dan Straily to Triple-A Sacramento. Relievers Fernando Rodriguez and Joe Savery were recalled from Triple-A to take their roster spots.
It sounds as though the prognosis for Cook is, all things considered, promising. The right-hander underwent an MRI after injuring himself throwing a slider in the first game of the A’s doubleheader on Wednesday, and manager Bob Melvin said that test showed nothing in terms of ligament or tendon damage, which would have indicated a more serious injury and potential long absence or surgery.
"It’s more just a strain right in the middle of the forearm," Melvin said. "So hopefully that’s a good thing. But it’s enough to where we felt like we have to DL him."
Cook said today the tightness in his forearm had subsided a little since Wednesday, when he there was "definite tightness that was limiting my range of motion." He said the best-case scenario is the tightness goes away completely in a few days, at which point he can resume baseball activities and strengthening, but that’s obviously to be determined.
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"I told you guys the other day when it happened, without knowing what Tommy John felt like at the time, I knew that wasn’t what it was," Cook said. "The MRI has also shown that that’s not what it is.
"(A short absence) is kind of what we’re hoping for right now. It doesn’t seem to be too bad."
Asked if he’s confident he’ll miss only the 15 days, Cook said: "I actually don’t have any idea. … I know they’re doing everything they can to get me back as soon as possible. To put a time table on that -- I don’t know much about the injury. That’s not my cup of tea, if you will. So I’ll be ready when I’m ready and it shouldn’t be long, I know that."
For now, Cook’s innings will likely be filled by Rodriguez, whose call-up completes a relatively speedy recovery from Tommy John surgery, which Rodriguez had last March. Rodriguez was already showing good progress in spring training and has gone 1-0 with a 0.73 ERA in 11 relief appearances this season with the Triple-A River Cats.
Rodriguez said the call-up took him somewhat by surprise. He thought he still had a few boxes to check off on his recovery -- he still hasn’t pitched on consecutive days, for example. But he said he’s ready to pitch again in the majors, and the A’s clearly feel the same way.
"Everything’s been coming out well, I’m pitching pretty good and feeling good, and that was the biggest thing was being able to feel good the next day even after throwing 25 or 30 pitches," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he’s a "different pitcher" now than before his surgery in that he’s trying to be more efficient by attacking the zone and making hitters get themselves out rather than trying to rack up strikeouts. He said it’s something he learned watching games last year in Oakland during his recovery. In terms of stuff and velocity, he said he’s similar to where he was prior to his injury.
As for Straily, Melvin said the A’s want the right-hander to work mostly on refining his fastball command and getting ahead of opposing hitters. Straily is 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA in seven starts with the A’s, but had a 6.04 ERA in his last five starts and has walked 15 in 38 1/3 innings while allowing nine home runs, tied for the major-league lead.
"The velocity’s been down a little for whatever reason, but that’s not the biggest concern," Melvin said. "The concern is getting ahead. (His second most recent start), I think he had three first-pitch strikes out of 20, and he has to be able to get ahead to pitch off his breaking ball. So just going down to refine some things that we know he has."
Melvin said Straily is "still a guy we expect big things out of." Right now, though, Drew Pomeranz will slide into the rotation in Straily’s spot. Pomeranz has pitched well out of the bullpen and threw five scoreless innings, allowing two hits, in a spot start Wednesday in the second game of the doubleheader against the Mariners.
Pomeranz was on a roughly 70-pitch limit that day and will have to be stretched out more in the next couple weeks. Calling up Savery gives the A’s another left-handed option in the bullpen with Pomeranz, the erstwhile long reliever, moving out.
The A’s will be without a designated long reliever for now, with Melvin saying that Dan Otero, Rodriguez and Savery could all throw multiple innings if needed. Otero showed as much throwing three innings in game two Wednesday, while Savery said he could likely throw 45 to 50 pitches in an outing if necessary.
By the way, there’s a game tonight. The Washington Nationals are in town for a three-game interleague series. Here’s the A’s lineup for game one, with left-hander Tommy Milone starting:
And the Nationals’ lineup behind right-hander Doug Fister, who makes his season debut:
* Coco Crisp is obviously not in the lineup and won’t be available tonight. Melvin said Crisp, who left Wednesday’s game one with a neck strain after slamming into the wall making a catch, was scheduled to have an MRI today and will likely be out at least until Sunday.
"It was still a bit stiff yesterday to where they felt like the most cautious thing to do is go ahead and take a look at it," Melvin said.
* Alberto Callaspo, meanwhile, gets a day off in the midst of a slump. Melvin said he’ll likely be back in the lineup tomorrow and play first base Sunday with the A’s facing left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
* Speaking of Gonzalez, the Nationals being in town has a real sense of familiarity. Both Gonzalez and Jerry Blevins, past A’s pitchers, are on the Washington roster now, while Milone and Derek Norris both came up in the Nationals system and reliever Fernando Abad spent time with the Nationals last season.
Blevins, who was the longest-tenured player on the A’s last season, the team’s players’ union representative and well-respected in the clubhouse, said being back in Oakland is "different. Everything’s backwards. … Every time I’m used to taking a left I’m taking a right, and vice versa."
Blevins has pitched well his first season with the Nationals -- he’s 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. True to form, left-handed hitters are batting .115 off the sidewinding Blevins with 12 strikeouts in 26 at-bats.
Of potentially facing his old teammates, Blevins said that likely won’t be as strange as seeing them on the field and in the clubhouse tunnels before the game. He said he had already bumped into Sean Doolittle and Josh Donaldson in the weight room.
"It was good to see those guys," he said. "Everybody’s saying, ‘Welcome back.’ It’s a good feeling."
On Doolittle’s beard: "I’d say it’s pretty epic. He likes to keep it big."
* Managers Melvin and Matt Williams go way back as well -- they were teammates in San Francisco when Williams was a rookie, Melvin was the bench coach and Williams a player in Arizona when the Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001, and Williams was a part-owner of the Diamondbacks when Melvin managed there.
* Last note: The A’s and Nationals are playing each other for the first time in nine years. Their only previous meeting was that June 7-9, 2005 series, which the Nationals swept.