OAKLAND -- Eric O’Flaherty last pitched in the major leagues a little more than a year ago, on May 17 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since then, he has undergone and spent months rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Thursday, the A’s activated the left-hander from the disabled list ahead of their series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.
"I couldn’t sleep last night for sure," O’Flaherty said this afternoon. "It’s a big day. It feels like Opening Day, I guess."
The A’s, too, are excited to be able to activate O’Flaherty after signing him to a two-year deal last winter knowing he wouldn’t be available until midseason. O’Flaherty was one of the most reliable relievers in the National League for the Braves before his surgery -- he had a 0.98 ERA in 78 appearances for Atlanta in 2011, a 1.73 ERA in 64 games in 2012 and was 3-0 with a 2.50 in 2013 at the time of his injury.
Manager Bob Melvin said he’d like to get O’Flaherty into some lower-leverage situations to start, but that O’Flaherty is "ready for anything." O’Flaherty’s role in the bullpen will become clearer after he has pitched in a few games. To make room for O’Flaherty on the roster, the A’s designated left-handed reliever Jeff Francis for assignment.
Melvin likened adding O’Flaherty at this point to making a move at the trade deadline. "We knew this was coming, but certainly getting him on the roster makes us look a lot deeper and really does make us deeper," Melvin said.
O’Flaherty underwent surgery on May 21, 2013, making his recovery a relatively quick one. He has been pitching in minor-league rehab games since June 6, posting a 3.86 ERA in eight outings between Single-A Stockton and Triple-A Sacramento, and said he hasn’t felt much different from the pitcher he was before the surgery.
"I’m about the same," O’Flaherty said. "Maybe not topping out the same, but I usually don’t get my velocity until this time of year anyway. So getting a late start, hopefully there’s a little more in the tank. But I can definitely pitch where I’m at."
Asked if he ever doubted he’d be able to recover fully, O’Flaherty said he mostly stayed positive through his rehab process. But he acknowledged that today’s step, returning to a major-league team, is "a big deal for me."
"It’s cool, man," he said. "It’s a long ride trying to get through that whole rehab process. It kind of flew by at times, kind of dragged at times. But here we are."
* Josh Donaldson is not in the lineup for the second consecutive day. Melvin said that Donaldson is dealing with some back stiffness, which also kept him out Wednesday in Detroit. Donaldson was expected to take batting practice today.
"We’ll give him another day here and see how he feels tomorrow," Melvin said.
Here’s the A’s lineup minus Donaldson and Coco Crisp, who also gets a day off:
And the Blue Jays’ lineup against A’s right-hander Sonny Gray:
* A few other injury updates:
Melvin said right fielder Josh Reddick (right knee strain) was expected to do some kind of physical activity today after being mostly inactive since being placed on the 15-day DL Sunday.
Left-hander Drew Pomeranz recently threw a bullpen session and is "keeping his arm in shape" while his broken right hand recovers, Melvin said. Pomeranz had a glove on for the bullpen but didn’t catch return throws, Melvin said, so there’s still no timetable there.
Yoenis Cespedes is back in left field tonight after not playing defense the past two games with hamstring tightness.
* Tough turnaround for the A’s hitters. Not only did the team fly back from Detroit after yesterday’s early start for a 6:05 first pitch tonight, but they’re going from facing Justin Verlander to knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the former N.L. Cy Young winner.
The A’s lineup hasn’t had much success in the past against Dickey, who throws a harder knuckler than most. Jed Lowrie is 4-for-12 in his career and Brandon Moss is 3-for-13 with a home run. The worst career line against the right-hander actually belongs to Coco Crisp, 2-for-22 with five strikeouts, perhaps another reason Melvin felt OK with resting Crisp for the opener.
* Since posting a 1.99 ERA in his first 10 starts this season, Sonny Gray is just 2-2 with a 5.50 ERA in his last six. He allowed five runs on seven hits in five innings during his last outing in Miami -- his shortest start of the year.