OAKLAND -- It has been a rough start to his A’s career for right-hander Jason Hammel -- he’s 1-4 with a 7.15 ERA going into today’s start against the Twins -- but Hammel is coming off his first win with Oakland, in which he threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays five days ago.
A big difference for Hammel in that start was that he was able to use his full repertoire effectively, including his curveball and changeup. Manager Bob Melvni said that in his first few starts with the A’s, Hammel "maybe got a little more into fastball-slider mode."
"If you’re not throwing strikes you have to try to establish something," Melvin said. "But once he does get rolling, he does have four good pitches. And if you are throwing all of them it creates a little more doubt in the hitter’s mind what you’re going to throw."
Melvin and the A’s have maintained faith that Hammel will pitch better than he has in an Oakland uniform, citing his track record and 2.98 ERA with the Cubs before arriving via trade. He has six career appearances against the Twins, including five starts, in which he is 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA, though his roughest outing was also his most recent. On May 10 last season, Hammel gave up six runs on eight hits in four innings in Minnesota.
Here’s the A’s lineup behind Hammel for today’s series finale:
And the Twins’ lineup behind right-hander Phil Hughes:
* Jed Lowrie gets a day off, still nursing a bruised right index finger that’s bothering him some when he throws. Melvin said he’d planned to rest Lowrie in hopes the finger will improve before the A’s start a three-game series in Kansas City tomorrow.
* Kyle Blanks played his first rehab game with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday night in Reno and went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run. Melvin said Blanks scored the run on a hit so he was able to test his calf, and "I think as far as first games go, it went about as smoothly as it could go."
* The Twins are reportedly calling up left-hander Tommy Milone to join their rotation -- he’s listed as their starting pitcher tomorrow in Houston. Milone, of course, spent the last three years with the A’s before being traded to Minnesota for Sam Fuld at the deadline.
Milone went 31-22 for the A’s over the past three seasons, but had been sent to Triple-A as an odd man out when the A’s upgraded their rotation with trades. Melvin said that he’s happy for Milone getting another shot at the majors -- and that’s he’s glad the A’s aren’t facing him in this series.
"Really from the beginning here (he) was a younger guy that kind of set an example for work ethic and professionalism here, which was very important getting us to the point where we are right now," Melvin said. "So we wish him the best, and it’s nice that he is called up. Because I believe he’s a big leaguer."
* Hughes, the Twins right-hander, has been much improved over 2013, when he went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA. Hughes is 11-8 with a 4.01 ERA this season for the Twins, and is coming off of a six-inning outing against the Padres in which he gave up one run with nine strikeouts.
Melvin said it seems like Hughes has benefited this season from an improved cut fastball, which has helped him in particular against left-handers. Lefties are batting .254 against Hughes this season with a .649 OPS -- though righties are hitting .323 against him with a .796 OPS. He has faced the A’s once this season, allowing four runs in five innings.