OAKLAND -- Another day at the Coliseum, another round of injury updates for the A’s. First, closer Sean Doolittle threw a flat-ground bullpen session this morning, stretching it out to 120 feet before throwing about 120 pitches and his entire complement, and said it "went really well."
"I feel like I can open it up like I normally can," said Doolittle, who’s recovering from a strained intercostal muscle. "The ball has good carry on it, coming out clean like it normally does."
It has been steady progress for Doolittle, who admitted that he was "a little nervous" in the first day or so after his injury when he talked with other players who’d had similar strains about the time it takes to recover. Doolittle said he received a cortisone shot the day after the injury and that "within a couple days (he) saw improvements."
"That kept me in a good spot mentally, that I was seeing improvement every day," said Doolittle.
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Doolittle said he is scheduled to go with the A’s on their upcoming road trip. He can come off the disabled list Monday, but figures to need at least a few more days. Manager Bob Melvin said Doolittle will throw a bullpen off a mound Monday, and Doolittle may need to throw a second bullpen without setbacks before the A’s activate him.
John Jaso will also go with the A’s to Chicago after Sunday’s game and could be nearing activation. Melvin said Jaso, who’s recovering from a concussion, has increased baseball activities in the last few days and actually caught some bullpen sessions today, though he is not expected to catch again this season.
"I think we’re going in the right direction with him," Melvin said.
Also not likely to catch again this year: Stephen Vogt, who is still in a walking boot for his sprained left ankle. Vogt said the ankle "blew up" the morning after he sprained it last week. It has come down a little and Vogt did some mobility exercises this morning. Vogt said "we’re making progress" with the ankle, but he wasn’t sure if he’ll accompany the A’s to Chicago -- he may meet them for the following series in Seattle.
Infielder Nick Punto, meanwhile, is still working toward running full-speed in recovering from a hamstring strain. "It’s the 100 percent burst that has been his issue recently," said Melvin. "Whether he’s pushed through that today, I’m not sure yet."
The A’s lineup has a slightly different look today against Astros right-hander Scott Feldman. It’s Brandon Moss in the No. 2 spot. Melvin didn’t go deep into his reasoning, but with the A’s and Moss both in an offensive funk recently, it doesn’t hurt to try to shake things up a bit. Here’s the full A’s lineup:
And the Astros lineup against A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir:
* If you missed it this morning, our print story was on former A’s minor leaguer and now Astros slugger Chris Carter, who’s making a quiet run at what would be an improbable home run title. Carter hit his 36th homer last night in Houston’s 4-3 win, putting him one behind MLB leader Nelson Cruz.
Seven of Carter’s home runs have come against the A’s, his most against any team and the most by an ex-Oakland A’s player ever against the A’s in a season. Both last night and this morning, Melvin was basically asked if he’d considered walking Carter instead of letting him hit with a runner on and the A’s up by a run in the sixth inning Friday (he ended up hitting a go-ahead homer).
Both times, Melvin said no -- because of the circumstances. Speedy Jose Altuve was on first base, and walking Carter would have meant putting the tying run on second. But he acknowledged this morning that the A’s may need to change their approach to pitching Carter, with the way he has hurt them consistently this year.
"Not only has he had a great year, he’s having even a better year against us, and changed a lot of games against us whether it’s (in Houston) or certainly right now," Melvin said. "Anybody that’s that hot, you have to take a look at trying to do something differently and not letting him beat you."
Carter in his career against Kazmir: 5-for-11, though none of those five hits is a homer. It will be interesting to see how Kazmir goes after Carter today.