Oakland A's

A’s Sean Doolittle making progress in recovery from shoulder injury

MESA, Ariz. -- A’s closer Sean Doolittle hasn’t thrown a baseball since reporting to spring training -- but he has worked himself into pretty good shape.

"All my down time is in the weight room, doing something to try to stay busy," Doolittle said. "Sometimes I get bored and just go in there to find something to do."

Such is life right now for Doolittle, as the left-hander rehabs from a rotator cuff tear and inflammation in his shoulder that was diagnosed in January. Doolittle will start the season on the disabled list and still doesn’t have a target date to begin throwing again, but said Saturday he’s optimistic about the progress he has made in recovery.

"I’m getting really close to throwing," he said.

Doolittle said he has simulated his throwing motion with a medicine ball in the training room and he’s close to doing "sock throws," a last hurdle before picking up a baseball. He can participate in pitcher fielding drills that involve covering bases and shag fly balls in batting practice -- he just can’t throw them back.

"It’s really frustrating, really tough," he said. "For a couple weeks now, my arm feels like it could throw. But we have to make sure that we do the work on the front end to get it strong enough to where it’s ready to throw. We don’t want this to become a chronic thing or something that requires surgery in the future."

Doolittle signed a five-year contract extension with the A’s last season and said he wants to be able to pitch for as much of it as possible, so if that means taking time to let his shoulder heal now, so be it. Once he is able to throw again, he doesn’t think he will need a "drawn-out" throwing program to get ready.

Doolittle said he hasn’t discussed a date to start throwing or when he hopes to rejoin the A’s during the season. Manager Bob Melvin has said there is a "front-runner" for closer while Doolittle is out, but has not revealed a name.

* Jesse Chavez allowed the first two batters he faced against the Giants on Saturday to score, but did not give up another run during his 4 1/3-inning outing in the A’s 5-2 win over the Giants at HoHoKam Stadium.

Chavez said he made a slight adjustment after the first inning -- he felt he was speeding up his delivery, so he focused on "staying back and driving down the hill." The result: He reached his four-inning goal and then some, as the A’s sent him back out to start the fifth.

"It was great, especially not being able to get through the full three (in his last outing) and not being able to reach pitch counts and get up (multiple times) like today," Chavez said.

* Mike Aldrete, who filled in as manager the last two games while Bob Melvin was with the split squad in Las Vegas, said Saturday morning that the A’s hope to have Ike Davis (back spasms) and Coco Crisp (triceps) back in game action "in the next couple days."

Aldrete also said the hamstring injury to outfielder Alex Hassan isn’t "as serious as it could have been," but Hassan still needs to be cleared by doctors to return to the field.

* Billy Burns had a good day in the leadoff spot for the A’s, going 3-for-4 and scoring three runs. Burns flashed his speed beating out an infield single in the first inning and later legged out a triple that he finished with a headlong dive into third base.

Aldrete was actually asked about Burns before the game and said he likes what he has seen from the young outfielder, who is now batting .419 this spring. In fact, Aldrete said he had just delivered that same message to Burns a few minutes before.

"His defense has been spot-on, he’s putting the ball in play with authority," said Aldrete, the A’s new bench coach this season. "I haven’t seen him over the last couple years, but in talking to some of the coaches, they’re saying, ‘Wow, balls are coming off his bat like we haven’t seen in the past.’

"This is my only impression, and I’m thinking, this guy’s a good player."

Burns looks like he has bulked up some since last season, when he appeared in 13 games for the A’s mostly as a pinch-runner. He hit just .237 last season between Double-A and Triple-A, but had a .315 on-base percentage and stole 54 bases in 60 attempts in the minors. With the way the A’s shuffle players, he could certainly play a role at some point this season as well.

* The other half of the A’s roster was scheduled to return Saturday night. Aldrete said he was ready to relinquish the manager’s title back to Melvin.

"Bob Melvin is still the manager," Aldrete said Saturday morning, "despite what my mom thinks."

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.