OAKLAND -- A’s second baseman Ben Zobrist said he needed to get into a game Friday night to test whether he could continue to play on an injured left knee. The discomfort, he said, was enough to convince him he could not.
The A’s placed Zobrist on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a medial meniscus tear in his left knee. Zobrist expects to have arthroscopic surgery soon, for which the typical recovery time is four to six weeks.
"This is the thing to do," manager Bob Melvin said. "We’ll get him back sooner than later. This way once he rehabs and he’s healthy again, he won’t have this weighing on him."
Zobrist originally injured his knee sliding into second base last Sunday in Kansas City. He made a pinch-hit appearance Thursday in Los Angeles and started at DH on Friday night against the Astros, looking very limited while running out ground balls. Zobrist said today the worst pain was actually swinging right-handed, which put "a lot of pressure" on his knee.
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Zobrist said he had a similar injury in his right knee early in his career and played on it for about a year and a half before getting surgery. "But it was different than this," he said. "This is a little more drastic."
"After the game (Friday) when we talked about it, I said I don’t want to put the team in this position, we need to get somebody that’s 100 percent healthy in here," Zobrist said. "And last night I wasn’t close enough to 100 percent to keep trying to do this for five or six months until the offseason."
Zobrist said playing Friday night was the right decision: "We absolutely had to do that … in order to see if in a game situation I could handle it." He said a date has not been set for the surgery, and the A’s will discuss that Saturday.
The A’s called up Max Muncy from Triple-A Nashville to replace Zobrist on the roster. Muncy, a left-handed hitter, will make his big-league debut batting seventh against the Astros today and playing third base, with Brett Lawrie getting his first day off.
Muncy said he had just packed for a road trip in Nashville and gone to bed when he got the call about his call-up around 2 a.m. Saturday morning. He caught a flight to Oakland and arrived around 11 a.m., so he’s operating on about an hour of sleep today.
"It’s going to be a long day," Muncy said. "But it’s going to be a fun day."
Muncy, who was batting .293 with 10 RBIs in 15 Triple-A games, is originally a first baseman whom the A’s tried at third this spring to increase his versatility. He said he’s still getting used to the transition but feeling more comfortable there now. Melvin said Lawrie is "banged up," especially after jamming his own knee into the A’s bullpen on a nice catch in foul territory Friday night, and needed a day off.
Despite the hour of his call-up, Muncy said he immediately called his parents, Lee and Mary Jean, in Texas -- and they answered on the first call.
"They didn’t sleep the rest of the night," Muncy said. "So they were up with me."
To clear a spot for Muncy on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated pitcher Eury De La Rosa for assignment.
* The A’s first lineup of the Max Muncy era:
And the Astros’ lineup against right-hander Kendall Graveman:
* With Zobrist out for a while, Melvin said Stephen Vogt could see plenty of starts in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Vogt is off to a hot start, batting .373 with a team-leading four home runs and 14 RBIs.
Cody Ross gets the start in left field over Mark Canha against right-hander Scott Feldman today. "Mark’s fallen off a little bit here and he’s been playing a lot," Melvin said. "Cody is a veteran guy who’s faced just about anybody."
* A’s right-hander Jesse Hahn said the blister on his right middle finger is "almost ready to go," and he’ll throw a bullpen session either Sunday or Monday. If all goes well, Hahn could start Wednesday against the Angels, Melvin said.
Hahn said blisters have been an issue for him in the past. He thinks the main culprit might be his two-seam fastball, for which he rests the middle finger on the seam. He’s trying to toughen up his fingers via a blister ointment and another interesting remedy suggested by teammates: Soaking them in pickle juice.
Hahn said he’s dipping his finger in pickle juice about five minutes each night. "They say that works," he said. "Anything that works, I’m up for it."
* Melvin said he didn’t talk with Eric O’Flaherty after the reliever’s rough outing Friday night gave O’Flaherty the loss and an 11.37 ERA to start the season. He did indicate the A’s don’t have the options right now to make big bullpen changes. They already shuffled things up by moving Evan Scribner into more of a set-up role.
"After that you have to go to the other guys," Melvin said. "We feel good about them, it’s just sometimes there’s going to be periods it’s not working out and this is one of them right now that you can’t just walk away from. You only have so many guys down there."
* Muncy wasn’t the only person getting calls late Friday night. Melvin said Lawrie was texting him at 1:30 a.m., saying he was OK to play today. Lawrie, Melvin said, is banged up, "but certainly not DL-banged up."