Sean Doolittle says he still intends to pitch again this season for the A’s, and the left-hander took a step toward that goal Thursday by throwing from a mound for the first time since landing on the disabled list May 28 because of a strained shoulder.
Doolittle threw 26 pitches off the bullpen mound and said he was “pretty happy” with the action on his pitches. Manager Bob Melvin watched the session and said it was “the best bullpen I’ve seen (Doolittle) throw” this season amid two long-term injuries.
Doolittle missed the start of the season because of a strained left rotator cuff and returned May 25 long enough to make one outing for the A’s – a scoreless inning against the Tigers on May 27 – before going back to the DL. Melvin said Doolittle appeared more comfortable throwing Thursday than in his bullpen sessions coming back from the first injury.
“I think he feels psychologically a little bit better about letting it go,” Melvin said. “It seemed to be like he was guarding it a little bit more so last time, where he definitely was not this time.”
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Melvin said Doolittle threw his slider with “a lot more whip – he was a little farther away from his body (with his arm) than we saw last time.” Doolittle threw fastballs, changeups and sliders and said he felt they were “definitely usable pitches, for sure.”
Doolittle will throw another bullpen Saturday, after which the A’s could begin sketching out a rehab assignment. He said that with how well Thursday’s session went, he’s “more eager to move (his recovery) along,” and that he still sees pitching in Oakland again this year as a realistic goal.
Melvin agreed that would be important for Doolittle, given how much time he has missed this season.
“It is important, for next year, for him to get out there and pitch some innings and feel good about what he’s doing,” Melvin said. “It’s one thing if you throw bullpens and your arm feels good. It’s another to get out there in games and see what the results might be.”
▪ The A’s lineup looks a little different Thursday night against Cleveland Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco:
Melvin acknowledged he’s still experimenting with the lineup after the trade of Ben Zobrist and that there’ll likely be day-to-day changes. Ike Davis hit second Wednesday night in Los Angeles, but Melvin said he wants to put Davis in a “more familiar” spot. It’s Sam Fuld in the No. 2 spot, which Melvin said could be a rotating position.
“Like our lineup, it’s pretty much a day-to-day proposition,” Melvin said.
Josh Reddick, who went 6 for 9 in the two games in Los Angeles, is 5 for 5 with a home run and a double against Carrasco in his career, so he hits third. Davis gives him some protection batting fourth. Billy Butler, who’s hitting .214 (15 for 70) in July, slides down to seventh.
▪ Before batting practice, Jake Smolinski was getting some infield work with coach Ron Washington. Melvin said the A’s could look at using Smolinski, who has played outfield almost exclusively in the majors, at first base.
“We like versatility around here,” Melvin said. “Just get him another position, potentially an option for him. We’ll see how it goes.”
The A’s don’t really have a backup middle infielder after trading Zobrist, and Melvin reiterated Brett Lawrie could play some games at second base. Mark Canha was taking ground balls at third base during batting practice.
▪ Reliever Pat Venditte flew to Nashville on Thursday and will pitch back-to-back days Friday and Saturday. If all goes well, he could be activated after that.
Outfielder Coco Crisp is scheduled to play Thursday and Friday with High-A Stockton. Crisp had an encouraging game Tuesday, going 3 for 4 with two home runs, and was scheduled to play nine innings in the outfield Thursday for the first time.
Melvin said the A’s tentatively had Crisp playing five games with Stockton (Thursday is his third), and that Crisp is “just getting some endurance, getting his legs underneath him. It was really encouraging to see him swing the bat the way he did the other night.”
▪ Aaron Brooks, the right-hander the A’s acquired in the Zobrist deal, is scheduled to start Saturday’s game against Cleveland and will join the A’s on Friday. Melvin said reports on Brooks are that he’s a “strike-thrower, seems to command the baseball pretty well, mixes pitches.”
▪ A’s fans looking forward to seeing Brandon Moss return with the Indians this week will be disappointed – Cleveland traded Moss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, as part of a flurry of action throughout baseball before the trade deadline.
“It’s tough, you go to a new place for a while, then you’re on the move again,” Melvin said of Moss, whom the A’s traded to the Indians over the offseason. “But anytime that we don’t see him, it’s a good thing. He’s got a nice history of hitting the ball out of the ballpark.”