When Sean Nolin throws a pitch in his A’s debut today against the Seattle Mariners, the left-hander will help make some dubious history for the team.
Nolin is expected to become the 28th player to pitch for the A’s this season. That will set a new franchise record, breaking the previous mark set in 1915 and matched in 1955.
It’s a sign both of the injuries the A’s have experienced on their pitching staff this season and the struggles particularly of the pitchers in their bullpen. The A’s have already used 21 relievers on the season, matching the Oakland-era record, for a bullpen that owns the second-highest ERA (4.46) in the American League. (Granted, one of those relievers was first baseman Ike Davis, who pitched twice in blowouts. He counts toward the total).
Recently, the A’s have also had to plug several holes in their rotation. On opening day the rotation consisted of Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Scott Kazmir, Kendall Graveman and Drew Pomeranz. Hahn has not pitched since July 1 and should miss the rest of the season with a forearm strain. Kazmir was traded to Houston. Graveman is on the DL with a left oblique strain. Pomeranz is now in the bullpen.
The A’s have filled those starts with names like Chris Bassitt, Aaron Brooks, Felix Doubront, Cody Martin and Brad Mills. Not coincidentally, their starting rotation – which for much of the season had the league’s lowest ERA – has compiled a 5.76 ERA over their last 23 games.
“We lost quite a few guys,” manager Bob Melvin said Saturday night. “There’s some significance to that. But for some of the newer guys, it’s an opportunity for them to make a mark here.”
Today, the opportunity belongs to Nolin, the left-hander acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade with Toronto. Nolin missed the first part of the season recovering from offseason core surgery, and had short DL stints at Triple-A Nashville with both a strained groin and shoulder. When healthy, Nolin compiled a 2.66 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) at Triple-A.
“I haven’t seen him pitch a game,” Melvin said. “So I’m looking forward to that.”
Melvin said Nolin will not be on any pitch count restrictions in his Oakland debut. Nolin likely won’t go past 100 pitches, but the A’s haven’t gotten three full innings out of their starter either of the past two nights, so Nolin should at least have a good shot at clearing that bar.
Right fielder Josh Reddick is not in the lineup after leaving Saturday’s game with illness, but Melvin said he hopes Reddick might be available off the bench. Sam Fuld (back) has taken swings in the cage and is still hopeful to return during the A’s upcoming series against Houston.
The A’s lineup today against Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma:
And the Mariners’ lineup against Nolin: