The A’s went into spring training this year confident in the depth they had in their starting rotation. Within the first month of the season, that depth is being tested.
Oakland placed starter Chris Bassitt on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a strained right elbow. Bassitt had an MRI and X-ray early Friday and was still awaiting the results when he addressed reporters before the A’s were to host the Houston Astros.
“It’s been bothering me for a while,” Bassitt said of his elbow. “We were just kind of hoping (it was) tendinitis and kind of just treating it as that kind of a thing, and it just hasn’t gotten better. It’s honestly gotten worse.”
Bassitt said he started feeling discomfort in spring training and has pitched with it for the first month of the season. But it affected him significantly in his last start Thursday in a 7-3 loss to Detroit, when he allowed seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings and his velocity – normally in the mid-to-high 90s – dropped significantly toward the end of his outing.
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“I’ve been getting treatment pretty much since (spring),” Bassitt said. “It just hasn’t gone away, and then once it affects your velocity and affects all the other pitches, obviously you guys saw the results. I couldn’t really pitch. I couldn’t really do anything.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin indicated the team was unaware Bassitt was pitching through pain this month.
“Pitchers sometimes have some aches and pains, and I think that’s what he thought it was,” Melvin said. “It certainly didn’t come across our desk. It did later (Thursday), enough to a point where (head trainer Nick Paparesta) wanted to get it looked at.”
Bassitt said he felt unable to throw his off-speed pitches effectively Thursday and that the only pitch he had a feel for was his changeup – typically his worst pitch.
“I talked to somebody (in the A’s clubhouse) and he was like, ‘Listen, everyone sees it – you’re not right,’ ” Bassitt said. “I didn’t want to say anything because I worked harder than I ever have this offseason, I felt so excited and prepared going into the season. For this to happen just really (stinks). There’s really nothing else you can say. It just (stinks).”
The A’s have shuffled their rotation as a result. Top pitching prospect Sean Manaea was called up from Triple-A Nashville and is making his major-league debut Friday night against the Astros. Right-hander Jesse Hahn, who has also been pitching in Nashville, is scheduled to start Saturday against Houston. A corresponding roster move for Hahn has not been announced.
Hahn was expected to start this season with the A’s but struggled in spring training and was optioned to Triple A, where the A’s hoped the sinkerballer would regain some of the movement on his pitches. Hahn made four starts at Nashville and had a 2.04 ERA in 17 2/3 innings.
“The velocity was there for him (in spring training); he was probably throwing as hard as we’ve ever seen him,” Melvin said. “It was just the sink that wasn’t there. And our reports are that it’s back.”
Rich Hill is scheduled to start Sunday on regular rest, followed by Kendall Graveman and Sonny Gray, who will each be pushed back a day. Bassitt is the second A’s starter to be placed on the disabled list this season, joining Felix Doubront, who underwent Tommy John surgery after suffering an elbow injury in his last spring outing.
In other injury news Friday, the A’s transferred outfielder Sam Fuld to the 60-day DL in a move that created a 40-man roster spot for Manaea. Melvin said Fuld, who has been trying to recover from a rotator cuff injury, will require surgery next month.
“He’s done everything he could strengthening-wise to try to get it to where he didn’t have to have surgery,” Melvin said of Fuld. “And he’s going to have to have surgery.”
Finally, after a series in Detroit that heavily taxed their bullpen, the A’s recalled reliever Andrew Triggs from Nashville before Friday’s game and optioned catcher-outfielder Matt McBride back to Triple A.