OAKLAND -- It sounds like Ryan Cook’s return to the A’s bullpen is imminent, with manager Bob Melvin saying Cook threw well in a rehab game with Single-A Stockton last night and will likely be in Oakland on Saturday.
As for whether Cook will actually be activated Saturday -- the first day he’s eligible to come off the 15-day DL -- Melvin said that "would be a stretch." The A’s mapped out a certain number of innings they wanted Cook to reach before he rejoins the team, and Melvin said that could mean one more rehab game.
One factor that could affect that decision is how much the A’s need to use the bullpen tonight. They’re already shorthanded after playing 30 innings the past two days, and if the A’s lean heavily on the bullpen again tonight, Cook could provide reinforcements. But that’s probably a worst-case scenario. Either way, it sounds like Cook is mere days away.
Melvin said outfielder Craig Gentry could also join the A’s by their series in Minnesota, which begins Monday. Gentry, who’s also eligible to come off the DL on Saturday, just returned from paternity leave, and Melvin said he’ll probably need "a couple more outings" in rehab games before he’s ready to go.
When Gentry does return, the A’s will have a decision to make concerning Sam Fuld, who has been their fourth outfielder and impressed through the first four games. Fuld tripled in each of the past two games and made a sliding catch Thursday night that saved a pair of runs.
Melvin praised Fuld in his pre-game session today as "probably even a little better player than I thought," but didn’t bite on the question of what happens when Gentry is ready to be activated. "We’ll deal with that when he’s on his way back," Melvin said.
Fuld is not in the lineup tonight against Mariners right-hander Chris Young. The A’s lineup reads like this:
Dan Straily makes his first start of the season for the A’s. He’ll face this Mariners lineup:
* Melvin acknowledged the A’s won’t have a "full complement" in the bullpen tonight but didn’t say which relievers are off-limits. A likely one is Sean Doolittle, who threw two innings in Thursday night’s game. Left-hander Fernando Abad also threw two, so he might not be available, but Melvin said closer Jim Johnson is back in the mix tonight.
* Doolittle recorded one of the key outs in last night’s game by striking out Robinson Cano with two outs and a runner on second base in the 10th inning. Today, he agreed to go into his approach to the at-bat, and how it changed when Abraham Almonte stole second partway through the at-bat.
Doolittle said the first objective "with a guy like (Cano) is you’ve got to get ahead of him." He actually fell behind Cano, 1-0, but then got the count to 1-2 with two 94 mph fastballs that Cano fouled off.
After Almonte stole second, Melvin came out to the mound for a visit, and said after the game Thursday night that he told Doolittle: "Don’t let (Cano) get the bat on the ball."
Doolittle said he couldn’t remember the actual words, but Melvin’s message was "something to the effect of, ‘Be smart and commit to it. Don’t throw anything you’re not 100 percent comfortable throwing.’
"Which I took as maybe don’t try to trick (Cano) with a slider here and hang it and let him it out of the ballpark."
Instead, Doolittle went to the pitch he has the most faith in -- another fastball, up in the zone, at 94 mph. Cano swung and tipped it into the glove of catcher John Jaso.
"I felt like I put the ball in a spot where it was either going to be a ball, a foul ball, or he was going to swing and miss," Doolittle said. "Kind of a pitch where it’s probably out of the zone, so he’s not going to be able to get a good swing on it, try to play the odds in my favor so to speak. Fortunately it worked."
* Melvin was also asked pre-game today about Yoenis Cespedes going the opposite way with hard-hit balls on several occasions already this season, including his game-tying triple in the eighth inning Thursday. Melvin said it may be a sign that some of Cespedes’ work in spring training to develop more of a contact approach is paying off.
"A lot of the talk was about shortening his swing and so forth," Melvin said. "And for a guy that’s a power guy it might just be as much trying to use the whole field as potentially shortening his swing."
* A couple things from today’s game notes: A’s starters have allowed two or fewer runs in each of the first four games and a total of three earned runs in 24 innings. The A’s are also off to their count-working ways again, leading the majors entering today with 25 walks as a team.