OAKLAND -- Since the A’s broke camp a few weeks ago and headed north to start the season, Eric O’Flaherty has remained in Arizona immersed in the monotony of Tommy John rehab -- wake up, work out, throw a bullpen, do rehab exercises, repeat.
So Saturday morning provided a welcome respite -- O’Flaherty, the left-handed reliever the A’s signed to a two-year deal over the offseason knowing he won’t be available until midseason at the earliest, threw a bullpen in front of manager Bob Melvin and trainers at the Coliseum.
O’Flaherty said he threw "30-something" pitches, including some breaking balls from a shorter distance, a small step forward in his recovery from the May 2013 surgery. It’s all about small steps right now for O’Flaherty, who said he’s in Oakland for this weekend’s series against Houston mostly so the A’s staff can get a look at his progress.
Melvin said O’Flaherty looked "really good. You can see what he’s got to offer and it’s pretty exciting. We’ll take it on the pace we’ve been taking it, but it was good to see him throw his breaking balls and full complement."
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There’s still no firm timetable for O’Flaherty pitching in games, but Melvin said he could start throwing to hitters by the time the A’s return from their next road trip. Next time he throws a bullpen, he’ll likely throw the breaking pitches at full distance, Melvin said.
"Those feel good," O’Flaherty said of the breaking pitches. "That’s a big hurdle, I think more mentally than physically, but it’s a good thing to get some of those snapped off."
O’Flaherty was one of baseball’s most dominant relievers over the last three seasons in Atlanta, recording a 1.45 ERA in 161 appearances -- the lowest among major-league relievers with 125 or more innings. Saturday was his first time throwing at the Coliseum and the first time he’d seen most of the A’s since spring training.
"That’s probably the hardest part about being down in Arizona is just being away from the guys," O’Flaherty said. "I couldn’t stop smiling when I walked in the clubhouse today and saw everybody. So obviously you want to be back as soon as possible, but you want to do it right and just make sure you’re healthy when you come back."
* No Coco Crisp in the lineup today for the A’s. Melvin said that’s again a precautionary move -- Crisp’s left wrist has bothered him when swinging right-handed, and while he’s better, Melvin said he wants to make sure Crisp is as close to 100 percent as possible.
"I would think either today or tomorrow would be a full go with him from both sides of the plate," Melvin said.
Here’s the A’s lineup today behind Scott Kazmir:
And the Astros’ lineup behind left-hander Brett Obertholtzer:
* Melvin said he doesn’t expect any carryover from Friday’s exchange of words between Jed Lowrie and Astros manager Bo Porter. That came after Lowrie bunted for a hit in the first inning with the A’s up 7-0 and Houston playing a shift. Lowrie was out on the play and took exception when the Astros appeared to throw at him in the third inning, which led Porter to come out of the Houston dugout and start jawing at Lowrie.
"They tried to hit him, they didn’t get him, and it’s over, right?" Melvin said. "That’s the way I see it."
Porter was asked this morning about the incident and said: "I’m going to say the same thing I said last night -- nothing happened yesterday."
Lowrie said Friday night he felt the bunt was all right under the circumstances because it was still the first inning -- plenty of time for Houston to close a seven-run deficit -- and the Astros had shifted their infield, making the bunt a sensible (even smart) play.
"If I’m on the other side, maybe it perturbs me a little bit," Melvin said. "But it’s still the first inning. So that one’s probably in between, so you understand both sides of that.
"What happened a little later was probably more inappropriate. But hopefully we can just move on. I don’t think it’s that big an issue, to tell you the truth."
* Despite using only two relievers in Friday night’s 11-3 win, Melvin said the A’s still aren’t at full strength in the bullpen after playing back-to-back extra-inning games to end their road trip. He said they’re "probably down one, one and a half guys" today, though he didn’t specify who he wants to stay away from.
* With two errors Friday night, the A’s have committed 11 in their last seven games and 16 on the season, which is tied with Cleveland for the most in the A.L. Before Friday’s game they held a team defensive session with cut-offs, relays and infield drills, which is something Melvin said will likely become more regular.
"It’s my fault -- you leave spring training, where you’re doing team defense every day, and now you get into the season where you’re doing more individual stuff and you need to keep doing some team defense," Melvin said. "We’re a better defensive team than we’ve showed here recently."