OAKLAND -- The A’s today activated outfielder Craig Gentry from the disabled list and optioned reliever Dan Otero to Triple-A Sacramento, a move timed to tonight’s opener of a big series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Gentry, who had been on the DL since July 28 with a broken right hand, is in the lineup batting second and playing left field as the A’s face left-hander Hector Santiago. With Gentry, Jed Lowrie and Nick Punto all injured recently, the A’s have not had their full complement of right-handed hitters for when they faced a left-handed pitcher. Tonight they’re able to started eight right-handed or switch-hitters against Santiago.
Gentry has also hit the Angels particularly well this season, going 11-for-27 in seven games. He has missed a significant amount of time, however, and played in only two rehab games at Triple-A Sacramento before being reinstated. In those games, he was hitless in seven at-bats with three strikeouts.
Manager Bob Melvin said he "heard the at-bats were good," though the results were not. But Melvin emphasized that activating Gentry today "was more about the timing and the need."
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That left Otero as the odd man out. Melvin acknowledged that Otero has done nothing to warrant a demotion -- he has been with the A’s all season, is 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 56 games and ranks second in innings (71) among American League relievers. He’s also the most versatile member of the A’s bullpen in terms of where Melvin can use him and for how many innings.
The problem for Otero, though, was that he did have options left. And while he’s pitched in all different situations, his typical role is middle relief. Melvin said the A’s feel that if their starters can get them deep into games with a lead, they have "three or four guys that can finish it out for us."
"It was a hard one," Melvin said of the decision. "(Otero) probably thought I was kidding at first. But actually after I was trying to explain to him what was going on, he made it easier on me. But not one I was looking forward to doing."
For the A’s, at least, it is a short-term loss. Teams can expand their rosters on Sept. 1, at which point Otero will be back in Oakland. Melvin was asked if the brief time at Triple-A may benefit Otero as well, given his heavy workload with the A’s this season, and said it’s possible, though Otero hasn’t shown signs of wear.
"Maybe to an extent," Melvin said, "but he’s pretty economical in what he does, he’s got a low-maintenance delivery, he’s not throwing 95. But if you’re looking for silver linings, as far as that goes, that would be one of them."
Here’s the A’s lineup for tonight’s opener against the Angels:
And the Angels’ lineup against A’s right-hander Sonny Gray:
* Another of the A’s missing right-handed bats, first baseman Kyle Blanks, is not near a return. Blanks, rehabbing from a calf injury, had started playing rehab games but recently had "some setbacks," Melvin said.
Melvin said Blanks is now dealing with pain in both legs "really from the ankles down." Blanks was scheduled to have an MRI today. "He’s having some trouble," Melvin said.
Punto, meanwhile, is "doing a little bit better" recovering from a hamstring strain, Melvin said. "But he’s still not doing baseball activity that would suggest he’s coming back any time soon."
* The Angels are also dealing with some significant injury news right now, having lost right-hander Garrett Richards to a torn patellar tendon suffered Wednesday in Boston. Richards is 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA this season, and will reportedly be sidelined for six to nine months after undergoing surgery.
It’s a big blow to the Angels in the middle of a pennant race. Richards was not going to pitch in this series against the A’s, but figured to play a major role for the Angels down the stretch. Melvin’s take on the injury:
"You hate seeing anybody get hurt. We prefer everybody plays full-strength against everybody. But that’s just the nature of the business.
"It was tough to watch, and being out, from what I hear, six to nine months is definitely a blow for them. Hopefully he comes back healthy after something like that. But it’s just part of what you have to go through during the baseball season, is injuries."
* The A’s and Angels enter this series on very different trajectories. Oakland is 2-8 in its last 10 games; the Angels are 8-2 in theirs. As a result, the Angels lead the West by two games and could leave town after this series up by five, down by one or anywhere in between.
"Hopefully this kind of picks up our intensity a little bit, moves us past what was a difficult period for us, really the first one of the year," Melvin said. "Hopefully getting them here and the excitement of the series gets us back to doing some of the things we’ve been doing for the better part of the season."
Having Gray get back on top would be a good place to start. After being named the A.L. pitcher of the month in July, Gray has lost all four of his starts in August, posting a 4.94 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. He has allowed 27 hits and eight walks while striking out just 18. Melvin said that for Gray it might be as simple as "getting off to a good start."