The Oakland Athletics optioned starting pitcher Tommy Milone to Triple-A on Saturday to make room on the 25-man roster and in the rotation for Jeff Samardzija, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on Friday. Jason Hammel, also acquired in the deal, will likely be added to the roster on Sunday, with the delayed move giving the A's a little more time to decide on a corresponding transaction.
Milone has been a pleasant surprise this year, as he's bounced back from a rough sophomore season in 2013. He's made 16 starts, and his 3.55 ERA is good for a 107 ERA+ to go along with a solid 2.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He threw six scoreless innings in Oakland's victory over the Blue Jays on Friday and has notched eight quality starts in his last 11 outings.
Just because Milone is going down doesn't mean that he is out of the rotation for good, though. Buck Mills is the more likely candidate for a permanent departure, but with the bullpen getting taxed in yesterday's 12-inning affair, Billy Beane probably decided to keep him around for an extra day to help out in relief if needed. Six relievers threw an inning apiece in that game, with only the out-of-favor Jim Johnson being passed over. It's possible that Milone could come back later in the year (or even later in July) once Mills is out of the picture, especially if the team decides to move Jesse Chavez into the bullpen as he approaches a career-high innings pitched. In fact, Milone may miss only one start if he is brought back after the minimum 10-day period after a demotion, since there are only nine games in the next 10 days due to the impending All-Star break.
When all is said and done, Mills and Johnson are the best bets for permanent removal from the team, with either Milone or Chavez moving to the bullpen to make room in the rotation for Samardzija and Hammel. Or, Hammel could still be flipped to another team for help elsewhere, most likely at second base, which would keep both Milone and Chavez in the rotation. The key is that Milone is the only one of all those players who can be sent down and then brought back (everyone else in this paragraph is out of options), so this makes sense in the short-short-term.
Scott Kazmir is scheduled to start Saturday's game for the Athletics, and it's likely that Samardzija will make his Oakland debut on Sunday in the series finale against Toronto. Samardzija had been scheduled to start on Saturday for the Cubs.