The Oakland A's announced some roster moves Friday morning, though none of them were unexpected. The goal of the moves was to get left-handed pitcher Eric Surkamp on the team so that he can start Friday evening against the Seattle Mariners.
In order to bring up Surkamp, two things had to happen. First, he needed to be added to the 40-man roster, which meant that someone else had to be removed to clear space. That someone turned out to be R.J. Alvarez, who was shifted to the 60-day DL while he recovers from surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Secondly, Surkamp had to be added to the active 25-man roster, and to clear space in that unit the A's optioned Andrew Lambo to Triple-A Nashville.
This whole process is necessary because of the early shakiness surrounding the fifth spot in the rotation. Jesse Hahn, who missed half of 2015 to injury, returned this spring looking healthy but rusty. The A's decided to send him to Triple-A to open the season so he can round into game shape, a decision made easier by the fact that they had a serviceable backup option in swingman Felix Doubront. Unfortunately, in the final game of the spring, Doubront left after one inning with a tight forearm and later went on the 15-day DL, leaving Oakland without an obvious option for Friday.
Surkamp joined the A's this spring as a non-roster invitee and pitched in six games, but it was his final performance that likely earned him this MLB opportunity. After Doubront departed with his injury in the exhibition against the Giants, Surkamp stepped in and fired off seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts and only three baserunners. In that outing, the lefty featured a fastball in the 88-90 mph range (topped out at 91) and a high-70s curveball, plus a changeup that he threw once, according to MLB Gameday.
This won't be the 28-year-old lefty's first time pitching in the big leagues. Since being drafted by San Francisco in 2008, Surkamp has appeared in MLB in four different seasons, for the Giants, White Sox, and Dodgers, with a 2012 Tommy John procedure sandwiched in between. His 6.47 ERA in 57 career innings leaves something to be desired, and he's walked nearly as many batters as he's struck out, but the point is that he's at least been there before. He also gets to add his name to a somewhat select Bay Area list:
Alvarez struggled last year in his first season in the A's organization. The fireballing reliever flashed his plus stuff but also his shaky control and command, leading to a lot of walks and homers as well as a 9.90 ERA in 20 frames. He looked even worse this spring, and eventually underwent a minor procedure to remove bone chips from his elbow.
Lambo was claimed off waivers by the A's in November. The slugging outfielder made the Opening Day roster at the last minute when Doubront went on the DL, since the team didn't need to add Doubront's replacement until today. That bought Lambo four days on the MLB squad, but with Oakland's crowded outfield it took until Thursday for the 27-year-old to find his way into a game. He entered in the 8th inning as a pinch-hitter against White Sox reliever Matt Albers, with two on and two out, but his sharp grounder was fielded by the first baseman to end the rally. Lambo will now factor into the Triple-A Nashville outfield with Jake Smolinski, Tyler Ladendorf, and top prospect Matt Olson, and he seems like one of the top choices to get called back up if someone in Oakland gets hurt.