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Oakland A's place Sean Doolittle on DL, shuffle bullpen

With so many stars returning this week, the health gods required a sacrifice.
With so many stars returning this week, the health gods required a sacrifice.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Oakland A's did a bit of shuffling in their overworked bullpen on Thursday. Late-inning stud Sean Doolittle was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder strain and long man Zach Neal was optioned back to Triple-A Nashville, and to replace them the A's called up righty Andrew Triggs and lefty Daniel Coulombe.

News of Doolittle's shoulder issue came to light on Wednesday, when the beat writers reported on his questionable availability for that day's game. According to the insiders, Doolittle said that his recent heavy workload had his shoulder feeling sore. They did specify that it was not in the same area that caused him to miss most of the 2015 season, but clearly it was enough of a problem to sit him down for a couple weeks. He last pitched on Saturday (June 25).

Doo is enjoying a strong bounce-back season, and his fastball is back up to 95 mph on average (and rising a full tick each month, according to Brooks Baseball). He has converted 12-of-13 leads (4 saves, 8 holds, 1 blown), and he's entered in the 8th inning or later in 24 of his 35 appearances. His overall numbers:

Doolittle, 2016: 35 games, 2.93 ERA, 30⅔ ip, 35 Ks, 8 BB, 5 HR

* * *

Neal was in his third stint in Oakland this year as a warm body with a valid employment contract. The right-hander made emergency spot starts in his first two stints but pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this time around, making five appearances and earning both his first MLB win (in that wild 13-11 game against the Giants) and his first MLB save (long relief in a 14-5 victory). His overall numbers:

Neal, 2016: 8 games, 8.04 ERA, 15⅔ ip, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 4 HR

* * *

Coulombe has been a quietly effective taxi reliever for the A's this year, shuttling back and forth between Nashville when needed. This will be his fourth stint in Oakland this year, with none of them so far lasting more than two weeks. The lefty will bring his four-seam fastball (90 mph avg), cutter, and curve as he tries to move closer toward his sparkling Triple-A numbers (1.17 ERA, 23 ip, 34 Ks, 5 BB). His MLB numbers:

Coulombe, 2016: 10 games, 4.61 ERA, 13⅔ ip, 9 Ks, 3 BB, 4 HR

* * *

Triggs is also arriving for his fourth stint in Oakland this year, bringing his sinker (91 mph avg), slider, cutter, and somewhat sidearm delivery. He's done the dirty work for the A's when he's been on the team, often being left out on the mound to soak up multiple innings during blowouts and even being tasked with making a start during a bullpen game on June 3. He's thrown multiple innings in six of his 11 outings, topping out at four frames in that start against Houston.

While he does have the ability to go more than one inning, he usually doesn't perform quite as well over longer appearances and that is a big reason why his MLB numbers are so unsightly. He's made shorter outings in Triple-A and boasts solid numbers there (3.14 ERA, 14⅓ ip, 19 Ks, 5 BB). His MLB numbers:

Triggs, 2016: 11 games, 7.29 ERA, 21 ip, 19 Ks, 5 BB, 4 HR

* * *

There should be one more move coming Saturday, as lefty Rich Hill is expected to return from the DL to start against the Pirates. It seems likely that a fellow starter will go down to make room, though. At some point the A's may want to send down a reliever to bring up a fourth position player for the bench (particularly a backup middle infielder), but for now the eight-man pen looks like this (including how many pitches they've thrown the last few days, with minor league outings in italics):

R/L Name ERA 6/29 6/28 6/27
RHP Ryan Madson (C) 3.00 - 43 -
RHP John Axford 5.23 14 15 -
LHP Daniel Coulombe 4.61 - - 12
RHP Ryan Dull 2.23 10 7 -
RHP Liam Hendriks 6.75 24 - -
RHP Fernando Rodriguez 3.40 - - 7
LHP Marc Rzepczynski 3.04 - 13 1
RHP Andrew Triggs 7.29 - 17 -