The Oakland A’s placed relief pitcher John Axford on the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday, the team announced. The right-hander has a strained shoulder and his DL stint is retroactive to April 2. To replace him on the active roster, fellow right-hander Jesse Hahn was recalled from Triple-A Nashville.
Axford, 34, hasn’t yet pitched this season, though he was active during spring training and appeared in eight Cactus League games. He’s probably not part of the late-inning closing committee (Madson, Casilla, Dull, Doo?), but he still represents a solid veteran arm for the middle innings.
Melvin says Axford felt shoulder discomfort while warming up last night. He's getting an MRI right now.— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) April 5, 2017
Fortunately, the A’s bullpen might be both the strongest and deepest area of the roster, so if they could afford an injury anywhere it was there. They’re already carrying an extra eighth arm anyway, and they have several intriguing options (both veterans and prospects) waiting in Triple-A. The current group:
- Ryan Madson (R)
- Santiago Casilla (R)
- Sean Doolittle (L)
- Ryan Dull (R)
- Liam Hendriks (R)
John Axford (R)(DL)
- Daniel Coulombe (L)
- Frankie Montas (R)
- Jesse Hahn (R)
Meanwhile, Hahn was the odd man out in the competition for the starting rotation this spring.
It’s unclear precisely what his role will be for now, but presumably he will pitch out of the pen until/unless we hear otherwise. (UPDATE: He will now serve as the long man in the bullpen, via Jane Lee.) And with the relatively inexperienced Andrew Triggs (Thu.) and Raul Alcantara (Fri.) scheduled to start this week, having a spare swingman available as insurance does indeed sound appealing.
One more possible result of this small early-season shuffle:
Montas could move up in bigger role, Melvin says not afraid to use him in 'plus' games (A's have lead). #Athletics— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichNBCS) April 5, 2017
The A’s opened the season with five players on the DL, but this is their first injury since play began. The current DL:
- RHP Sonny Gray (lat/shoulder)
- RHP John Axford (shoulder)
- RHP Daniel Mengden (foot surgery)
- RHP Chris Bassitt (TJS, May 2016)
- 2B Joey Wendle (shoulder)
- OF Jake Smolinski (shoulder surgery)
Hot take: I completely understand bringing up Hahn at this moment. The bullpen has already thrown six total innings in the first two games, and that was with their most reliable starters on the mound. Someone is going to have to start throwing multiple innings per game at some point, and a true long man will probably become essential sooner than later.
There’s still nearly a month until Jaff Decker can opt out and the current outfield is doing fine so far, so there’s no rush on him. But there’s every chance that the pen might need to throw 5-6 innings on either Thu/Fri if one of the backend starters struggles. Covering that contingency should indeed be the highest priority right now, with the understanding that further moves can always be made next week if needed.
Also, I know we criticize Axford a lot here on AN, but he’s still a human being and an MLB-caliber pitcher and he still wears our colors, so get well soon my dude.