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Oakland A’s activate John Axford, place Ryan Dull on DL

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Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s announced some changes to their disabled list Saturday morning. Relief pitcher John Axford was activated, and to make room fellow reliever Ryan Dull was placed on the 10-day DL with a strained right knee. Starting pitcher Daniel Mengden was also activated, but he was immediately optioned to Triple-A Nashville.

Axford hasn’t yet pitched for the A’s this year. The right-hander was on the Opening Day roster but went on the DL for his shoulder before getting in a game — according to the A’s press release, this was the first time he’d ever gone on the DL in his career. The 34-year-old breezed through three sparkling rehab outings in Triple-A over the last week.

He returns to an A’s bullpen that could use some late-inning help. They recently went through a stretch in which they blew a save in four out of five games, and they’ve generally struggled in pressure situations. Axford has seen 227 save/hold chances in his career and converted 83.7% of them, so he’s got some experience. His numbers from last year with Oakland:

Axford, 2016: 68 games, 3.97 ERA, 65⅔ ip, 60 Ks, 30 BB, 6 HR, 4.01 FIP

Also in 2016: Converted only 8-of-15 save/hold chances

Meanwhile, Dull has not replicated his success so far after a breakout campaign last year. The right-hander’s pinpoint control has eluded him, and batters are finding ways to get on base regularly. He pitched beautifully Friday night, tossing a scoreless 10th to set up a walk-off victory against Boston, but felt something in his knee while doing so (via Susan Slusser) and will have an MRI (Slusser).

Dull, 2017: 18 games, 6.32 ERA, 15⅔ ip, 18 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR, 4.31 FIP

Bright side: He’s 9-of-10 in save/hold spots

And finally, Mengden is back! The 24-year-old had foot surgery just before spring training and has missed the whole season so far. He’s made three rehab starts in Triple-A this month, including Thursday when he went: 6 ip, 1 run, 7 Ks, 0 BB, 4 hits, 1 HR. Oakland’s rotation is already healthy and full at the moment so Mengden will remain in Nashville for now, but consider that there is now a second legit starter (along with Jharel Cotton) ready to go next time someone gets hurt.

Mengden, 2016: 14 starts, 6.50 ERA, 72 ip, 71 Ks, 33 BB, 9 HR, 4.34 FIP

Note: Yes that’s a high ERA. Yes, he is better than that.

In terms of the pitching staff, the A’s DL still includes reliever Sean Doolittle (throwing off a mound next week?) and starter Chris Bassitt (final stages of Tommy John recovery). For more on Doolittle, here is Slusser’s full story at the S.F. Chronicle.

Hot takes: Axford was an expected arrival, and in fact a couple days ago I suggested optioning the struggling Dull to the minors to make room for the veteran’s return. Unfortunately Dull is going on the DL instead of simply down to Triple-A for a breather, but at least the timing is convenient.

On one hand, Axford is sort of like Santiago Casilla — a nice pitcher to have in the 7th, but probably stretched in the 9th at this point in his career. On the other hand, nothing else seems to be working reliably right now, so I’m open to any usage of Ax. However, if it was up to me I’d also make sure to use this opportunity to give rookie Bobby Wahl a couple looks in the late innings.