It’s been over a week since our last Oakland A’s injury update, because the initial aches and pains of the spring were as minor as advertised. Matt Chapman is back in the lineup, Sean Manaea is back on the mound, and Jorge Mateo is sprinting around the bases, among other happy stories. The biggest name still out at the beginning of the week was Renato Nunez, who’s recovering from a simple pulled hammy.
Unfortunately, the real injury bug arrived on Monday, with some problems that will likely extend into the regular season. Here’s a rundown.
Oakland’s starting rotation has been the clear weakness of the team this spring, but Cotton was beginning to step up after a pair of dominant 4-inning outings. Forget all that for now, though, because he left Monday’s game with elbow soreness and is heading for an MRI, reports Martin Gallegos of the East Bay Times and the other beat writers. Insider Jane Lee goes on to say that Cotton’s velocity had been down and that the issue led to his early departure, and also that he’d experienced tightness last September but with no structural damage found.
Hot takes: This could all turn out to be nothing and he could be ready for the season. However, when a pitcher loses velocity and then goes for an MRI on an elbow that’s been bothering him since the previous fall, the obvious fear is that he could be headed for Tommy John. We don’t yet know that’s what will happen so let’s not jump to conclusions. But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, and we’ve seen plenty of starters go down with spring TJS in recent years (Parker, Griffin, Doubront). This is the last thing the A’s can afford, as the rotation was already perilously thin and now has almost zero margin for error.
Hopefully the remaining group can make it at least a few weeks into the season, so that the failure to sign a veteran stopgap starter doesn’t force us to turn to top prospect A.J. Puk so quickly that we lose a year of his service time.
The reliever has missed most of the spring already due a shoulder issue, but he’s finally beginning to throw on Tuesday, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. In her full article, Slusser goes on to mention that Dull isn’t likely to be ready for the beginning of the season.
Hot takes: Even if healthy, it’s hard to see how Dull would have made the team out of camp. He still has minor league options remaining, and the conversation pretty much ends there given Oakland’s overflowing bullpen. Of course, injury is never the way you want to solve a logjam, but the point is the A’s can afford to be patient here.
The A’s played the Giants on Monday, and for some reason San Francisco threw a temper tantrum in an exhibition game and repeatedly threw at A’s hitters. The victim turned out to be outfield prospect Laureano, who was hit on the hand and broke a pinky finger, reports Gallegos and the insiders. Slusser notes in her article that Laureano is expected to miss several weeks.
Hot takes: I wasn’t there and didn’t see the incidents, so I can’t say anything for sure. But the Giants gave up a homer to the A’s, then the next batter (Khrush) received a brushback pitch. There was a kerfuffle, and two batters later a new Giants pitcher hit Laureano. That’s all potentially within the realm of coincidental spring wildness, and Bob Melvin was diplomatic in his response (via John Shea, S.F. Chronicle), but when there’s an emotional rivalry involved it’s a tough sell that everything was an accident.
The A’s eventually retaliated (Gossett vs. Calixte), which I’d rather they didn’t, and Bochy had the gall to complain (in a way that ever-classy Melvin had refrained from). Summary: Giants threw first, actually injured someone, and yet were the only ones to complain about the whole thing. Get it together, Giants.
On the bright side, if there’s one area of the organization where Oakland can afford to lose someone, it’s Triple-A outfielders (Laureano was not in the running to make the Opening Day roster). There could be as many as eight or more bodies competing for three spots (maybe five spots, with 1B and DH as possible overflow destinations), so losing someone for a spell just means that a different someone will get an extra chance. Still, though, this isn’t how you want to solve a positional battle. All the best for a speedy recovery for Laureano.