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Brett Anderson leaves start with shoulder strain, A’s pitching depth tested again

It’s the second straight game that an Oakland A’s starter has left injured.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight night, the Oakland A’s starting pitcher left the game early with an injury. On Thursday it was Andrew Triggs with nerve irritation in his arm, and this time it’s Brett Anderson with a shoulder strain, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.

Anderson only made it through one inning on Friday. He faced four batters in a scoreless 1st against the Blue Jays, then left before beginning the 2nd. This was his eighth start of the season, between minors and majors combined. His name is virtually synonymous with injury, so this latest one won’t come as a huge surprise to anyone, but for what it’s worth Slusser does note that none of his past DL stints have involved his shoulder.

There’s no official word yet about whether Anderson will need to go on the DL, as Triggs already did earlier on Thursday. Assuming that he does, though, Oakland would need to add two new starters to their rotation in the next week or so. The most obvious candidates at Triple-A Nashville are Kendall Graveman and Daniel Gossett.

After a horrible April in the bigs, Graveman went back to Nashville to get himself sorted out. He fared much better in a spot MLB start against the Yankees last week (6 ip, 1 ER, 4 Ks, 2 BB), and he posted a quality outing for Nashville on Friday (6 ip, 2 runs, 3 Ks, 2 BB). Meanwhile, Gossett made two poor starts for the A’s in early April but has been excellent since returning to Nashville.

Graveman, MLB: 7.60 ERA, 34⅓ ip, 27 Ks, 13 BB, 9 HR, 6.20 FIP
Graveman, AAA: 5.00 ERA, 18 ip, 11 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR

Gossett MLB: 11.05 ERA, 7⅓ ip, 3 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 5.73 FIP
Gossett, AAA: 1.63 ERA, 38⅔ ip, 42 Ks, 16 BB, 1 HR, 3.37 FIP

Click here for a full update on Triple-A Nashville’s pitching staff, including starters Frankie Montas and James Naile.

The A’s have Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Toronto, then an off-day on Monday, and Trevor Cahill scheduled for Tuesday. If Anderson joins Triggs on the DL, then Oakland would need their next starter up for Wednesday at home against the Mariners. That just happens to be Graveman’s next turn on normal rest.

Speculating further, Gossett last pitched on Tuesday and isn’t scheduled again until at least Monday, but thanks to the off-day the A’s could push back their next open slot until Saturday, May 26 against the D’Backs. That could work logistically, with Gossett and everyone else getting normal rest. To be clear, these last two paragraphs are all guesswork, and not related to any official report.

In the meantime, the most amazing part of this story is that the A’s went on to win each of the last two games despite losing their starters. Triggs left in the 3rd and Anderson in the 2nd, but the bullpen picked up the other 14⅔ innings along the way. On Thursday the lineup played hero, plating 10 runs to give the emergency pitching staff plenty of margin for error. On Friday the relievers didn’t get so much leeway, but they responded with eight innings of one-run, four-hit ball. Josh Lucas was a particular standout, just hours after being called up from Nashville, as he struck out seven batters over 3⅔ sparkling frames.

The full bullpen rundown for the last two days:

Oakland A's emergency bullpen
Thursday Friday
-Triggs: 2⅓ ip, 1 ER
-Casilla: 2 ip, 3 ER
-Petit: 2⅔ ip, 0 ER
-Dull: ⅔ ip, 1 ER
-Trivino: 1⅓ ip, 0 ER
-Anderson: 1 ip, 0 ER
-Lucas: 3⅔ ip, 1 ER
-Coulombe: 1⅓ ip, 0 ER
-Hatcher: 1 ip, 0 ER
-Petit: ⅔ ip, 0 ER
-Treinen: 1⅓ ip, 0 ER

The only two relievers who didn’t pitch in either game are Emilio Pagan, who was just called up before Friday’s contest, and long man Wilmer Font. It might seem odd that Font didn’t factor into a pair of games in which long relief work was needed, but to be fair the timing was never quite right on Thursday and the score was far too close for a mop-up man on Friday. Still, at some point the A’s are going to have to use Font in an actual game. He technically could be a candidate to make a spot start, but there’s currently no reason to expect that given his complete lack of usage (just two appearances in May).

The A’s starting rotation depth was always a clear weakness this year, and the only question was if/when it would become an outright problem. We’re not quite at full panic point yet, with the top three arms still healthy and two more MLB-caliber bodies available to fill in. Triggs and Anderson aren’t yet officially gone long-term, but even if they are then that was always something we expected would happen eventually — neither were ever likely to pitch the full season given their track records. Paul Blackburn is also making progress in his own return from injury, and there are a couple more sleepers in Nashville between Naile and Montas. We’re not at DEFCON Jokisch yet. But we’re a couple steps closer.

Here’s where the pitching depth stood entering Friday. We’ll see if any more moves are made this weekend. Let’s take some deep breaths and remember that the A’s have a winning record, the lineup is still an absolute monster, and there are still five viable starters available. The sky is not yet falling, it’s just kind of hanging there precariously. Best wishes to all the A’s injured players as they recover!

Oakland A's pitching depth

Sean Manaea (L)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Trevor Cahill (R)
Brett Anderson (L) ??


Blake Treinen (R)
Yusmerio Petit (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Danny Coulombe (L)
Emilio Pagan (R)
Santiago Casilla (R)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Josh Lucas (R)
Wilmer Font (R)
AAA starters

Kendall Graveman (R)*
Daniel Gossett (R)*
Frankie Montas (R)*
Chris Bassitt (R)*
James Naile (R)
Eric Jokisch (L)

AAA relievers

Ryan Dull (R)*
Bobby Wahl (R)
Jake Sanchez (R)
Raul Alcantara (R)
J.B Wendelken (R)
Jeremy Bleich (L)

* = on 40-man roster

10-day DL: RHP Andrew Triggs (forearm), LHP Ryan Buchter (shoulder), RHP Liam Hendriks (groin)

60-day DL: RHP Jharel Cotton (TJS), RHP Paul Blackburn (forearm strain)

AAA injuries: LHP A.J. Puk (TJS), RHP Grant Holmes (shoulder), RHP Kyle Finnegan