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Oakland A’s patchwork rotation continues to evolve as injuries mount

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Daniel Gossett officially goes on the DL, though reliever Liam Hendriks returns.

Daniel Gossett is the latest starter to go down.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s rotation took yet another hit over the weekend, as Daniel Gossett left his start on Sunday with elbow tightness. The bullpen picked him up and the A’s won the game, but the greater point remains that this is the third time in less than three weeks that they’ve lost a starter mid-game to an injury. The right-hander officially went on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday with an elbow strain, the team announced.

The A’s already had a full rotation’s worth of starters on the DL, even before losing Gossett. Jharel Cotton and Paul Blackburn went down in the spring, Andrew Triggs and Brett Anderson were hurt on back-to-back days in May, and Kendall Graveman is now on the Triple-A Nashville DL with a forearm strain. A reminder of what the depth chart looked like entering the spring, including a couple late-spring additions:

  1. Kendall Graveman
  2. Sean Manaea
  3. Daniel Mengden
  4. Jharel Cotton
  5. Paul Blackburn
  6. Andrew Triggs
  7. Trevor Cahill
  8. Daniel Gossett
  9. Brett Anderson
  10. A.J. Puk
  11. Grant Holmes
  12. Frankie Montas
  13. Chris Bassitt?
  14. James Naile?

Fortunately these latest maladies aren’t yet considered serious. Graveman is currently expected to miss “10 days max,” reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Gossett was scheduled for an MRI on Monday, but he downplayed the whole episode as precautionary in Slusser’s full writeup. (Update: Gossett “won’t pitch for several weeks,” reports Slusser.)

Perhaps these two will be back before we know it, but the fact remains that they’ve been the fallback options to this point. As the injuries have mounted, we’ve always been able to look back and know that Graveman and Gossett were available in a pinch, and now that buffer is gone. Frankie Montas shocked us all by showing up and tossing two straight gems, but he’s gone from bonus arm to absolute necessity as his teammates continue to drop like flies.

There’s still time to figure out this latest problem, though. The Healthy Four are lined up for the next few games so the open fifth spot doesn’t come up again until Saturday, and then there’s an off-day on Monday. If Gossett and/or Graveman do indeed return quickly, then perhaps one strategically timed bullpen game could tide things over for another week until they’re ready — after all, Oakland has already successfully done (and won) the bullpen game once, and the relievers also helped win all three games when the starters got hurt early and required emergency backup.

Otherwise, the A’s would have to turn to the 13th name on their depth chart. There’s not yet any official indication of whom that might be, but the obvious guesses would include Chris Bassitt and James Naile. Both are starting for Triple-A Nashville, and Bassitt is already on the 40-man roster. In terms of performance, Bassitt is slowly warming back up to starting after a lengthy TJS recovery and a foray into long relief, while Naile began the year strong but has been knocked around his last two times out (and four of his last six outings).

Bassitt, last 3 starts: 4.20 ERA, 15 ip, 18 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR, 2.81 FIP
Naile, AAA: 3.84 ERA, 61 ip, 39 Ks, 17 BB, 4 HR, 4.62 FIP

Beyond those two, there’s lefty veteran org filler Eric Jokisch (5.01 FIP in Triple-A), 27-year-old righty Ben Bracewell (4.14 FIP in Triple-A last year, just got promoted back up to Nashville last week), and of course the trusty waiver wire (there’s an open spot on the 40-man roster). We’re officially approaching crisis mode in terms of the pitching depth, unless a couple of injured hurlers find their way back to action soon. On that note, Paul Blackburn is already on a minor league rehab assignment, though his return isn’t yet imminent (or is it?).

The good news is that the remaining healthy arms are all doing great. Manaea had a poor May but was AL Pitcher of the Month in April, Mengden made a bid for the same award in May, Cahill has been quality most times out, and Montas is on an unexpected roll. Even with all this bad news, it could be much worse.

  1. Manaea: 3.60 ERA, 75 ip, 56 Ks, 14 BB, 10 HR, 4.20 FIP
  2. Mengden: 2.91 ERA, 74⅓ ip, 48 Ks, 8 BB, 6 HR, 3.20 FIP
  3. Cahill: 2.77 ERA, 48⅔ ip, 47 Ks, 11 BB, 4 HR, 3.06 FIP
  4. Montas: 0.64 ERA, 14 ip, 9 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 2.69 FIP

Each of them carries plenty of reasons why they might not continue these strong performances, especially the relatively untested Montas. They’re also all injury risks in their own right, as every one of them hit the DL last year.

The other good news is that the bullpen appears rock solid in support of whatever the rotation needs. They have lockdown arms for the late situations, plenty of multi-inning capability to get through long assignments, and more depth stashed in Triple-A. Even with two relievers on the shelf with their own injuries, there are still names like Josh Lucas, Carlos Ramirez, and Bobby Wahl waiting in the wings to tap in for the current eight-man unit.

The A’s pitching depth was always going to be tested this year, but June only just began and things have already gotten ridiculous. They’ve weathered every storm so far, and there could be enough tricks left in their sleeve to absorb a couple more blows, but there are still 102 more games to get through. Let’s hope the worst news is already behind us.

Tuesday roster moves

The team announced several moves this afternoon. To offset Gossett landing on the DL, catcher Josh Phegley was called up. As noted above, the A’s won’t need a fifth starter for a few more days, so they may as well add an extra bat to the bench until they need that roster spot again.

In better injury news, reliever Liam Hendriks was activated after missing nearly two months. The right-hander had a cyst removed from his hip but is now good to go after a couple rehab outings in Triple-A. Hendriks only appeared in six MLB games this year before hitting the shelf on April 13, and all told he retired just 9-of-17 batters he faced (3 ip, 3 runs, 1 K, 3 BB, 1 HR, 7 hits). To make room for his return, fellow reliever Josh Lucas was sent back to Nashville; he’s taxied back and forth all year as needed, and will presumably continue to do so.

Here’s an updated look at the pitching depth.

Oakland A's pitching depth
MLB AAA
Starters

Sean Manaea (L)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Trevor Cahill (R)
Frankie Montas (R)

Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)
Yusmerio Petit (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Danny Coulombe (L)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Emilio Pagan (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
AAA starters

Chris Bassitt (R)*
James Naile (R)
Eric Jokisch (L)
Ben Bracewell (R)

AAA relievers

Josh Lucas (R)*
Carlos Ramirez (R)*
Bobby Wahl (R)
Jake Sanchez (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Raul Alcantara (R)
Jeremy Bleich (L)
Dean Kiekhefer (L)
Jarret Martin (L)

* = on 40-man roster

10-day DL: RHP Daniel Gossett (elbow), RHP Andrew Triggs (arm nerve), LHP Brett Anderson (shoulder), LHP Ryan Buchter (shoulder), RHP Santiago Casilla (shoulder)

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

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