The Oakland A’s activated pitcher Paul Blackburn from the 60-day disabled list on Thursday, the team announced. The right-hander will start the evening’s game against the Royals, marking his 2018 debut. To make room on the 25-man roster, catcher Bruce Maxwell was optioned to Triple-A Nashville; to make room on the 40-man squad, outfielder Boog Powell was transferred from the 10-day DL to the 60-day.
Blackburn made 10 starts for the A’s last year as a rookie, but he went down this spring with a forearm strain and missed the first two months of the season. The 24-year-old returned to the mound at the end of May for a minor league rehab appearance with High-A Stockton, and he was scheduled to make another in Triple-A before instead coming straight back to Oakland. At the moment there’s no reason to believe he’ll go beyond the 75 pitches he was originally set for in Nashville, which could mean some extra work for the bullpen.
Blackburn, 2017 OAK: 3.22 ERA, 58⅔ ip, 22 Ks, 16 BB, 5 HR, 4.39 FIP
Blackburn, 5/31 A+: 3⅔ ip, 3 runs, 1 K 1 BB, 8 hits, 62 pitches
Even with the return of Blackburn the A’s have four more starters on the DL, with another three out of action in Triple-A. The most recent loss was Daniel Gossett, who left his last outing on Sunday and won’t throw for at least a few weeks. The rotation has hung on so far through all the injuries, but the depth is almost completely depleted to the point that external help was called in on Wednesday. Getting back an effective Blackburn would be a huge boost to the unit.
Meanwhile, the catching situation got a shakeup. Josh Phegley was called up earlier this week when Gossett went on the DL, and now Maxwell is the one heading out to make room for the new pitcher. Maxwell has spent all year in Oakland as Jonathan Lucroy’s backup, as well as the lefty foil to the veteran’s righty bat. However, he hasn’t managed to produce anything at the plate, though he did finally hit his first homer of the year on Saturday.
Maxwell, 2018: .182/.207/.309, 35 wRC+, 1 HR, 3.4% BB, 22.4% Ks
Now Phegley will get a chance as the MLB backup, platoon considerations be darned, and Maxwell will search for his bat in Nashville.
Phegley, 2018 AAA: .235/.331/.412, 91 wRC+, 3 HR, 10.8% BB, 22.3% Ks
Phegley, 2018 MLB: 1-for-4, double, RBI, K
As for Powell, who is on the shelf with a sprained knee retroactive to April 7, the last update had him taking batting practice last week. At this point he’s already been out 60 days anyway, so his shift to the more severe DL doesn’t tell us anything new about his injury; it’s a procedural move to make room for Blackburn on the 40-man roster, a sentiment echoed by Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Powell had been playing CF before he got hurt, and in his absence top prospect Dustin Fowler — the “CF of the future” — has seized control of the position as hoped and is looking promising on both sides of the ball.