The Oakland A’s called up pitcher Frankie Montas on Thursday, the team announced. The right-hander will start the evening’s game against the Mariners. They also called up reliever J.B. Wendelken. To make room on the roster, reliever Ryan Dull and outfielder Nick Martini were optioned to Triple-A Nashville.
The A’s rotation has been slammed by injuries all season, and the bug hit them once again over the last week. Both Sean Manaea and Brett Anderson went on the disabled list in the span of three days, leaving a gaping hole to be filled. Fortunately, Oakland had some depth ready for such an emergency, and Montas is a big part of that contingency plan. The 25-year-old has already made 10 starts in the bigs this year, with encouraging numbers.
Montas, 2018: 3.75 ERA, 57⅔ ip, 39 Ks, 19 BB, 4 HR, 3.80 FIP
We last saw Montas in late July, but he’s continued getting regular work in Nashville since then. He made five starts in the minors this month and posted some shaky results, but for what it’s worth his worst outing came in the high-elevation environment of Colorado Springs. Overall his recent line in those games includes the following:
Montas, AAA last 5 gms: 5.96 ERA, 25⅔ ip, 25 Ks, 11 BB, 2 HR, 4.21 FIP
The other open spot in the rotation will be filled by Daniel Mengden on Saturday. Mengden came up on Monday and pitched out of the bullpen, providing long relief after an early exit from Anderson. The right-hander tossed four scoreless innings in that game, temporarily shutting down a Houston lineup that plated 11 runs on the evening.
As for the future of the rotation, that’s still up in the air. There aren’t yet any updates on Anderson’s forearm strain, but Manaea’s diagnosis came back as rotator cuff tendinitis and it’s possible his season might be over, reports insider Jane Lee. There are still five healthy arms with one more piece of viable depth behind them (Cahill, Fiers, Jackson, Mengden, Montas, plus Bassitt), but the A’s may experiment with some bullpen games as well once rosters expand on Saturday and there are extra relievers available (via Susan Slusser, S.F. Chronicle).
In the meantime, though, rosters are still limited to 25 players and so Martini is the odd man out. The 28-year-old rookie came out of nowhere to become a contributor in Oakland, and in particular he’s done a great job getting on base out of the leadoff spot. He’s slowed down recently (.299 OBP in August, .212 last nine games), but he’s also notched a couple of key clutch hits in close victories over the Astros, including the game-winner on Tuesday.
Martini, 2018: .257/.361/.366, 104 wRC+, 0 HR, 10.9% BB, 20.2% Ks
It might seem odd to see Martini sent down, but there is method to the madness. The A’s face lefty starters in four of the next six games through next Tuesday so he would have been out of the lineup anyway, and by the time that stretch is finished he’ll be eligible to return because Nashville’s season will have ended (last game is Monday). This appears to be more of a procedural shuffle than an indictment of Martini’s play. The A’s still have Stephen Piscotty, Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha, and Chad Pinder to handle the outfield for now, with the chance for further reinforcements when rosters expand on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the bullpen gets a small shakeup too. Dull came up on Tuesday for a brief stint and had an excellent outing on Wednesday, albeit in a losing effort. With the A’s facing a surmountable one-run deficit in the 5th but their starter already gone, the right-hander entered and tossed two scoreless innings to keep his team in the game. He retired 6-of-7 batters faced, with just a walk along the way. It’s been a rough year for Dull, but this was one of his better performances.
In Dull’s place, Oakland adds a fresh arm in Wendelken. The right-hander missed all of 2017 after Tommy John surgery but returned to the bigs this year in late July, showing well in five games. He maintains huge strikeout rates in the minors, and in his five games since being sent back down to Nashville he’s tossed seven scoreless frames with seven Ks. He dialed up as high as 98 mph in his MLB stint, sitting at 96 and complementing his fastball with a curve and changeup.
Wendelken, 2018: 1.59 ERA, 5⅔ ip, 7 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 5.10 FIP
With the bullpen working hard this week in the Houston series (14⅔ ip in three games), and two backup starters rejoining the mix this weekend, it makes sense for the A’s to keep as many relievers as possible the next couple days against the Mariners. The downside is that they’ll only have a two-man bench in the meantime, with a backup catcher and whichever right-handed outfielder doesn’t start, but rosters expand on Saturday so that problem will be short-lived. They could also send down Montas tomorrow (Friday) in exchange for a new hitter like Dustin Fowler, and then bring back Montas in time for his next turn on Tuesday, which would mean just one game tonight (Thursday) with a short bench.
Here’s the new-look roster, though it will change in a couple days when September arrives and the 25-man limit goes up to 40.
Trevor Cahill (R)
Mike Fiers (R)
Edwin Jackson (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Frankie Montas (R)
Blake Treinen (R)
Jeurys Familia (R)
Fernando Rodney (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Shawn Kelley (R)
Emilio Pagan (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Jonathan Lucroy (R)
Josh Phegley (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Khris Davis (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Chad Pinder (R)
10-day DL: LHP Brett Anderson (forearm), RHP Paul Blackburn (elbow), LHP Sean Manaea (shoulder), OF Matt Joyce (back)
60-day DL: RHP Jharel Cotton (TJS), RHP Daniel Gossett (TJS), RHP Andrew Triggs (triceps/nerve), OF Jake Smolinski (blood clot)
AAA DL: RHP Kendall Graveman (TJS)