The Oakland A’s recalled reliever Ryan Dull on Thursday, the team announced. To make room, starter Daniel Mengden was optioned back to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Through five games in the majors this year, including three starts and two bulk-relief outings following an opener, Mengden has struggled to find his command. He’s walked 15 batters in 23 innings, and even in games where he limits the scoring he has still needed to navigate around constant trouble on the bases.
Mengden, 2019: 5.09 ERA, 23 ip, 19 Ks, 15 BB, 1 HR, 4.03 FIP
The right-hander posted one excellent outing, featuring seven innings and just one run against the lowly Tigers, but otherwise he’s racked up inefficient pitch counts that have limited how deep he can work into games. On Wednesday the Angels finally broke through against him, torching him for six runs while he recorded just seven outs.
The A’s have starters Mike Fiers and Brett Anderson scheduled for their next two games, but then they have a doubleheader on Saturday against the Rangers. Chris Bassitt will start one of the games of the twin-bill, and the other one will likely be started by Paul Blackburn, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Teams can bring up an extra 26th man for one game of a pre-scheduled doubleheader, and Slusser says Blackburn could get that nod. The right-hander appeared in Oakland each of the last two seasons but has spent all of this year in Triple-A so far (11 starts, 4.55 ERA, 5.44 FIP). (Update: Blackburn confirmed for Saturday start, says Slusser.)
After that, Frankie Montas is on tap for Sunday, and then Mengden’s spot would come up again on Monday and would need to be addressed by then — whether by calling up a starter from the minors, or pulling long-man Aaron Brooks back into the rotation. (Extra note: The 26th man can stay after the doubleheader if someone else is sent down instead, though of course Blackburn wouldn’t be able to start again on Monday after going on Saturday. Read the full 26th-man rules here.)
In the meantime, though, the task at hand is the next couple games, and the A’s bullpen needed a fresh arm after another stretch of working overtime. Oakland’s relievers rank third in MLB in innings pitched this season, and over the last eight games (two of which went to extras) the true starters and post-opener bulk-relievers have combined for just 39⅔ frames, or around five per game. The pen has nearly matched them by picking up the rest of the 37 innings during that time.
Even more recently, every reliever (except Brooks) has pitched in the current series against the Angels. Yusmeiro Petit and Liam Hendriks appeared in both games, and Wei-Chung Wang threw 45 pitches in a brilliant three-inning yeoman’s effort on Wednesday. Add it all up, and the pen needed a reinforcement.
Enter Dull, who is back for his third stint in Oakland this season. He has appeared in six MLB games this season and allowed runs in five of them, as he continues to search for consistency in the majors. This time his struggles followed him back to the minors, as he allowed runs in four of his 10 outings in his latest stint in Las Vegas, totaling 11 earned runs in a dozen frames.
Dull, 2019 MLB: 10.29 ERA, 7 ip, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 3 HR, 15 hits, 8.02 FIP
The right-hander will once again look to rediscover the form that made him an effective MLB setup man in 2016.
The A’s bullpen now features the following nine members: Treinen, Trivino, Soria, Buchter, Wang, Hendriks, Petit, Brooks, Dull. Of that list, everyone except Treinen and Brooks pitched in Anaheim on Wednesday, though Buchter only threw six pitches in his appearance. Dull last played in Triple-A on Saturday.