The Oakland A’s lost one of their pitchers on Wednesday, but not the one whose health had been in the news all week. Reliever Blake Treinen is out for the rest of the regular season, reports Melissa Lockard of The Athletic.
On a happier note, Mike Fiers, who exited his start early on Saturday due to nerve irritation in his arm, is officially listed as the A’s starter for Friday’s game.
For Treinen, the diagnosis is a stress reaction in his back, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle, who adds that he’s not yet ruled out for the entire postseason. The problem has existed for a few weeks, and he thought it was regular soreness that he could pitch through until an MRI revealed the truth, explains Slusser.
Thus ends a frustrating season for Treinen. The right-hander was an All-Star closer in 2018 and turned in one of the best reliever seasons ever, but he just never got going this summer and wasn’t able to repeat even a fraction of his lofty success. His ERA went up more than four runs, his walk rate more than doubled, and he lost the closer role in June to Liam Hendriks.
Treinen, 2019: 4.91 ERA, 58⅔ ip, 59 Ks, 37 BB, 9 HR, 5.14 FIP
He racked up five blown saves in 24 save/hold chances, contributing to the A’s MLB-leading total of 29 blown. Treinen had the same number last year but in 43 chances, and this season he also picked up another four more losses in games in which he entered with a tie and let the other team score.
Along the way, he dealt with a multitude of injuries. He missed a couple days in May to an elbow scare, did an IL stint at the end of June for his shoulder, and briefly sat out to rest his back earlier in September.
Analysis: What a tough year for Treinen. Relievers are notoriously volatile, but this is as extreme of a swing as you’ll see. He was the best in the business last year, and then was simply ineffective from wire to wire throughout this summer. His powerful stuff remained, but he lost complete control of the strike zone — it’s fair to wonder how much of those struggles can be tied to his injuries, though the player himself has maintained all year that they’re unrelated.
Treinen’s season was best exemplified in two games. In early April he blew a save in the 8th against the Astros, then came back out to protect the tie in the 9th, but loaded the bases on two walks and a single and then issued another walk to force in the walk-off run. Later that month against the Blue Jays, he protected a tie in the 10th, then his teammates took a three-run lead in the top of the 11th, only for him to allow four in the bottom of the frame to take the loss after all.
The A’s were no longer relying heavily on Treinen, so at this point his loss doesn’t actually affect the current bullpen too much. Hendriks stepped into his shoes long ago and has more or less matched his dominance from yesteryear, so on the team level they’re getting the same greatness from the closer role, just from a different person.
If there’s a silver lining to this unfortunate injury news, it comes on the topic of postseason eligibility. Catcher Sean Murphy and pitcher Jesus Luzardo were not on the 40-man roster before the necessary deadline, so in order to be eligible for October they must replace other players who are on the injured list and have served the minimum time thereof. One of them can take the spot of pitcher Daniel Gossett, who missed all season to Tommy John surgery, but one more loophole spot is needed.
That second injury-replacement spot could have come in place of outfielder Stephen Piscotty, as the current mood is pessimistic on his return from a high-ankle sprain before the end of the season, but he’s not fully ruled out yet. Now that Treinen is likely to land on the 10-day IL with 10 days left in the season, that should end any question of how the A’s will be able to bring their two prized rookies to the playoffs, should they hold on to the Wild Card and get there.
Moving on to happier news, Mike Fiers appears to be OK after exiting his last start on Saturday in the 2nd inning.
The diagnosis was nerve irritation, a “zinger” in his arm which Fiers said he’d felt before in his career. He threw a bullpen on Tuesday and “felt fine,” reports Ben Ross of NBCS, and his MRI came back normal, says Slusser. The right-hander is officially listed on MLB’s site as the A’s starter for Friday against the Rangers. Unfortunately, his awesome cat tail beard could not be saved.
As things stand now, Fiers could be on turn to start a potential Wild Card game on Oct. 2, notes Slusser. He has been the team’s most reliable starter this season, though he’s been on a bit of a slump over his last six outings.