The Oakland A’s activated outfielder Ramon Laureano from the injured list, the team announced Friday. They also recalled right-handed reliever J.B. Wendelken from Triple-A Las Vegas.
Laureano was placed on the injured list on July 31 due to stress reaction in his lower right leg. He had been battling the injury all season, telling Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle that it began due to the turf in Japan, where the A’s played their opening series back in March.
The young center fielder was on fire when he was placed on the IL. In the month of July, he batted .392 with eight home runs and a 1.281 OPS (222 wRC+). The 25-year-old missed 32 games in total due to the injury. He will not play in Friday’s continuation of the May 19 suspended game, but will play in the originally scheduled 7:07 P.M. nightcap, according to Slusser.
Laureano, 2019: .284/.334/.518, 124 wRC+, 21 HR, 5.3% BB, 27.0% BB
Laureano did not go on a minor league rehab assignment, but did take at-bats against rehabbing starter Daniel Gossett in late August, according to Martín Gallegos of MLB.com.
Adding a bat (and a glove) like Laureano’s for the stretch run should be a huge boost for the A’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets off to a slow start at the plate, as he tries to shake off more than a month of rust, but the A’s will welcome his arm and speed in center field.
His return does complicate matters in Oakland’s outfield. Mark Canha was excellent in Laureano’s absence (.934 OPS, 153 wRC+) and will likely continue to see regular playing time, moving between right field, left field, designated hitter, and perhaps the occasional start at first base. But rookie Seth Brown (13-for-29, 214 wRC+) is off to a torrid start to his career and should continue to see starts in an outfield corner against right-handed pitching.
Brown is likely to platoon with right-handed hitter Chad Pinder, with veteran switch-hitter Robbie Grossman relegated to a bench/match-up role. Jurickson Profar has also seen time in left field, and he is hitting extremely well as of late (134 wRC+ in the second half). But the wild card here is struggling DH Khris Davis. His slump has continued into September, and he could start to lose playing time, especially against right-handed pitching.
Manager Bob Melvin has a plethora of options for just five spots - the three outfield positions, designated hitter, and second base. He’ll likely continue to play the match-ups as the A’s always do, and he now has the luxury of being able to give players rest when they need it. If I had to guess, I’d say Laureano and Canha start the majority of games going forward, with Brown seeing plenty of ABs against righties, Davis getting a handful of days off, and Pinder and Profar shuffling between second base and left field, depending on the performance of rookie Sheldon Neuse.
- The A’s also recalled Wendelken on Friday. The 26-year-old didn’t fare too well in the extreme hitters environment of Las Vegas, but he wasn’t bad for the A’s earlier in the season.
Wendelken, 2019 AAA: 38.2 IP, 5.59 ERA, 5.89 FIP, 43 K, 19 BB, 3 SV
Wendelken, 2019 MLB: 25.2 IP, 4.56 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 28 K, 7 BB
Melvin is likely to ask Wendelken for at least an inning or two this weekend, as the bullpen is thin going into a three-plus game series against the Detroit Tigers. Closer Liam Hendriks will “start” the continuation of the suspended game on Friday afternoon, as he was pitching in the seventh inning when the game was called. Young flamethrower A.J. Puk is also likely to be unavailable on Friday after throwing two innings in Thursday’s win over the Angels.
The A’s will also be without one of their most trustworthy relievers...
- ...As righty Yusmeiro Petit will be away from the team this weekend due to an undisclosed family reason. The workhorse has returned home to Venezuela and will likely not return to the A’s until Monday in Houston.
Petit, 2019: 73.1 IP, 2.82 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 58 K, 7 BB, 25 HLD
Losing Petit is obviously a huge blow to an Oakland bullpen that will already be stretched pretty thin. But above all else, I hope everything turns out okay for Petit and his family, especially after the 34-year-old lost his mother last April.
- In more positive news, left-hander Sean Manaea will start Sunday’s contest against Detroit. This will be his second start of the season after missing almost a year due left shoulder surgery. He was solid in his first outing of the year against the New York Yankees last Sunday:
Manaea, 9/1 at NYY: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5K; 82 pitches, 43 strikes
This means Oakland will effectively be going to a six-man rotation, with righty Mike Fiers pushed back to start Monday against the Astros. This will give the team plenty of flexibility for the final few weeks of the season. Personally, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Manaea on Sunday, watching especially for his velocity and pitch usage.
- Finally, suspended righty Frankie Montas has been pitching every five days in Arizona and is on track to return on Sept. 25. Montas was suspended for 80 games back on June 21 after testing positive for Ostarine, a prohibited substance under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement. At the time, he was enjoying an incredible season, and was likely on track for the first All-Star appearance of his career.
Montas, 2019: 15 GS, 90 IP, 2.70 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 97 K, 21 BB, 2.9 fWAR
Somehow, the A’s have been just fine without Montas. At the time of his suspension, they were 40-36, but have since gone 41-22, partially led by unexpected contributions from the rest of the starting rotation.
Montas will be eligible for the final five games of the season, and according to General Manager David Forst, could be used as either a starter or reliever. If either the Double-A Midland Rockhounds or Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators advance in the postseason and are still playing on Sept. 10, Montas will could pitch on rehab for either team.
As a result of his PED suspension, the 26-year-old will not be eligible for the 2019 postseason, which includes the Wild Card game. However, he would be able to pitch in a potential Game 163, if necessary.