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Elephant Rumblings: Burch Smith ligament OK, but return uncertain

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MLB: AUG 15 Athletics at Giants Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

Injuries are up around the majors in 2020, but the Oakland A’s have mostly avoided the rash so far. Still, they’ve lost a couple pitchers along the way, and the latest was reliever Burch Smith.

The right-hander appeared to pull himself from his last appearance on Saturday, and Sunday he went on the injured list with a right forearm strain.

All injuries are bummers, but the loss of Smith was particularly tough because he was one of the hottest pitchers in the league, retiring 34 of the first 39 batters he faced. That success was unexpected, but whether it was a hot streak or a breakout was less relevant than the fact that it was helping the team win valuable games in a short season where every victory counts 2.7 times.

The latest update on Smith is a mixed bag, reports John Hickey of Sports Illustrated and the other insiders, though the positive clearly outweighs the negative. The good news is Smith’s ligament is fine, which is especially encouraging for a pitcher who already had Tommy John surgery once. The bad news, however, is that it will be at least two weeks before he throws again, and there may not be time for him to return to action before the season ends in just over month.

Smith is a 30-year-old optionable reliever who won’t earn much more than the minimum salary even in arbitration next winter, so there’s potential for a long-term future in Oakland. If his arm is indeed OK, then his eye-opening 2020 will still have been a success even if he can’t quite make it back in time for this season. That would be a disappointment for him and for fans alike, but the important thing is that his injury isn’t as bad as it could have been.

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