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Oakland A’s recall Paul Blackburn, option James Kaprielian

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Pitching shuffle after a long Tuesday for the bullpen

Oakland Athletics v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s recalled pitcher Paul Blackburn from their alternate training camp on Wednesday, the team announced. To make room on the active roster, fellow pitcher James Kaprielian was optioned down to alt camp.

This is Blackburn’s first call to the bigs since last September. He’s appeared in parts of the last three seasons, serving mostly as a starter, but struggled in four outings last summer (10.64 ERA, 6.67 FIP) and spent most of the year in Triple-A. The right-hander pitches to contact to an extreme extent, resulting in a low strikeout rate and 53.3% grounder rate.

  • Blackburn, MLB career: 5.18 ERA, 97⅓ ip, 49 Ks 26 BB, 10 HR, 4.42 FIP
  • Blackburn, 2019 AAA: 4.34 ERA, 132⅔ ip, 92 Ks, 34 BB, 18 HR, 5.01 FIP

Perhaps the most shocking stat: While it seems like Blackburn has been in the organization forever, he’s still only 26 years old. In fact, he’s only three months older than the top prospect he’s replacing on the roster, Kaprielian.

The right-handed Kaprielian made his MLB debut on Sunday, allowing a homer to his first batter but then retiring six of the next seven.

Kaprielian, 8/16 debut: 2 ip, 1 run, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 HR, 35 pitches (23 strikes)

The A’s bullpen put in some overtime on Tuesday, after starter Frankie Montas was removed in the 2nd inning. Lou Trivino got seven outs, and Daniel Mengden went four full frames, which gave the rest of the crew a day off but also leaves Oakland without two of their top emergency long relief candidates for a couple days. They lost another this week when Burch Smith was placed on the injured list.

Analysis: The likeliest explanation for this move is to make sure there’s reliable length available in the pen for the next couple days. Kaprielian can fill that role down the road, but perhaps the A’s would prefer someone more experienced for this particular moment. Remember, not all long relief outings are low-leverage. Blackburn can also make a spot start if needed.

Kaprielian joins a now-healthy Jordan Weems at alt camp as the presumable next two men up when necessary.

Oakland A's 28-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Frankie Montas (R)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
Sean Manaea (L)
Mike Fiers (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)

Relievers

Liam Hendriks (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
T.J. McFarland (L)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Austin Allen (L)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Tony Kemp (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Vimael Machin (L)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)

10-day IL: LHP A.J. Puk (shoulder), RHP Burch Smith (forearm)