It’s time for the Oakland A’s to take one last deep breath, then plunge into what could be the most frenetic season segments in Oakland history.
Beginning with Friday’s series opener with the San Diego Padres at the Coliseum, the A’s are down to play 26 games in the next 24 days. Mixed in are four doubleheaders, including three twin bills in seven days beginning Tuesday.
The 10-game stretch in the seven days from Sept. 8-14, is the most in any seven-day period since the team played in Kansas City, on June 16-22, 1966.
It’s going to take lots of pitching, and on Thursday, newcomer Mike Minor was put on the A’s roster when Daniel Mengden went on the COVID-19 injured list. And left-hander A.J. Puk, who is scheduled to face hitters one more time Friday at the A’s alternate site in San Jose, could be activated by the end of the weekend or early next week.
Puk is a starter by trade, but there seems little likelihood that he’ll be stretched out enough to start in the doubleheaders. What he will be able to offer, the club hopes, is two or three innings of relief work at a time, stretched that could be invaluable with games crashing up against each other like bumper cars at the county fair.
“A.J. is going to make one more rehab outing,” general manager David Forst said. “This is just sort of speculating, but I don’t know that there’s enough time to get him stretched out as a starter.”
With the addition of the left-handed Minor, the A’s will have six starters, one more than a standard rotation. Even so, the A’s will have to either find a seventh starter or pitch someone on three days’ rest instead of the usual four to get through the string of doubleheaders.
Without making changes to the group they have now – in current order, that’s Jesús Luzardo, Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas, and Minor – and assuming there won’t be any more postponements, the A’s should be covered until the second doubleheader in this stretch, a week from Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
Manager Bob Melvin said Thursday Minor threw his first Oakland bullpen session Wednesday at the Coliseum. Beyond that, he’s not trying to overthink what names he’ll be writing in the lineup cards going forward, be it pitchers or position players.
“Honestly, I haven’t figured out what we’re going to do after this workout today,” Melvin said Thursday morning. “A lot of what goes on in doubleheaders has a lot to do with how you got through it.”
He points out that the A’s don’t know when they’ll have shortstop Marcus Semien back in the lineup. Semien won’t be in the starting lineup Friday after being scratched from last Saturday’s second game in Houston with discomfort in his left side. The A’s were thinking it would be a few days before Semien was ready to swing a bat, but Melvin reported Semien taking dry swings – softer swings without a baseball – so there was a possibility of some light work being done in the batting cage later in the day.
“That makes me feel a little better about where we are, going forward,” Melvin said. “But as soon as you start trying to map things out this year, things transpire where you have to make some adjustments. So, I’m trying to take it more day to day with kind a look at the future with the doubleheader because of the pitching.”
--Luzardo won’t be getting special treatment just because he’ll be throwing for the first time in 11 days. Melvin suggested that sometimes a pitcher would get that kind of time off over an All-Star break. “I don’t thing there is going to be significant limitations with Jesús tomorrow,” Melvin said.
--Chad Pinder is back with the A’s after being on paternity leave for the birth of his first child, Christopher. He and Vimael are likely to platoon at shortstop while Semien is out of action.
--The A’s aren’t expected to see Mike Clevinger, the newest addition to the Padres’ starting rotation in this series. Clevinger was due to pitch Thursday night in Anaheim. However, other new additions will be in action for the Padres, including first baseman Mitch Moreland (from the Red Sox), catcher Austin Nola (Mariners), catcher Jason Castro (Angels), closer Trevor Rosenthal (Royals) and reliever Dan Altavilla (Mariners).
--Forst suggested the 29th player added to the roster for the doubleheader(s) is likely to be a pitcher. For the last doubleheader, Saturday in Houston, it was a catcher, Austin Allen, but that was because the bullpen was well-rested. It seems unlike that would be the case the next time around.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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