Battered A’s move forward with key pieces missing

The Oakland Athletics have what would be the nucleus of a very successful major league team — on their disabled list.

After fracturing his left thumb sliding into second base in the seventh inning of Thursday’s 4-1 loss, outfielder Josh Reddick hobbled aboard the cavalcade of Oakland walking wounded.

Already part of that group, pitcher Liam Hendriks, catcher Josh Phegley and infielder Jed Lowrie join Reddick as expected significant contributors to miss time with stints on the DL.

After Thursday’s loss to the New York Yankees (18-22), Manager Bob Melvin discussed the loss of Reddick:

“He’s there for us every day. He’s one of the better players in the league. It’s going to take us to 12 on the DL right now, but that’s a pretty significant guy to lose.”

Several of those 12 A’s on the DL have expected return dates in 2017. Pitchers Chris Bassitt, Felix Doubront and Jarrod Parker all required season-ending Tommy John procedures. Stellar defensive outfielder Sam Fuld likely saw his Oakland tenure come to an end when he underwent shoulder surgery.

Melvin arrived at Spring Training realizing that off-season pitching addition Henderson Alvarez (27-34 career, 3.80 ERA) would miss at least a month, recovering from surgery to his throwing shoulder.

During the preseason schedule, though, the skipper watched helplessly as reliever R.J. Alvarez (0-0, 7.39 ERA), utility man Eric Sogard (.239/.295/.313 career slash), Fuld (.227/.307/.325) and Parker (25-16, 3.68 ERA), each suffered serious injuries.

On the exhibition schedule’s final day, Melvin took another hit to the pitching staff, seeing his No. 5 starter Doubront (31-26, 4.89 ERA) go down as well.

Now 42 games into the season, the A’s have embodied the next-man-up mantra, but they are running low of guys to be the next man. And with five players now on the 15-day DL, Oakland is growing thin of players on the 40-man roster who can be brought up.

Since the season’s onset, Melvin and the A’s (19-23) have taken more hits.

No. 3 starter Bassitt (2016 0-2 record, 6.11 ERA) threw his final pitch of the season on April 28 when, after pitching threw some pain in his previous start, was found to have a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.

Hendriks, the swing reliever expected to eat up multiple innings, has also been on the 15-day DL since experiencing his own elbow discomfort on May 7.

Filling a gap in the starting rotation, rookie Sean Manaea (1-1, 7.91 ERA) went through a tough stretch in his first three starts. In his most recent start, though, he posted a healthier, Bassitt-like line of just one run in 6-2/3 innings.

The bullpen vacancy has been filled by a revolving door of minor leaguers. J.B. Wendelken (2-1/3 IP, 19.29 ERA), Andrew Triggs (8 IP, 3.38 ERA, Zach Neal (3 IP, 9.00 ERA) and Daniel Coulombe (2, 13.50 ERA) have each had a shot.

With Triggs being the only fill-in displaying any production, he seems to have stuck in the role.

Joining Fuld and Sogard on the injury report is second-year utility man Mark Canha (.122/.140/.341), himself in need of season-ending hip surgery. Canha came into his sophomore season following a 16-home run, 70-RBI rookie year and was expected to play a key role as a back-up to several positions, while serving as half of the first-base platoon.

Melvin had also taken a left-right platoon at the catcher position, given the early-season success of Phegley (.270/.308/.324). On May 10, that came to an end, as Phegley was added to the DL with knee inflammation.

In his place, Matt McBride (.333/.333/.444) has produced early, picking up three hits in his first nine at-bats.

None of those many losses have been as critical as the injuries to Lowrie (.302/.341/.345), or Reddick (.322/.394/.466).

Lowrie spent the first month of the season as the most reliable A’s hitter in the clutch, and best run producer. His replacement, Tyler Ladendorf (.000/.071/.000), has yet to collect a hit in 13 at-bats, getting on base just once via bases-loaded walk.

The A’s have not yet announced who they will tap to replace Reddick.  Whoever it is, though, will not only have to produce in the batter’s box and in the field, he will need to fill the shoes of the team’s emotional leader.

Starting pitcher Kendall Graveman spoke to the huge hole the 2012 Gold Glove winner’s absence will leave:

“Red’s a big part of our lineup. He’s a great outfielder. He brings a lot of energy everyday… Quick recovery on him, we need him back in this lineup.”

After Thursday’s loss, a clearly shaken Reddick addressed his level of frustration:

“I’m more pissed off than anything. I was having a great year – I had cemented myself as the three-hole hitter with this team. It’s more frustrating when I do it on something that I don’t do a lot – stealing a bag – as opposed to diving (in the outfield), or something like that.”

Without shifting their current 40-man roster, the A’s options for replacing Reddick are limited. Jake Smolinski (2016 .248/.310/.407 slash in Triple-A) is a career .246 hitter in 252 major-league at-bats, with nine homers and 38 RBIs, and the likely choice.

Currently with the Nashville Sounds, Smolinski is one of two minor-league outfielders – the other being Andrew Lambo (.224/.287/.320) eligible to be called up.

Which ever of the two is selected to fill the spot, they will be the 34th player to take the diamond sporting Green and Gold this season.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.