Injuries, short bench could force A’s pitchers into the field

Oakland Athletics starter Rich Hill has begun throwing the baseball, but his festering blister has forced him to wear a bandage while doing so.

Hill (9-3, 2.25 ERA) was lifted from his July 17 start after a blister on the middle finger of his left hand popped on the fifth pitch of the game. While he said  that he has experienced blister issues in the past, the lefty said that this blister is the worst.

Along with the hurler, outfielders Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp have been sidelined with what manager Bob Melvin referred to as minor injuries.

The skipper said:

“There are times, during the course of a season, where you’re a little short on the bench. (This) is one of those times.”

For the time being, the A’s will play with a short bench — only two position players available. So, in case of emergency, Melvin has said that the contingency plan, should substitutions be needed, will include the more athletic members of the pitching staff:

“I actually have a couple of guys that would *like* to (play in the field). I hope I don’t get to that point. Sonny Gray always would like to do it, and Kendall Graveman would to. Watching Sean Manaea hit, I’m not sure I would use him [laughs]. … Pitchers who are athletes always think they can play a position.”

The team leader in wins (9) and strikeouts (90), Hill threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session on Sunday — although he needed a bandage on the blistered finger. Melvin said that, while he was encouraged by workout, the throwing was more about keeping his pitcher prepared to be folded back into action when the time comes.

There is no fear that Hill, who spent all of June on the disabled list in with a strained groin, will be forced to the DL for a second time this season. But, Melvin said, there is not so much as a tentative date for his return, and there will not be one until he shows the ability to throw without a bandage:

“We really don’t have a timetable yet. He’ll throw another bullpen, but we’re not sure what day that will be.”

A pair of outfielders, Reddick (.295/.374/.433 2016 slash) and Crisp (.233/.299/.390), are also suffering from non-serious injuries.

Reddick, who was scratched from Saturday’s 4-3 victory, is suffering from what his manager described as a “knot” in his back. The discomfort, which he reported feeling after taking batting practice in the cage on Saturday, is not feared as a strain or oblique issue, according to Melvin.

The skipper said that while the injury is minor there is “no reason to push it right now.”

Crisp, who was the walk-off hero in Friday’s 1-0 13-inning triumph, collided with the center-field wall chasing a fly ball on Saturday.

While the 36 year-old did not feel any pain until Sunday, Melvin did not rule out the play as a reason for the center fielder’s neck injury:

“He came in with some neck soreness — as we’ve seen last year, he had some neck soreness. That’s something we don’t want to mess around with either.”

For the immediate future, third baseman Danny Valencia (.300/.352/.475) will fill in as the acting third outfielder:

“(Danny) has (played in the outfield) before — more left than right — but with KD (Khris Davis) used to playing left, and Smoly (Jake Smolinski) playing center, he’s kinda forced to out there to right. If a ball’s hit in the air, you run under it and catch it.”

 


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.