A’s outfielder Jake Smolinski to have shoulder surgery

Jake Smolinski, who had been the frontrunner for the Oakland Athletics fifth outfielder spot, will have right shoulder surgery on Friday.

The 28 year-old began feeling the discomfort in late February, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Asked if the injury was potentially season-ending, Manager Bob Melvin was non-committal, saying that the surgery — to be handled by Dr. Douglas Freddberg of the Arizona Sports Medicine Center — will be as much about finding the exact cause of the discomfort as relieving it.

Said Melvin:

“He just hasn’t responded well to the throwing portion (of his treatment), and it’s consistently bothered him, so this is the direction we’re going.”

“Smol,” who last appeared in a game as the designated hitter March 10, seized an everyday role in the second half of the 2016 season after slashing .301/.333/.482 over 36 games in the first half. A stumble down the stretch, however, led to a .238/.299/.345 season slash.

Coming into this spring camp, he was a heavy favorite to recapture his spot joining Mark Canha as a back-up to the prospective starters Khris Davis, Rajai Davis and Matt Joyce.

Saying that his club loses some depth with the injury, but is built to overcome such a loss, Melvin spoke to his expectations of the former waiver acquisition:

“(He is) a guy that we really feel has a high ceiling and hasn’t hit his potential yet. Last year, he did a nice job for us in center field; was a guy we were targeting certainly for quite a few at-bats against left-handed pitching this year.”

Melvin added:

“I still feel like he has the chance to be an every day player at some point.”

Topping the list of those poised to fill the fifth outfielder position are a pair of new A’s, Alejandro De Aza and Jaff Decker.

Both are left-handed swingers with experience in center field, which Melvin said is an integral part of filling the spot. And while De Aza boasts a deeper resume, the manager has far from ruled out Decker, the former first-round selection of the San Diego Padres:

“Decker has looked really good; as comfortable as anybody we have, center field, lest Raj. He’s handled everything, and the sun can humble anybody here in Arizona, even the best of them, and he’s looked really comfortable.”

The injury-related news on Tuesday wasn’t entirely bad for the A’s.

Right-handed starter Chris Bassitt made his largest stride yet in recovering from 2016 Tommy John surgery.

Said Melvin:

“Chris Bassitt just threw a 30-pitch bullpen, fastball and changeup, for the first time and looked really good. No timetable, but it’s exciting because we really felt like he was on his way to becoming a consistent starter, and for me a guy that is at least a middle-of-the-rotation guy with the upside of being even higher than that.”

Based on the normal process when recovering from baseball’s most infamous surgery, Bassitt would not be major league-ready until approximately late-July. Melvin would not put it past the 28-year-old Ohio native to return quicker than that, saying that the hurler has worked harder to returning from the surgery than any other player he’s seen.

Having not pitched in a big league game since April 28, though, it will almost certainly have been more than a year since Bassitt’s last outing the next time he is on the mound.

Melvin added that Felix Doubront — currently recovering from his own 2016 Tommy John surgery in the organization’s minor league camp — is on a schedule similar to that of Bassitt.

The club also was treated to a thrilling sight, with both Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla making their 2017 spring debuts this week.


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.