Nunez tops list of A’s September call-ups
The home clubhouse in the Oakland Coliseum is somewhat tightly quartered. Thirty cubby-style lockers line the walls. In the center, a high-seated dining table sided by a much more oft-used pair of card tables. Two small sofas huddle around a TV.
When the Athletics (58-75) return to Oakland in a week, quarters will begin to get even tighter — the dining table replaced by a mobile set tertiary lockers, made necessary by September roster expansions.
Many of the men who will inhabit those additional locker spaces have had some time in the major league sun this season. But joining Franklin Barreto, Jaycob Brugman and Jesse Hahn will be a few players who have not been in the big leagues since this time last season, and some for whom it has been even longer.
Highlighting Oakland’s September call-up list will undoubtedly be Renato Nunez.
Nunez has played 510 of his 690 career minor league games at third, but given the A’s current situation, with Matt Chapman and Ryon Healy creating a log jam at that position, the 23-year-old has seen increased playing time in left field, as well as a handful of games at first and second base.
Given the slugger’s abilities in the batter’s box, including 32 home runs in 122 games with Triple-A Nashville this season — tied for second-most among all Triple-A hitters — manager Bob Melvin looks forward to finding him at-bats. The skipper told Bay Area News Groups’ Martin Gallegos:
“With a bat like that, you gotta try to find a spot for him. … It’s going to be a little bit of a balancing act but we do need to find out about Nunez. We’ve seen his bat in spring training and everybody that you talk to says his bat will play at the big league level.”
In seven minor league seasons, Nunez has batted .263 with 155 home runs (22 per season). In a short nine-game stint with the A’s last year, he went 2-for-15 (.133) with two singles and three strikeouts.
Second baseman Joey Wendle joins Nunez as a call-up from a season ago to likely offer his second look this year. Wendle, a much more contact-centric hitter, hit .260 with one homer in 28 games with Oakland in 2016. This year, with Triple-A Nashville, he has boasted a .281 average with eight home runs.
Hurlers Hahn (3-6, 5.30 ERA), Frankie Montas (1-1, 7.03 ERA) and Josh Smith (2-1, 4.89 ERA) have each gotten extended big league runs this season and find themselves on the 40-man roster waiting for a September nod.
Brugman, who has slashed .266/.346/.343 in 48 games with the A’s this year, will be among the outfielders to get some playing time in the final month of 2017. And it can’t come soon enough for a guy who had begun to find his groove before being optioned in early-August. Over his final 24 games with the big club, he slashed .338/.394/.462, though he was held to two hits over his final 13 at-bats.
Daniel Mengden (0-1, 10.13 ERA) will likely get his second glance of the campaign.
Chris Bassitt, who hasn’t pitched in The Show since April 28, 2016 having undergone Tommy John Surgery, will almost certainly make his return.
Finally, the organization’s No. 1 prospect, Barreto, who got eight hits — including a walkoff home run on July 4 — in 42 at-bats over an 11-game stint this season, will get some more time. Barreto, who will be given serious consideration for an Opening Day roster spot in 2018, will not only see playing time over this final month of 2017 both at his natural shortstop position as well as second base.
After all, as the Athletics tumble toward their third consecutive losing season, September becomes an extended Spring Training-esque audition period for what is to come.