Matt Chapman has been struggling with lingering pain in his right hand since the end of the 2017 season. When it returned during Spring Training, he was given a cortisone shot.
The pain returned during the regular season, but when it flared up again this week he finally alerted manager Bob Melvin.
Now, three days later, he has landed on the 10-day disabled list with no clear diagnosis and no certain timetable.
After being pulled in the seventh inning of Wednesday afternoon’s 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros, the 25-year-old said:
“I wanted to be out there for the team, but at the same time you can’t go out there and hurt the team.”
Chapman was officially placed on the DL Saturday, and will see Dr. Steven Shin, who he has been consulting since last season, in the coming days to get a clearer outlook. As of Saturday, the A’s are working with little more than the fact that MRIs show no structural damage. Knowing this, Chapman was attempting to battle through the pain, but that pain has become too much to bear:
“It’s kinda just been getting progressively worse over the last couple days. I was just trying to push through and just couldn’t do it anymore.”
The Oakland third-sacker was seen fielding grounders before Saturday’s game — though he was not throwing. Melvin said it is Chapman’s hope to stay “current” with his defensive work should he be cleared to return to the field in 10 days. It was more the hot bat that Chapman seems most irritated about.
After a rough May, Chapman had caught fire in the batter’s box in June, slashing .368/.489/.553 since the calendar-turn.
The open roster spot left with Chapman’s injury was filled by infielder Franklin Barreto, who will be tasked with filling the hole on the offensive end. Barreto, like Chapman, made his major league debut last season, but did so with far less success. After slashing .197/.250/.352 in 25 games in 2017, the Venezuelan has gone hitless in six at-bats so far this season.
But he was penciled into the starting second base position Saturday, and Melvin believes that this time around will offer a clearer look at his potential, given a chance to play regularly, which is something he had not received in previous stints with the big club:
“This is a nice opportunity for him. This has been our top prospect, or one of them, for years now and he’s still only 22 years old. The times he’s been here, he’s not gotten the opportunity to play almost everyday. I’d like to see him get off to a nice start because he’s a very talented player.”
With Triple-A Nashville, Barreto has been the epitome of inconsistent, boasting runs of production like his 14-game stretch from April 22 to May 6 when he went 19-for-55 (.345) with four homers and nine RBIs, while having slides like the one he is currently on — 6-for-37 (.162) over the past 10 games.
Barreto has been a professional baseball player since 2013 when he was still just 17, but he has not played a single game at third base.
Chad Pinder, who got the third base start Friday night, will continue his role as the A’s super-utility man. That means Jed Lowrie will see the lino’s share of the starts at third, a position at which he has played just two innings — last season when Chapman was ejected on May 8 — since 2015 with the Astros.
Of the switch, the 34-year-old veteran said:
“It’s a different position, everything about it. … (I) haven’t done the reps so (I’m) just trying to acclimate as quickly as possible.”
Melvin lauded the All-Star hopeful for his willingness to make the move, but agreed that it would be a difficult one:
“The throw is different, the groundballs are different, where you have to play — you’re shallower. There’s a lot of nuance to the position.”
Along with the defense, Lowrie will be leaned on offensively with Chapman out. But that is a call he answered before it was even made.
Prior to Friday night’s loss, a game in which he went 3-for-4, Lowrie had collected just one hit during the homestand and was slashing .170/.237/.239 since May 18. After the game, Melvin called Lowrie’s awakening “very important” for his club.
Along with Barreto, right-handed relief pitcher Josh Lucas was recalled from Triple-A Nashville, replacing Carlos Ramírez, who was optioned to the Sounds. Ramírez (0-0, 3.24 ERA) had appeared in each of the last two A’s games, working two innings in each — he allowed two runs Friday night.
Melvin said that Ramírez was optioned not for any lack of success, but because of the A’s need for readily available arms in the bullpen.
Lucas (0-0, 2.89 ERA) is exactly that, and has seen success having allowed eight hits and three runs in his 9-1/3 big league innings this season.