The activation on Monday of relief pitcher Michael Wuertz from the 15-day DL, which sent pitcher Bobby Cramer down to Triple-A Sacramento, is just the beginning of what will be some interesting roster decisions by the Oakland A’s in the near future.
The A’s next roster move appears to be the activation of their closer, Andrew Bailey, who has been out since spring training with a forearm strain. MLB.com reported on Tuesday that Bailey is steadily progressing, having thrown a 35-pitch bullpen session. Manager Bob Geren said Bailey would soon start throwing breaking balls and is “moving in the right direction.”
The A’s will likely send Bailey on a short rehab assignment once he is ready to see live hitters, which will probably happen within the next two weeks.
Starting pitcher Dallas Braden is also on the DL with an inflamed left shoulder, and his status is a bit more uncertain. Tests showed there is no structural damage, so the A’s will just have to wait until the inflammation subsides.
With both pitchers due back some time in May, the A’s, who currently have a seven-man bullpen plus Tyson Ross filling in for Braden in the rotation, will have to decide which two relievers they want to option to Triple-A Sacramento.
David Purcey, who was recently designated for assignment by the Blue Jays and then acquired by the A’s, is out of options. The A's like Purcey's power arm and see him as a part of the bullpen going forward. Oakland assistant GM David Forst told the San Francisco Chronicle that Purcey's main issue in the majors has been an inability to throw strikes as a starter, which he thinks will be minimized while in the bullpen.
Unless he completely falls apart in the coming weeks, it is highly unlikely that the A’s will designate him for assignment, which would give them 10 days to trade him, release him or place him on waivers.
Veterans Brad Ziegler, Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes and Wuertz are entrenched in the bullpen and are not going anywhere. With the A’s bullpen overloaded with lefties, Jerry Blevins appears to be the odd man out. He has pitched over 100 innings in the majors and has decent numbers, which include averaging nearly one strikeout per inning. But the other lefty, Craig Breslow, really established himself last year and has held hitters to a .202 BA the last three years; he is probably not going anywhere either.
But the A’s will have to part with a second reliever once Braden comes off the DL. They could option Ross back to Triple-A and be without a true long man in the bullpen. It appears to be the A’s only option. Doing so would leave the A’s with a balanced bullpen of four right-handers and three left-handers.
The A’s will also have a big decision when infielder Adam Rosales, who is currently on the 60-day DL while recovering from right foot surgery, is set to come back sometime in June. Rosales can play all infield positions, and the A’s will have to fulfill two requirements when he is ready. They will not only have to send a player down to make room on the 25-man roster, but they will also have to remove someone from the 40-man roster.
Kevin Kouzmanoff has struggled this season but is out of options. If utility infielder Andy LaRoche continues to hit, the A’s could decide to designate Kouzmanoff for assignment, which would fulfill both roster requirements. LaRoche was once a top prospect with the Dodgers and hit well to start the season, and it is possible that the A’s could go with a platoon at 3B of LaRoche and Rosales.
Rich Harden, who was placed on the 60-day DL to make room for Purcey on the 40-man roster, is still shut down with lat soreness. MLB.com reports that Harden is set to resume throwing in late April, but there has been no reports that he is close to throwing again. It is safe to say the A’s are not counting on him this season. It is conceivable that the A’s might swallow his $1.5 million salary if he has any setbacks, especially if there is no room for him in the bullpen whenever he becomes healthy.