In an encouraging bit of news for the Oakland A’s bullpen, Ryan Cook threw 20 pitches off the mound Thursday and felt very good afterward.
Cook has been sidelined with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, and Thursday marked the first time the right-hander had thrown off the mound since spring training began.
Cook threw strictly fastballs, but the session left him feeling confident that he can be ready by Opening Day.
“You start to feel like, ‘Wow, I can speed the process up and get in a game shortly as opposed to, ‘You’re so far away and you see other guys get out there and compete and you really start to miss that competition factor of it all,'” Cook told reporters. “I competed with myself a little bit. I didn’t try to blow anything out or try to go 100 percent effort-wise. I just tried to make pitches as if I was facing a hitter.”
Cook is likely to throw another bullpen session over the weekend and then will face hitters in live batting practice before getting into his first exhibition. The question is how many Cactus League appearances would have him ready for the March 31 opener against the Cleveland Indians.
As a comparison, Cook appeared in nine spring training games in 2013 to prepare for the regular season. If Cook were to pitch in his first spring game by next weekend (March 15-16), he could squeeze in five or six appearances before the season opener. Cook said Thursday he didn’t think pitching on back-to-back days in spring training was critical.
But A’s manager Bob Melvin won’t rush Cook, given the quality bullpen depth Oakland has.
In other injury news, Melvin said outfielder Craig Gentry (lower back strain) is getting close to returning to the field. But there’s no timetable to get him in a game.