Programming note: Nationals-A’s coverage starts tonight at 5:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (Channel locations)
OAKLAND – Reliever Eric O’Flaherty threw to hitters for the first time Saturday, a big step in the lefty’s comeback from reconstructive elbow surgery. O’Flaherty threw 20 pitches with Daric Barton and Jake Elmore in the batter’s box. He threw strictly fastballs – two-seamers and four-seamers – and will likely to do once or twice more to mix in some sliders.
The A’s still don’t have a target date for his return, though they originally estimated midseason after they signed O’Flaherty in January. He is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list May 29. Though manager Bob Melvin said that date probably isn’t realistic, it appears O’Flaherty could be a bit ahead of schedule.
“I think we’re looking more mid-June, somewhere in June,” Melvin said.
Figure that the A’s will want to see O’Flaherty in a simulated game before they send him out on a minor league rehab assignment. The lefty said he came away very encouraged from Saturday’s session. He’s thrown breaking balls in his side sessions, but stuck with fastballs against Elmore and Barton. Elmore was impressed.
“His four-seamer had life,” Elmore said. “When he throws his sinker, that’s his bread and butter. He was starting it out mid-thigh and it ended up at the shoe tops.”
In other injury news, center fielder Coco Crisp remains out of Saturday’s lineup with a strained neck, as Melvin had said Friday would be likely. Crisp underwent an MRI on Friday that showed no significant damage in his neck. He remains day to day.
[RELATED: A's get good news on Crisp's MRI]
“He feels a little better today, but until we get him on the field and get some baseball activity, there’s really no timetable yet,” Melvin said.