Programming note: Astros-A’s coverage starts today at 12:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (Territory restrictions apply) Channel locations
OAKLAND – Lefty reliever Eric O’Flaherty was at the Coliseum on Saturday, throwing in the bullpen and getting re-acquainted with teammates he still doesn’t know very well.
O’Flaherty, signed to a two-year contract in the offseason, continues his rehab from reconstructive elbow surgery, with a midseason return still looking probable. He spends most of his time at the A’s minor league complex in Phoenix, but he’s in town for this homestand for the medical staff to evaluate him and hash out the next month’s worth of activities.
“That’s probably the hardest part about being in Arizona is being away from these guys,” O’Flaherty said. “You start to learn ‘em all in spring training, then they leave. So I couldn’t stop smiling when I walked in the clubhouse and saw everybody. You want to be back as soon as possible, but you wanna do it right.”
O’Flaherty estimates he’s thrown off the mound 10-15 times, but he just recently started mixing in breaking balls. He threw sliders today with the catcher set up in front of the plate but will soon be throwing his breaking stuff at full distance.
A’s manager Bob Melvin estimated that O’Flaherty could be facing hitters sometime after the team returns from its next road trip, which will wrap May 4 in Boston.
“And once we get him out on rehab assignment when he’s throwing to (opposing) hitters, then you start to formulate a plan,” Melvin said.
Signed to a two-year $7 million in January, O’Flaherty will add a valuable left-handed relief option for Melvin when he joins the club. He posted a 1.68 ERA combined over the last four seasons with the Atlanta Braves, but he underwent surgery in May and missed the rest of the 2013 season.
“I just started throwing breaking balls,” O’Flaherty said. “That’s a big hurdle, I think more mentally than physically. It’s a good thing to get some of those snapped off and it feels good.”
Melvin was impressed with what he saw from O’Flaherty on Saturday.
“You could see what he’s got to offer, and it’s pretty exciting.”
NOTE: A day after returning to the lineup from a hamstring injury, center fielder Coco Crisp is out of Saturday’s lineup. But Melvin said it has more to do with him being extra cautious with Crisp’s recent left wrist injury. The wrist still bothers the switch-hitting Crisp when he’s batting right-handed, so Melvin opted to hold him out against Houston Astros left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.