MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are targeting Thursday to start easing their veteran relievers into Cactus League action.
Manager Bob Melvin said Ryan Madson and John Axford would be among those making their spring debuts Thursday against the Texas Rangers. Similar to last season, the A’s have held back with some of their relievers in an effort to keep their arms fresh.
Lefty Sean Doolittle, who has dealt with shoulder injuries the past two years, has yet to appear in a game. The same goes with Ryan Dull and Liam Hendriks. And the A’s still await Santiago Casilla’s visa issues to clear so he can report to camp from the Dominican Republic.
Melvin estimated that he likes to get his veteran relievers into nine or 10 games during the Cactus League but that it’s not a hard and fast rule.
Also pitching Thursday in relief will be Frankie Montas, a pitcher who has impressed team officials in his early bullpen sessions. One of three pitchers acquired from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade, Montas threw just 16 innings in the minors last year because of two rib injuries, then tacked on some impressive work in the Arizona Fall League.
The A’s want to give Montas a look as a starter this season, but Melvin said Montas won’t be stretched out to start during camp because of his small workload last season. The hard-throwing Montas ranks fifth on Baseball America’s list of top A’s prospects.
Heavy rain hit the Phoenix Valley early Tuesday morning but by 11 a.m. local time, the sun had poked through the clouds and the A’s were taking infield practice at Hohokam Stadium. The wet weather relegated them to taking batting practice in the indoor cages in advance of a 1:05 p.m. (MST) game against the visiting Cleveland Indians. For those curious, yes, Rajai Davis is leading off and playing center for the A’s against the team for which he hit a dramatic Game 7 home run in the World Series last fall.
Also of note, lefty closer Andrew Miller — MVP of the AL Championship Series — is scheduled to pitch for the Indians.
The Sharks are reportedly looking for a goaltender prior to Wednesday’s noon NHL trade deadline.
According to TVA Sports’ Ren Lavoie, Canucks goalie Ryan Miller could be a possibility for San Jose. Miller is 16-18-3 this season with a 2.65 goals-against average and .916 save percentage for a Vancouver team that is virtually out of the playoff race.
If acquired, Miller would serve as the backup to Martin Jones, who has started 51 of the Sharks’ first 62 games and is in danger of being overworked headed into the postseason.
Jones has been backed up admirably by Aaron Dell, who is 7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .934 SP in his first NHL season. Although Dell has started just 10 games, mostly against middling competition, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer recently expressed confidence in his ability to hold down the backup spot past the trade deadline.
“I don’t know what else he could do to show that he’s an NHL caliber goalie so far,” DeBoer said in Philadelphia on Feb. 11. “Those are decisions that [Sharks general manager Doug Wilson] makes, but in my mind, that’s not an issue right now for us.”
On Feb. 2, Wilson was asked if it is a risk going into the playoffs with an inexperienced backup.
“What you’re referring to is the comfort you have with the unknown. When you have a comfort with somebody that you know well, that the teammates and coaches know, that makes it much more comfortable,” Wilson said.
“We’ll see what transpires between now and then. As I’ve said, we always explore any ways we can add to this hockey team.”
The Sharks acquired James Reimer from Toronto last season just before the trade deadline, giving Jones time off down the stretch. Reimer started eight of the final 19 Sharks regular season games before the playoffs.