OAKLAND – The Chicago Cubs trading Tuesday’s scheduled starter, Scott Feldman, hours before the first pitch in Oakland opened up an opportunity for Bob Melvin to give a start to two seldom-used players of late.
Melvin has been adhering to strict platoons all season and Feldman would’ve been the 15th straight right-handed starter set to face the A’s. With left-hander Chris Rusin now starting for the Cubs, Melvin can pencil both Nate Freiman and Adam Rosales into the lineup together for the first time in over two weeks.
Since left-hander Joe Saunders beat the A’s in Seattle back on June 14, Freiman and Rosales have combined to make just one start. The duo is 2-for-12 with an RBI over that span and Melvin hopes there won’t be signs of rust Tuesday.
“You always worry about it a little bit, but I had the same thing going on with the lefties when we were seeing so many left-handed pitchers in a row,” Melvin said. “The Mosses and the Smiths and guys like that, we sprinkled them in just enough with pinch-hit appearances that they were pretty current and it didn’t seem to affect them too much. You hope that’s the case with the righties. When you do go through strings like this, you have to find a way to prepare and keep yourself ready.”
One thing players can do to prepare is study opposing starting pitchers, but the trade of Feldman forced the A’s into a cram session to cover the limited scouting report on Rusin.
“Until you get into the game and see how the ball actually plays and how he’s going to try and pitch you, there’s usually a learning curve involved with somebody that you haven’t faced before,” Melvin said.
Rusin, who was originally drafted by the A’s in the 23rd round of the 2008 draft but opted to return to Kentucky for his senior season, has made just seven big league starts, all in 2012. He went 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA with the Cubs last season and was 7-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 16 starts at Triple-A Iowa before getting called up Tuesday.
Melvin said his players shouldn’t be concerned with the last-minute change.
“That happens a couple times over the course of the season so they understand that,” Melvin said. “It shouldn’t affect things as far as how we prepare.”
Sonny Gray, the A’s first round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt, will start the Triple-A All-Star Game for the Pacific Coast League on July 17 in Reno.
Gray is 7-5 with a 3.02 ERA and a league-leading 98 strikeouts in 95.1 innings with the Sacramento River Cats this season and Melvin said he’s received nothing but good reports on the 23-year-old right-hander.
“We all knew he was a talented guy,” Melvin said. “We felt like he would be a quick mover and it has played out that way.”
But is he moving so fast that a stint on the mound in Oakland in the near future is a possibility?
“Yeah. I would say the way he’s pitching right now, yeah,” Melvin said. “You’re never really sure on a guy with no big league experience, but the way he’s pitched this year it would suggest that.”
A’s prospects Michael Choice and Grant Green will join Gray in Reno to represent the River Cats.
The July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching, but don’t expect Melvin to make any calls upstairs asking for help.
“I’m a guy that’s pretty positive with what we have and I do like the group we have,” Melvin said. “Now if the front office feels like they need to do something to enhance a particular area, I’d be all for that. But I like our team right now. I really do.”
That’s a much easier statement to stand behind when your team is just a half-game out of first place.
Catcher John Jaso, who hasn’t played since June 23 or started since June 20 due to a left palm abrasion, could start Wednesday, according to Melvin.
“He’s going to hit in a regular group today and my guess is there’s a good chance he’d be deemed ready to go full strength,” Melvin said. “I’ll look to maybe get him a start tomorrow, depending on how today goes.”