OAKLAND -- If Jharel Cotton is going to make an impact for the A’s this season, it’s going to be out of the bullpen.
Currently on a Minor League rehab assignment as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, manager Bob Melvin indicated that Cotton’s role will likely be out of the bullpen upon his return to the big leagues this season. The A’s began the process of getting the right-hander acclimated to the new role on Tuesday night by having him pitch two innings of relief for Single-A Stockton.
“That’s probably the way we’re going to proceed with him this year,” Melvin said. “If we’re going to get something out of him innings-wise one year after Tommy John, it’s going to be difficult to get him 'X' amount of starts. He’s pitched out of the bullpen before, so we’re leaning towards that at this point.”
Cotton has solely pitched as a starter in his two big league seasons with the A’s, but he was used as a reliever several times during his time in the Dodgers Minor League system from 2012-15. With a good mix of five pitches at his disposal, highlighted by a devastating changeup that the A’s believe can be one of the best pitches in baseball, Cotton has the tools to thrive in a multi-inning role out of the bullpen. His first trial run at Stockton was a success, as he struck out three batters over two perfect innings.
“You have to be comfortable with it,” Melvin said. “He could be two or three innings, something along those lines to keep the innings down. Anytime you’re pitching more than two innings, several pitches come into play. We know he has those.”
Davis makes progress
After being shut down from all hitting activities for five days, Khris Davis (left hip/oblique contusion) took swings off a tee and hit soft toss before Wednesday’s game against the Angels. Davis is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list on Saturday, but it remains unclear if the slugger will be healthy enough to return by that time.
“It all depends on how he feels, whether we feel like we need to give him a couple of live at-bats or whether it’s velocity off a machine,” Melvin said. “We’ll make that determination. I know that he would want to [return] if he felt great. He’s a pretty important guy to us.”
Manaea throws bullpen
Sean Manaea continued to make progress from his shoulder surgery as he threw a 40-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday. The left-hander threw all of his pitches during the session and upped the intensity of the throws towards the end.
“He felt really good about it,” Melvin said. “No timetable for him. We’re not even looking at sending him out at this point. He’ll probably throw multiple sessions like this. But everybody was pretty encouraged about what he saw.”