OAKLAND -- A’s catcher Josh Phegley feared the worst when he felt discomfort in his thumb while receiving a pitch, which led to getting pulled in the fifth inning of a game against the Rangers on July 28.
After a visit to the training room that night at the Coliseum, MRI results revealed a ligament in his right thumb that appeared to be in bad shape. Such damage often requires surgery, which would have ended his breakout 2019 season -- he led American League catchers with 45 RBIs to go along with 10 home runs at the time of the injury.
“Catching so long, your thumb gets pretty rubbery,” Phegley said. “For it to start hurting, something definitely went wrong. We got the MRI back, and the ligament didn’t look so hot. That was concerning.”
Placed on the 10-day injured list retroactive to July 29, the A’s were unsure how long Phegley might be out. But after about a week, the inflammation went down, and it turned out the strain was not as serious as originally anticipated. Phegley began a rehab assignment this past Sunday, and after three games in the Minors, he was reinstated from the IL ahead of Friday’s game against the Astros.
“Selfishly, I’ve had a good season and don’t want to be on the IL any longer than I have to. But I also just want to be back and help these guys win and be a part of this team,” Phegley said. “That’s the fun part, competing with these guys. We’ve got a special team, and hopefully we can do something special this last month and a half.”
The A’s entered Friday 8 1/2 games back of the Astros for first place in the American League West and 1 1/2 back of the Rays for the second AL Wild Card spot. Phegley returns just in time for perhaps the toughest stretch of the schedule over the final six weeks of the season, which features the A's playing nine of their next 15 games against the Astros and Yankees.
“I just think this is where we put together our last run, the last month and a half, and I want to be here,” Phegley said. “We got a stretch here where we've got to make a push, and this is where it gets exciting, so I’m happy to be back.”
While the A’s are glad to get their Opening Day catcher back in the fold, they also took a hit in their catching depth. Dustin Garneau, who batted .294 with a home run and seven RBIs over seven games while helping to fill in for Phegley, was designated for assignment to make room on the active roster.
Beau Taylor, another well-liked catcher in the A’s clubhouse who contributed over two stints in the Majors this season, was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays on Friday, two days after being designated for assignment. The 29-year-old was a fifth-round selection by the A’s in the 2011 Draft.
“I wish there was a way we could try to keep all of them, but it’s tough on a 25-man roster,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Garneau fit in real nice here and did a good job. Taylor has been in our organization for a while and probably did his best work this year. As far as depth goes, we felt those two guys were really good for us. It’s tough to lose those guys.”