CLEVELAND -- A's left-hander Rich Hill is making progress with the blister on his left middle finger, just not enough to pitch Sunday in Cleveland.
Instead, Sonny Gray will take his regular turn to close out a three-game road series with the Indians, while Oakland mulls whether to place Hill on the disabled list. With a 10-day backdate, he could return as soon as Thursday -- so long as he's not dealt ahead of Monday's 1 p.m. PT non-waiver Trade Deadline, of course.
Players on the DL can still be traded, and A's general manager David Forst said Friday that Hill's status "certainly hasn't diminished the number of phone calls we've fielded."
"The Deadline is Monday, no matter what happens with Rich," Forst said. "There has been interest, we've had conversations. We're not going to give Rich away just because he's a free agent next year. He has a lot of value to us and, frankly, who's to say we're not interested in keeping Rich beyond this year?"
Forst said the team knew earlier this week that a Sunday start would be a long shot for Hill, who hasn't seen game action since throwing five pitches in a July 17 outing against the Blue Jays, when his blister popped. Fear of that happening again, thus further delaying his return, has the A's taking the cautious route, no matter how it affects his trade value.
"I just don't want to be in that same situation again," Hill said. "It feels we're making very good progress with it. The only problem is if we run out there and end up in a situation like we were last time, we're pushing it back even more."
"He's very eager to pitch," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said, "but I think he understands that, based on what happened last time, we have to be careful with it."
That's why Hill stuck to long toss -- he made 60 throws -- at Progressive Field on Friday, rather than also going through with a bullpen session, which is now scheduled for Saturday. Hill is on tap for three innings in a simulated setting, and he'll attempt to get through part of it without any protective covering on his finger.
"At no point were we going to not do what was best for Rich," Forst said. "He's made a lot of really good progress, he just needs a few more days."
Forst, speaking in general terms about interest in his players, said, "We're having a lot of conversations. I couldn't handicap it right now as to whether we do something or not.
"The fact is, our guys have played really well since the All-Star break. We're obviously looking up at a lot of teams in the standings, but they deserve a lot of credit. ... How that affects Monday remains to be seen, and what conversations we have over the next 72 hours."
Forst did confirm Friday afternoon that no deal was imminent. Along with Hill, outfielder Josh Reddick remains a strong trade candidate.