OAKLAND -- Left-hander Eric Surkamp will start on Tuesday against the Twins to begin his third stint with Oakland this season.Surkamp will be replacing Zach Neal in the rotation. Manager Bob Melvin said that Neal, who pitched the ninth inning on Sunday against the Tigers after starting on Wednesday, will
OAKLAND -- Left-hander Eric Surkamp will start on Tuesday against the Twins to begin his third stint with Oakland this season.
Surkamp will be replacing Zach Neal in the rotation. Manager Bob Melvin said that Neal, who pitched the ninth inning on Sunday against the Tigers after starting on Wednesday, will transition to a relief role.
"He's done well at times here," Melvin said of Surkamp, who is 0-3 with a 6.55 ERA in five starts this season. "When we talk about pitching depth, he's definitely one of the guys we consider in that mix as far as starters go."
Surkamp began the season as a starter but was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on April 25. He made a spot start in Boston on May 11, giving up four runs in 2 2/3 innings, before being optioned back to Nashville. He is 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA in four Triple-A starts this year and gave up four runs on eight hits in six innings in his most recent start, on Tuesday against the Las Vegas 51s.
Neal struggled on Wednesday, giving up seven runs in four innings against Seattle in the first start of his career, then pitched a scoreless ninth in Saturday's 12-3 win over Detroit. He had taken Sonny Gray's spot in the rotation after Gray went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained trapezius.
"We're comfortable with both guys at this point," Melvin said. "With using Neal in the bullpen right now, we decided to go with Surkamp."
• Melvin said that Gray "felt good" on Sunday, one day after throwing his first bullpen session since going on the DL, and will throw another bullpen on Tuesday. Gray threw 35 pitches on Saturday.
• Melvin moved Billy Burns down to the ninth spot in Sunday's batting order. Burns has primarily hit leadoff or second this season but is hitting just .204 over his last 14 games.
"I think it's more that we have some other guys swinging the bat a little bit better right now," Melvin said. "Being in the nine spot allows me to use the [Coco Crisp] /Burns dynamic. It's just not 1-2, it's 9-1 right now. He'll swing a little bit better here in the coming days and be back up there. We try to get it right each and every day, and we have some other guys who are probably swinging a little bit better right now."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland.