Cotton, Triggs, Blackburn begin throwing

August 14th, 2018

OAKLAND -- The A's don't appear to need pitching help at the moment. But on Monday they received good news on a trio of injured starters: , and began throwing programs, manager Bob Melvin said.

For Cotton and Blackburn, it was the first time they have thrown since their respective injuries. Cotton underwent Tommy John surgery on March 21, and Blackburn has been on the disabled list since July 7 with a right elbow injury.

Melvin said Cotton's recovery is on schedule. The righty, who had a promising 2017 campaign and was primed for a breakout season, instead saw it come to an early conclusion. But Monday marked an important milestone.

"For him, it's a big day because it's a lot of hard work," Melvin said. "Coming off a Tommy John, that's a tough thing to rehab from. It can be a lonely existence when you're doing that."

Melvin added he's hopeful that both Triggs and Blackburn will make appearances by the end of the season. According to Melvin, Triggs may slot into a bullpen role.

All three pitchers were expected to be featured in the A's rotation, and their injuries have contributed to the team using 13 starting pitchers this season, which is tied for second-most in baseball. A Major League-high 11 pitchers have made at least five starters.

Yet, a makeshift rotation -- which was bolstered last week by the acquisition of Mike Fiers from the Tigers and also includes veterans , and Trevor Cahill -- has more than held down the fort, going 6-1 with a 1.89 ERA and holding opponents to a .204 batting average over the last 11 games. A's pitching also leads the Majors with a 2.98 ERA since the All-Star break.

"Some of our starters are pitching as well as they have all year," Melvin said.

Joyce eyes return

Matt Joyce, who has been on the DL since July 5 with a lumbar strain, said he hit off a tee last week and again on Monday. The plan is for him to take batting practice this week and start a rehab assignment soon.

The veteran has appeared in 63 games this season and is hitting .203 with seven home runs. It has been frustrating, he said, to land on the DL twice with back problems. He missed 15 games in June and has missed 31 games this stint.

Joyce, who had never had back issues before, said it just "flared up" on him and that everything is structurally sound. An epidural shot he received a few weeks ago helped a bit, but "it wasn't a magical recovery." It has been hard for him to watch from the bench as the A's have surged into playoff position.

"It's been extremely frustrating, but bittersweet," Joyce said. "I love seeing the boys play so well and give us a chance to make the playoffs. Just hoping I was going to be a bigger part of the success."