Joyce steps up his baseball activities

A's left fielder has been on the DL since July 5

August 18th, 2018

OAKLAND -- Outfielder Matt Joyce started taking live batting practice on Wednesday and is slated to start running the bases as part of a stricter progression in the coming days as he recovers from a lumbar strain that sent him to the disabled list on July 5.

There's still no immediate timetable for a rehab assignment, per A's manager Bob Melvin, but the A's hope to send Joyce out before the end of the Minor League season. The A's full-season Minor League affiliates play their final regular-season games on Sept. 3. Melvin's goal is to have Joyce back sometime in September.

"At some point in time -- I'm not sure when," Melvin said. "When you get to September, there aren't too many places you can go [for a rehab assignment] at some point in time. So maybe, hopefully, it happens before that."

Joyce, the team's regular left fielder prior to his injury, was hitting .203/.311/.359 with seven homers, 13 RBIs and nearly as many walks (30) as hits (39) in 63 games.

Though Joyce has progressed to the point where he's finally feeling good with baseball activity on consecutive days, the A's don't want to push him since he's had several setbacks in his recovery, including one at the end of July that required a second epidural injection.

"We're trying to make sure, the ground we're gaining every day, we don't jeopardize that," Melvin said.

It's easier for the A's to give Joyce the time he needs to fully recover given the strong play of Nick Martini, who has slashed .340/.463/.509 with five doubles and two triples since he was recalled from Triple-A Nashville on July 7 to take Joyce's roster spot. , the A's No. 21 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has also played stellar outfield defense while hitting .250 since his Aug. 3 recall from Triple-A.

Starting rotation stabilizes

The revolving door that is the patchwork 2018 A's starting rotation has finally started to settle down, and Oakland is reaping the benefits of the increased stability.

Though the A's have started 13 different pitchers this season, tied for second-most in the Majors, they've only needed the traditional five starters in the last 14 games [three trips through the rotation]. In that span, , , , Mike Fiers and have combined for an 8-1 record and 1.84 ERA while yielding two or fewer runs 12 times.

"It can be a contagious thing with starters," Melvin said. "Once we've gotten this group together, they've pitched several times around now as a group, where it's been mix and match over the course of the season based on the injuries. They're all pushing each other."

That stability and success couldn't come at a better time. With the A's embarking on a stretch of 20 games in 20 days starting Friday, the bullpen will need all the help it can get.

"We can't go to the bullpen early every game when you play that many games in a row, so the timing is very good that they're pitching well," Melvin said.