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Dull nearing return, could aid Oakland's 'pen

MLB.com @JaneMLB

TORONTO -- The A's are prepared to activate Ryan Dull from the disabled list on Thursday, a move that will bolster the back end of their bullpen.

The right-hander has been missing from action since May 20 with a strained right knee, leaving the A's without one of their primary late-inning relievers. In the meantime, they shipped two more -- Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle -- off to Washington earlier this month, exacerbating the problem.

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TORONTO -- The A's are prepared to activate Ryan Dull from the disabled list on Thursday, a move that will bolster the back end of their bullpen.

The right-hander has been missing from action since May 20 with a strained right knee, leaving the A's without one of their primary late-inning relievers. In the meantime, they shipped two more -- Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle -- off to Washington earlier this month, exacerbating the problem.

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Dull, though struggling to the tune of a 6.32 ERA before hitting the disabled list, proved his worth as a late-inning arm with an exceptional rookie campaign last year. He posted a 2.42 ERA across 74 1/3 innings in 70 games, starring in high-leverage situations.

"This is a guy that, last year at times, was probably our most effective reliever," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "When you're down a couple guys like we are here, he will be an important cog getting back to doing his thing. One of the best, certainly last year, coming in with guys on base and getting outs, and that's very difficult to do."

Dull last pitched Monday with Triple-A Nashville, allowing one hit with one walk and one strikeout in 1 2/3 innings and throwing 32 pitches.

Worth noting

• Right-hander Jharel Cotton tossed six scoreless innings in a rehab start for Nashville on Tuesday, yielding just two hits with one walk and nine strikeouts.

Cotton, who was placed on the DL on July 4 with a right thumb blister, is expected to return to the rotation next week. It's unclear when, however, with several factors in play -- notably the fate of Sonny Gray, who is expected to be dealt ahead of Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

• Outfielder Jaycob Brugman was available off the bench Wednesday after being taken out of Tuesday's lineup with neck stiffness. He entered the game as a defensive switch, taking over in center field in the ninth inning.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Ryan Dull