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Disastrous Day at the Coliseum

May 19, 2011

Three words you never want to hear about your starting pitcher: left oblique strain were bandied about quite a bit in Oakland this afternoon because Tyson Ross pitched all of seven pitches (four strikes and three balls for those scoring at home) before leaving today’s game. He had allowed a leadoff hit to Denard Span that came around to score, so when the A’s bullpen – forced to pitch a full nine innings – faltered, and falter is an understatement, he took the loss.

David Purcey began his career as a starter and though he hadn’t made a start since 2009 was called upon to to relieve Ross and eat up a big chunk of innings and he did throwing three and two third innings allowing one (earned) run, on four hits, while walking two and striking out two. The one earned run came off of a Rene Rivera home run. Purcey gave way to Craig Breslow, whose runs surrendered all came on a home run as well, this one a two-run shot given up to Justin Morneau. Trystan Magnuson, in just his second career appearance, took over in the seventh inning and had a great seventh inning, getting span to ground out before striking out Trevor Plouffe and Jason Kubel swinging. Sort of a different story in the eighth for Magnuson, an inning that went like this:

      1. Justin Morneau doubles
      2. Wild pitch advances Morneau to 3rd
      3. Michael Cuddyer singles, Morneau scores
      4. Danny Valencia doubles, Cuddyer scores
      5. Delmon Young pops out
      6. Rene Rivera singles, Valencia to 3rd
      7. Alexi Casilla grounds into a fielders choice, Valencia scores
      8. Denard Span walks, Casilla to 2nd
      9. Trevor Plouffe homers, Casilla and Span score
      10. Jason Kubel grounds out
I am pretty sure when dreaming about his second major league appearance last night, Trystan Magnuson did not have that inning in mind. The six run eighth inning, which featured five hits (including the one home run) and a walk, swelled Magnuson’s ERA to 18.00. I get how Bob Geren needed to get innings out of a guy, but it was the eighth inning and the A’s still had a good number of arms available in the pen, seems detrimental to Magnuson’s development to say here kid, you be the one to take one for the team. Brad Ziegler then relieved the Vancouver native and allowed his first run of the season to end the day at eleven Twins runs.

This sort of pitching performance is acceptable only if your team scores twelve or more runs, but alas the A’s did not managing to squeeze just one run out of Twins starter Nick Blackburn in the seventh, and none off relievers Phil Dumatrait or Anthony Swarzak. Blackburn came into the game having always been troubled by the A’s being winless and featuring a less than stellar 5.76 ERA in eight starts during which Oakland hitters hit .324/.373/.559 off him. A bit different today as in his seven innings on the hill Blackburn limited A’s hitters to just five hits, while walking two and K’ing one. A’s hitters did not do much of anything recording just one extra base hit, a double by Landon Powell in the ninth off Swarzak and hitting 0-for-5 with RISP. A very forgettable day on the scoreboard, but a potentially very unforgettable day in its impact on the A’s season.

Ross is not gone for the season, plenty of pitchers have oblique strains and return in relatively short order (Cliff Lee instantly comes to mind). But it can be a nagging injury and in all likelihood he will hit the 15-day disabled list and likely miss about a month of action. From this great article on oblique strains at Roto Hardball:
“Not only will a pitcher have to take time away from activity to let it heal, but it will take time to get back in shape.  Not throwing a ball even for 4-5 days can set the conditioning of the throwing arm back 2 weeks.  Factor in the whole healing process and it could be a whole month before you see a pitcher back on the mound in a game.   Also, give them an outing or two before you pronounce judgment on their status.”
Ross, began the year as the A’s “sixth starter”, the top choice in Sacramento for a call up, and though it was an injury to Michael Wuertz that got Ross the call to Oakland, when Dallas Braden went down Ross was inserted into the rotation. Braden of course was lost for the season when he had surgery on his shoulder earlier this week, and again Ross won’t be out for the season but four-to-six weeks is a reasonable guess, who then becomes our new fifth starter? The top candidate is left-hander Bobby Cramer. Currently pitching in Sacramento (where he is getting 10.3K/9 to 3.5 BB/9 while pitching 4.60 ERA/4.92 FIP ball) began the season as the A’s long man. In limited work Cramer had a 2.45 ERA and 6.19 FIP while losing one extra inning game by allowing an Alexei Ramirez walk off home run in Chicago to result in his 0-1 record. Cramer is a natural choice to be the guy to fill in, other candidates are Josh Outman who is struggling with the River Cats. The strikeouts are there (7.2 K/9) but the control as he recovers from Tommy John surgery is not (6.5 BB/9) – and MLB is not the place to try and find your lost control. Guillermo Moscoso however is who I would want to see in this role (I expect it to be Cramer, but the A’s surprised me by calling up Magnuson so perhaps they can surprise me again?). Moscoso acquired from the Rangers in a minor trade this offseason is pitching wonderfully in Sacramento sporting a healthy 9.6 K/9 with 2.9 BB/9. His ERA is 4.02 but his FIP is a better indicator of how well he has pitched being at 2.36. Regardless a roster move will be in order and soon we will find out what to expect out of Tyson Ross and his schedule to return. I also wonder if Magnuson’s implosion in the eighth earns him a ticket back to Sacramento in exchange for Joey Devine who is more than ready to return to the A’s.

Today is best forgotten as the A’s fall to 22-22, .500 again – the thirteenth time already this year they’ve been stuck at even wins and losses. Interleague play – also known as the worst idea in the history of baseball – returns tomorrow as the A’s take a chartered BART car to San Francisco to take on the Giants at AT&T Park.
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