Notes: Durazo's status in question
Bullpen gets plenty of rest after Harden and Zito's starts
OAKLAND -- A timetable for designated hitter Erubiel Durazo's return to the A's lineup hasn't been clear since he went on the disabled list with a bum left elbow on May 27.
Now it's murkier than ever. It's possible that Durazo, whose contract expires at the end of the season, might not return at all.
A day after A's manager Ken Macha told the media that Durazo could start a Minor League rehab assignment as soon as July 25, Macha was told by athletic trainer Larry Davis that Durazo, who struggled through batting practice with the team on Friday, has suffered a setback that could lead to surgery.
"I think that'll be one of the things we discuss with the doctor," Davis said on Saturday before the third game of a four-game series against the Rangers at McAfee Coliseum.
Scheduled to fly to Arizona this weekend so he could work out at the club's complex in Phoenix while the A's are on the road, Durazo instead will accompany the team to Southern California, where he'll again be examined by Lewis Yocum, a respected arm specialist who works for the Angels.
Prior to the All-Star break, Durazo said the pain in his elbow had all but subsided. Now it's back, prompting the A's to take a second look at their original diagnosis of tendinitis.
"A lot of times with elbows, tendinitis is one of the things that's in there," Davis said. "It's the most benign diagnosis, and because the treatment for most everything that could be going on in there is the same, that's typically what you go with initially. Then, if it doesn't go away, you start to look deeper.
"I don't think he's to the same level [of pain] it was when he went on the DL, but it's getting there."
Davis said Durazo, who led the team in batting (.321), slugging (.523) and RBIs (88) last year, received an MRI in early June. It's uncertain if he'll get another in Anaheim.
"An MRI's not gonna change much," Davis said. "We've had guys with good MRIs who couldn't play, and we've had guys with terrible MRIs who could. ... You treat people, not pictures."
That Scott Hatteberg and rookie Dan Johnson have been hitting so well while splitting first base and DH duties for the past six weeks or so gives the A's the luxury of taking their time with Durazo, who was batting .237 with four homers and 16 RBIs when he was sidelined.
Neither Hatteberg or Johnson started on Saturday because they hit from the left side and Macha went with as many righties as possible against Rangers lefty Kenny Roger, but in their previous 19 games, Hatteberg was batting .321 with 11 RBIs and 12 walks while Johnson was batting .333 with four homers, 15 RBIs and 11 walks.
Switch-hitting rookie Nick Swisher, who had 23 RBIs in his previous 23 starts before Saturday, got the call at first base against Rogers. Keith Ginter was the DH.
"We're in pretty good shape at those two positions right now," said Macha. "Thankfully, there's no need to rush Ruby into anything."
Tough choices: The three-day All-Star break and Rich Harden's complete game on Thursday left Oakland's bullpen with four consecutive days of inactivity, so Macha had to prioritize which of his relievers would get some work on Saturday, after Barry Zito's eight innings of two-hit work.
Newly acquired righty Jay Witasick, lefty Ricardo Rincon and righty Kiko Calero got the call, Macha said, in part because All-Star Justin Duchscherer and rookie closer Huston Street both missed extended periods of time in the first half with injuries but exhibited an ability to pick right up where they left off.
"I'd like to get 'Duke' back out there, and Street needs to pitch," Macha said, "but that's tough to do when a guy's throwing a no-hitter."
Harden and Zito both carried no-hitters into the eighth.
Dribblers: Witasick allowed a run on two hits and a walk without getting an out in his first appearance since being acquired in the Wednesday trade that sent Eric Byrnes to Colorado. "He pitched like he hadn't been in there in six or eight days, which I believe he hadn't," Macha said, adding that catcher Jason Kendall said Witasick had good velocity and movement. "It's a mulligan." ... Daric Barton, the 19-year-old prospect acquired as part of the December deal that sent Mark Mulder to the Cardinals, was batting .394 with an on-base percentage of .447 through Friday in his first 10 games with Double-A Midland.
Up next: A's righty Dan Haren (7-7, 4.08 ERA) will take on Texas righty Chris Young (8-5, 4.01) in the series finale Sunday. The teams will face off in another four-game series that starts next Thursday in Arlington.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.