8/23/2014 9:09 P.M. ET
A's expected to juggle rotation for Anaheim trip
By Jane Lee and Aaron Leibowitz / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Nothing is official, but the A's are expected to tweak their rotation next week to ensure that each of their top four starters pitch against the Angels in a crucial four-game set down south.
Right-hander Sonny Gray was in line to make his next start in Houston on Wednesday, but the A's are instead anticipated to pitch him the following day in Anaheim and call on a sixth starter to face the Astros. Those duties will likely fall on lefty Drew Pomeranz, who last pitched for the A's on June 16, the same day he punched a wooden chair out of frustration and broke his right hand.
Pomeranz was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento at the end of his rehab and has since gone 3-1 with a 3.69 ERA in eight starts for the River Cats. He was 4-3 with a 3.21 in eight starts for the A's.
This allows Jon Lester, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija to follow Gray in Anaheim, marking the A's final regular-season meeting with the Halos at Angel Stadium this year. The Angels will visit Oakland once more, Sept. 22-24.
Los Angeles led the A's by one game in the American League West heading into Saturday's contest.
Hammel to rejoin rotation after lengthy break
OAKLAND -- Jason Hammel is slated to take the mound Tuesday for the A's in Houston, manager Bob Melvin confirmed Saturday, which would give the scuffling right-hander 10 days off between starts.
With two off-days this week, the A's opted to skip Hammel's turn in the rotation to put their best foot forward in a crucial three-game set against the Angels. Though Hammel would prefer to be pitching, he believes the extra rest could help him get back on track.
"Sometimes when you skip a start, mentally, it's even better than physically, just to take a break and take that kind of pressure off of yourself," Hammel said.
The additional time has allowed Hammel to throw what Melvin characterized as "aggressive" side sessions, working on mechanics with a focus on fastball command and downward plane.
"I'm usually a guy that establishes fastball and then pitches off that," said Hammel, "so I've been throwing a lot of fastballs, just trying to get comfortable over the mound again instead of trying to do too much. Instead of being a thrower, I'm trying to get back to pitching."
Hammel was available out of the bullpen, and though he has substantial experience as a reliever, Melvin did not foresee using him unless absolutely necessary.
"Today's probably the last day for that," Melvin said Saturday of Hammel's availability in relief.
Since the A's acquired him in a trade from the Cubs on July 5, Hammel is 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA. His most recent outing was a debacle in Atlanta on Aug. 15, when he gave up five runs and three home runs in three innings.
Achilles injury shuts down Blanks' rehab
OAKLAND -- An MRI on Friday revealed left Achilles tendinitis for Kyle Blanks, another setback to throw the first baseman's rehab efforts off course.
Blanks will be shut down "for a while," A's manager Bob Melvin said Saturday, and there is no timetable for his return.
The tendinitis comes on top of Blanks' left calf strain, which sent him to the disabled list on June 23. He went 9-for-21 (.429) in seven games on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento, but he started experiencing soreness in both feet this week.
Oakland received Blanks in a trade with the Padres on May 15, and he has hit .333 with two home runs in 45 at-bats for the A's. Now, there is no telling whether he might return by the end of the season.
"[Blanks] came up and did really well for us there," said Melvin. "Looked like a calf strain and hopefully just the 15-day DL period, but it has not been that."
Nate Freiman has capably stepped in to the A's righty first baseman role, entering Saturday with an .860 OPS in 20 games.
• Shortstop Jed Lowrie is still unable to throw due to a fractured right index finger, limiting him to taking ground balls and swinging with one arm.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.