Doolittle takes step forward in recovery

A's reliever faces live hitters for first time

Doolittle takes step forward in recovery

OAKLAND -- A's reliever Sean Doolittle faced live hitters Friday for the first time since being placed on the disabled list June 26 with a strained left shoulder.

Doolittle threw 20 pitches off the Coliseum mound to teammates Tyler Ladendorf and Max Muncy as several members of the A's coaching staff watched, including manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young. Melvin was encouraged by Doolittle's performance.

"We've been pretty conservative for obvious reasons," Melvin said of Doolittle's recovery process. "He's a big part of what we do here and we want to make sure he comes back strong and we're not pushing the envelope too quick. Knock on wood, everything looked really good today."

The team will assess how Doolittle feels Saturday before determining his next step. Melvin said Doolittle could throw to hitters one more time or embark on a rehab assignment next week.

Doolittle has dealt with inflammation in his left labrum, which flared up after a week of extensive usage in late June prior to his stint on the DL. Doolittle missed most of 2015 with a left shoulder injury, and Melvin's said the team will remain cautious with him throughout the rest of his rehab process, and will try to avoid pitching him in back-to-back games upon his return.

Melvin was asked what he looked for Friday from Doolittle, who has a 2.93 ERA in 35 outings this year.

"One, how the swings are against him," he said. "And two, is he favoring it a little bit? Not stepping on the throttle? It looked like normal arm slot and the ball came out of his hand like we're used to seeing it in a game."

Muncy was also impressed with Doolittle's velocity, saying the lefty appeared to look strong.

"He's a tough guy to face anytime," Muncy said. "You know what's coming and you still can't hit it."

A's move forward with rotation

Sean Manaea ended an Oakland record of eight consecutive games with eight different starting pitchers Friday. It was the longest streak by an A's team since June 7-12, 1961, when the team still played in Kansas City.

Oakland started eight different pitchers over their last eight games, including using two relievers as starters in Zach Neal and Andrew Triggs. The A's placed Sonny Gray (right forearm) and Jesse Hahn (right shoulder) on the 15-day disabled list over that stretch, resulting in a rotation in flux.

That won't be the case throughout the upcoming week. Melvin said the team's rotation will make at least one more turn through, meaning Neal, Triggs and newly-added Ross Detwiler will all make one more start. Neal and Detwiler delivered strong starts against the Orioles, while Triggs allowed three runs in four innings Friday.

Oakland's already used 12 different starting pitchers this year, and A's starters are 31-49 with a 5.09 ERA this season. Melvin said Hahn, who will throw a bullpen session Saturday, would then be in line for a "quick" rehab start and a possible re-entry into the rotation soon. He's eligible to come off the disabled list Aug. 20.

Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.