While the Oakland A’s expected to ride their young starting pitching this season, few could have expected them to remain right in the thick of contention in the AL West once they lost two of those arms to injury. Before Spring Training broke, Oakland was forced to place both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin on the disabled list with varying, but hauntingly similar arm concerns. Parker had damaged his UCL and after undergoing further evaluations ended up going under the knife for Tommy John surgery. The procedure effectively ended his season before it could begin, leaving the A’s without their expected staff ace.
Griffin’s situation was a little different. He’d been diagnosed with flexor tendinitis in his forearm, often a precursor to Tommy John surgery. The team opted to shut him down completely for a month but Griffin began throwing again in recent days. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, however, that Griffin showed no improvement with the time off. Griffin’s issues, which first started late last season, haven’t improved and the 26 year old will seek a second opinion next Tuesday from Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff in Houston.
Entering the season as the team’s projected #4 starter, Griffin had emerged last season as one of the team’s up-and-coming young arms. He made 32 starts for the team, throwing exactly 200 innings on the season with a 3.83 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, and 7.7 K/9. He had his struggles, of course, leading the American League in home runs allowed (36, 1.6 HR/9) but with further experience and growth there would have been a reasonable expectation that those numbers would improve.
Oakland’s managed to get by in the absence of both Parker and Griffin, sitting just a half game out of first place entering play Thursday evening. Sonny Gray has emerged as a real talent, winning three of his first five starts while posting a 2.25 ERA. Scott Kazmir is proving that last season’s success wasn’t a fluke. Jesse Chavez, he of the two career starts entering the season, has even joined in the mix with a 1.38 ERA and 0.923 WHIP across his first four starts while leading the rotation with 9.7 K/9.
Beyond that, however, the team has seen inconsistent production from both Dan Straily (5.40 ERA, 1.292 WHIP) and Tommy Milone (4.24 ERA, 1.529 WHIP). As Slusser notes, the organization isn’t flush with much MLB-ready pitching down at Triple-A which likely leaves Drew Pomeranz – who’s thrown 9.1 IP out of the bullpen on the year – as the most likely next option should they need a starter.
The A’s already know that Parker is done for the season and presumably have been planning for the possibility that Griffin would join him. Hearing that after a month of inactivity there has been zero progress was likely not the news that they’d been expecting and it remains to be seen how, or when, the team will look to address their need to add depth in order to stay in the hunt.