The Oakland Athletics had a curveball thrown into their plans (pardon the pun) of three-peating as AL West Division Champs Monday morning when it was announced that planned opening day starter Jarrod Parker would undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2014 season.
Parker had recently been shut down following the revelation that he was experiencing forearm tightness in his throwing arm, at times an indicator of ligament damage in a pitcher. He experienced similar soreness towards the end of last season and was considered questionable had the A’s advanced to the American League Championship Series.
“Obviously we feel bad for Jarrod,” A’s assistant general manager David Forst told reporters. “I know he worked hard this offseason after having some struggles at the end of the year and was hoping to be at the top of the rotation this year. Other than that, we can only play the hand that we’re dealt, and we obviously spent a lot of time putting together pitching depth coming into the year, and some guys are going to have to step up.”
This marks the second time in his career that Parker will have Tommy John surgery. He also had the procedure in 2009 while pitching in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization.
Forst also noted that there is no timeline for Parker to return.
“You don’t know what the recovery rate is with guys with a second Tommy John, but unfortunately it’s becoming more frequent.”
With A.J. Griffin also out for the beginning of the season with an elbow injury, the A’s will now need to turn to their pitching depth to fill at least two-thirds of their starting rotation for the short term until Griffin can return.
The top candidates to fill the two openings in the rotation are Tommy Milone, who has won 25 games over the past two seasons for the A’s, and Jesse Chavez who spent most of 2013 as the long-man in the bullpen.
“We obviously thought these guys could start when we brought them in here,” said Forst. “That’s why we stretched Jesse out from the start of Spring Training. That’s why Tommy wasn’t traded in the offseason, despite everyone saying, ‘What are they going to do with all these starters?’
“We’ve been through enough seasons to know five starters isn’t going to make it, and in this case, five starters didn’t make it to Opening Day. Hopefully, we’ve done enough planning and those guys are ready to step in and be Major League starters.”
The A’s also have recently acquired Drew Pomeranz and Josh Lindblom, as well as Phil Humber, to turn to if necessary.
Scott Kazmir was also scratched from his start with what was described as a “very minor” injury. Forst says that Kazmir likely could have made his start today, and will probably pitch in the next day or two. With injuries already to Griffin and Parker, it makes sense that Oakland would take a very cautious approach with Kazmir.
In place of Parker, and with the minor setback to Kazmir, it is assumed that manager Bob Melvin will soon announce Sonny Gray the opening night starter.