September 1st is the day each season when major league rosters are allowed to expand from 25 to 40 players. Not every franchise will add 15 additional men to the big league squad, but the option is there. After a long season of physically and mentally taxing games along with nonstop continental travel, veterans get a chance to take a day off here and there. Plus, fans get an up-close glimpse of hot prospects who have impressed all year in the minors. Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to go.
The eight players who received call-ups for the A’s are not going to set the world on fire. Let’s face it, Oakland is going nowhere so these extra bodies are not at the Coliseum to help with a pennant race. If it were up to me, every September call-up for the A’s this year would be a youngster who could receive some big league blooding without ruining his arbitration clock. But for most of the new members of the team, this is not their first rodeo. Here are my brief thoughts on the eight players who will now be getting dressed in the middle of the clubhouse:
— Jason Pridie has played in the bigs with the Twins, Mets, Phillies, Orioles, and Rockies prior to his call-up. In fact, he threw me a foul ball at Aces Stadium in Reno last Wednesday night. Thanks, Jason. I honestly have very little interest in him as a long-term member of the A’s. But lately I have learned not to count people out too quickly. It also speaks volumes about Craig Gentry’s status with the team that he was left in Tennessee instead.
— I also saw Carson Blair catch for the Sounds last week. A longtime member of the Red Sox organization, he was picked up by Billy Beane when Boston cut him in the winter. Blair began well in the Texas League but has been mediocre in the PCL. He has zero chance of usurping a healthy Stephen Vogt or Josh Phegley. I would hope some of the other catchers in the A’s system will impress themselves on the GM more than Blair next year.
— Tyler Ladendorf had a few exciting moments in April for the A’s before getting sent down and being subsequently hurt for a long period of time. He’s finally healthy again but with the addition of Danny Valencia and the slow improvement of Marcus Semien, his chances will be limited. A former second round pick of the Twins out of Howard, Ladendorf came to the A’s in the Orlando Cabrera trade six years ago. You might see him in left field, too.
— Starting pitcher Cody Martin was called up and then sent right back down yesterday after an embarrassing performance against the Angels on Tuesday night. The A’s acquired Martin from the Braves in July for an international bonus slot. Martin was a foot away from first base on a potential 3-1 put-out and then things unraveled rapidly in his cup of coffee. Visibly shaken by such a humiliation, he then hit Albert Pujols in the ribs … with the bases loaded.
— Reliever Dan Otero has relieved other teams’ worries this season with a horrendous ERA of 7.50. He gave up another home run in his first appearance back on Tuesday night. He looks like the guy the Giants once cut. After the game, I asked Bob Melvin why Otero’s ERA had jumped more than five runs in one year (it was 2.28 last season), and Melvin said that his pitches were still quality but that “sometimes relievers have bad years.” I’ll say that when your ERA is over 7.00, you’re throwing way too many fat pitches right over the plate.
— R.J. Alvarez is back in the bullpen after two previous stints that did not garner much praise. Once the main piece to the Huston Street trade from the Angels to the Padres, he then came north to Oakland in the Derek Norris deal. I still think he has value but the ERA of 11.32 with the A’s this season is downright obscene. Let’s hope someone fixes this kid.
— Arnold Leon’s most famous baseball moment was starting the fight between Mexico and Canada at the World Baseball Classic two years ago. I wish he had a better claim to fame. So far, his big league ERA is just under 5.00 at 4.91. He’s been in the A’s system for a long time, as he was signed nine years ago from Saraperos de Saltillo in his native land. He missed almost all of 2010 and 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but you’d have to wonder if Beane’s patience is wearing thin after all these years.
— Finally we have reliever Ryan Dull (pictured above), the only call-up who has piqued the fans’ interest. A 32nd-round pick out of UNC Asheville, he was automatically a long shot because guys who sign $1,000 signing bonuses do not receive special treatment. They have to prove over and over that they’re really better than the guys who are being paid a lot more money. Dull is the third player from the A’s 2012 draft who has reached the big leagues (Addison Russell and Max Muncy being the others). He had a 0.60 ERA in the Texas League and kept things going at AAA after his promotion. Dull rocked a 1.16 line from his brief time at Nashville, and now here he is in The Show.
Normally a call-up like Dull would be a nice little sideshow, since he looks like the paper boy and came out of nowhere to pass by so many others. But this is real: the A’s bullpen is a well-documented disaster and Dull could very well find himself there next season. So far he has been a picture of calm while all around him flail in desperation. He has pitched two scoreless innings so far and has only given up one hit, with 2 strikeouts and no walks. It’s the smallest sample size ever, but I’d much rather see this kid pitch than ANYONE else in the bullpen right now. Here’s to the Dull excitement. May that particular oxymoron keep on rolling.