What is it with Wednesdays and bad news for Dominican players on Major League Baseball’s two Bay Area clubs?
Last Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants were submarined when all-star outfielder Melky Cabrera, the National League’s second-leading hitter and All-Star Game MVP, was suspended 50 games by MLB for his use of testosterone. Cabrera reportedly went so far as to have a fake Web site created that sold the product he “accidently” took, but MLB found out about the ruse and now Cabrera might face an even longer suspension.
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The Oakland A’s felt the Giants’ pain on Wednesday when rejuvenated pitcher Bartolo Colon was suspended by MLB the same 50 games for taking the same substance. Colon issued the perfunctory statement: "I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A's. I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the Joint Drug Program."
The A’s are one of baseball’s biggest surprises as they are 66-56 entering Wednesday, right in the thick of the wild-card race and not too far behind Texas in the AL West. And Colon has been one of MLB’s biggest player surprises. The 39-year-old, considered just a reclamation project on a one-year free-agent deal, is 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA. He leads the A's in wins, innings pitched and starts.
The 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner had been getting even better of late. Colon was 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in his past five outings. In wins over the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles, two of the teams the A’s are battling for a wild-card spot, Colon allowed no earned runs in 12.2 innings. He was scheduled to start Thursday in another big series with wild-card implications at Tampa Bay.
So what does this mean for Oakland’s postseason chances? Colon will miss the final 40 games of the regular season (starting Wednesday) and 10 postseason games if the team makes it that far. I highly doubt the A’s make it 10 games into the postseason as that would be at a minimum four games into the ALCS (one wild-card game, five ALDS games beforehand).
The A’s already have used more rookie pitchers than any club in baseball and now will have to rely on them again. Tyson Ross (not a rookie) is being called up for Thursday’s game and that doesn’t bode well considering he is 2-8 with a 6.35 ERA. Ross hasn’t pitched in the majors since late June. The A’s are +125 dogs for Thursday against Rays youngster Alex Cobb.
Look for the permanent replacement to possibly be rookie right-hander Dan Straily. He was sent down following Monday’s start in Kansas City when he blanked the Royals over 6.1 innings. He is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 total big-league innings. Straily has to stay in Triple-A for 10 days before he can be recalled unless there’s an injury on the big club – Colon’s suspension doesn’t qualify.
Straily was sent down because the A’s needed a roster spot for lefty Brett Anderson. And he looked great in his first start of the season Tuesday off Tommy John Surgery almost 15 months ago, allowing one run on four hits in beating Minnesota. With all due respect to Colon, Anderson is an upgrade if he’s 100 percent healthy. Thus, the A’s can just slide Straily into the No. 5 spot and perhaps skip him when possible on off days. Or the A’s can turn to A.J. Griffin. He could be activated from the DL next week. The rookie was 3-0 and 2.42 ERA in eight starts before a shoulder strain sidelined him.
Because of Anderson and the fact that Oakland recently added shortstop Stephen Drew from Arizona to boost the offense (although he was lousy with the Snakes), I don’t think the Colon suspension really hurts too much. The A’s are still +1500 to win the division on Sportsbook.ag, but they were never going to catch the Rangers anyway. So if you liked Oakland before to make the wild-card, don’t let this change your mind. Probably the only players the A’s absolutely can’t afford to lose are outfielders Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes.
As for Colon, his career is likely done and this will be rather expensive. He loses nearly $470,000 of his remaining salary. Colon still gets to keep some $900,000 of performance bonuses earned, which doesn’t seem right, but Thursday’s missed start will cost him another $250,000. The suspension will cost him the chance to make $850,000 in additional bonuses based on innings.