The Oakland Athletics are losing one of their rotation’s most valuable pieces, at perhaps the most crucial point in their season. The A’s announced that Jesse Hahn would be sidelined indefinitely, but almost certainly long term, as he spends time on the disabled list with a flexor tendon injury.
Hahn reported some elbow tightness, which can often signal the need for Tommy John surgery, and with Hahn already having had one surgery, a second one would have been more difficult to come back from. Luckily, that isn’t the case, but this is still a very devastating injury to the team. Hahn will not only need to rest for at least a month as his injury heals, but he will also need to spend time in rehab as he stretches out to the point where he can start games again.
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Is it possible that Hahn will not pitch again this season? While the A’s haven’t said that, it sounds like the injury is far more serious than fans had hoped. Hahn will need a long-term replacement, and Oakland has already tagged Chris Bassitt as the pitcher who will get the call-up when the Athletics’ rotation finally needs a fifth starter on July 25th.
Bassitt struggled at the beginning of the season, but during his last stint as a fill-in, he performed well. He lowered his ERA to 2.93 over the course of eight games this year, despite having an 0-2 record. But the problem with calling up Bassitt is that it eliminates him as in option in the event that Scott Kazmir is traded or another starter is injured. Who would be next? Barry Zito?
The A’s need to do some serious searching to find a replacement for their rotation. In previous seasons, Jesse Chavez has not been good in the second half, and it’s likely that they will need to move him to the bullpen sometime after the All-Star break. Bassitt is a fine fill-in, but there is no depth behind him. Oakland needs to proactively acquire additional pitching depth if they hope to remain competitive.
In addition to the short-term problems created by this injury, it’s entirely possible that if Hahn does pitch again this year, he still won’t return as a starter. The Cleveland Indians used ace Justin Masterson out of the bullpen after a mid-season injury derailed his 2013 season, rather than waste his talent on rehab appearances to stretch him out. Even when the Tribe made the playoffs, Masterson was still pitching in rehab appearances. They simply made him the de-facto closer, and that might be one way to go with Hahn. While he is ultimately more valuable to the A’s when he can pitch at least six innings per game, he’s not valuable at all to them as a pitcher on a rehab assignment.