Norberto on DL as Doolittle ascends to bigs
Drafted as first baseman, lefty called up after rising on mound
OAKLAND -- An injury to A's left-handed reliever Jordan Norberto means an opportunity for one Minor Leaguer with an incredible story.
Oakland announced before Monday's game against Texas that Norberto was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 31, with a strained left shoulder. To replace Norberto in the bullpen, the team recalled lefty Sean Doolittle from Triple-A Sacramento. What makes this so amazing? The 25-year-old has been a professional pitcher for all of one season.
The A's drafted Doolittle in 2007 as a first baseman, though he was also in the starting rotation for the University of Virginia. After showing early promise, Doolittle fell victim to knee injuries that saw him miss most of the 2009 season and the entire year in 2010. He then played in only one game in 2011.
"It adds to the story," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Even if he was just a pitcher, hadn't pitched above Single A and suddenly he's in the big leagues, it's a good story. Based on the fact that he was a position player in this organization and now he's made his way to the big leagues so quickly, I don't recall ever hearing about a guy switching positions and making it to the big leagues so quickly. Credit to him and his perseverance in this game."
Doolittle and the organization decided to move him back to the mound last season, and he first appeared as a pitcher in the Arizona Rookie League last August. The lefty was assigned to Class A Advanced Stockton to begin 2012 and has had a meteoric rise through the Minors, appearing in six games for the Ports before earning a promotion, and then pitching in just eight games for Midland before being moved up to Triple-A. Doolittle threw 3 2/3 innings for Sacramento before getting the call to Oakland.
"I thought it would be more of a process than this," Doolittle said. "I'm just as surprised as everybody else, to be honest, that the transition has gone as smoothly as it has. Never in a million years did I think that having two months of pitching under my belt, I'd be here."
As for the man he replaced, Norberto said he began feeling pain his shoulder on the A's off-day last Thursday, and the team decided to place him on the DL after the series with Kansas City. Norberto said he isn't overly worried with the injury, and Melvin echoed those sentiments, saying he expects the lefty to be activated as soon as he's eligible on June 15.
Left-hander Jerry Blevins will move into Norberto's role and thus receive more use, according to Melvin, and Doolittle, who has a 0.72 ERA this season over his three Minor League stops, will likely take Blevins' spot.
"The good thing about Doolittle, at least his numbers getting here, is he's getting the right-handers out just as well as the left-handers, so I don't think we'll be matching up lefty-lefty ... I think he's got the stuff to be able to get through an inning," Melvin said. "He'll get thrown into the fire."
Melvin said injured starting pitcher Dallas Braden, on the 60-day DL after shoulder surgery, began playing catch from 80 feet on Monday and will do so three times a week. Fellow lefty starter Brett Anderson should also begin playing catch on Wednesday or Thursday for the first time since May 19.
Second baseman Jemile Weeks was back in the lineup on Monday after sitting on Sunday with a strained left hip, though he did pinch-hit. Outfielder Coco Crisp was also sitting for the second straight day -- Melvin said he wanted to keep outfielder Collin Cowgill's bat in the lineup. Cowgill has 11 hits in his last 22 at-bats.
Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.