KANSAS CITY – Jharel Cotton couldn’t imagine why his phone was blowing up Tuesday until he read the first text.
It was like all the others, letting him know that Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez had watched Cotton throw seven two-hit innings against the Royals Monday and said he saw a lot of himself in the A’s starter.
Martinez noted that Cotton was born the same year, 1992, that Martinez made his big league debut, that they had the same grip in throwing the changeup, that both were 5-foot-11 and that the both wore the No. 45. Video from MLB Network had the two throwing side by side, and the resemblance was uncanny.
“I like 45, but I didn’t realize it was also his number until yesterday.” Cotton said Monday, adding that Martinez was his idol growing up in the U.S. Virgin Islands. “So I looked it up. It’s pretty cool.”
While doing the rounds of social media, Cotton noticed that he had a new follower on Twitter, @PedroMartinez45. And that was a thrill, too.
“He followed me, so I followed him right back,” Cotton said. “That’s cool.”
Martinez wasn’t the only one to take notice. Former A’s outfielder/first baseman Brandon Moss, who walked once and struck out twice against Cotton Monday, could only say “I don’t like facing him.”
“It tells you something when you know he’s going to throw a pitch, he hangs the pitch and you still can’t hit it,” Moss said. “The count was 1-2, I knew the changeup was coming and I still swung under it. He’s got a good one.”
As Cotton said of the changeup “it’s my best pitch. There are a lot of guys who are going to know that it’s coming.”
Sonny Gray will face hitters in two “innings” of about 15 pitches each midafternoon Thursday. If that goes well, he could be cleared to begin a series of injury rehabilitation assignments. He’s hoping to be back with the A’s by the end of the month.
John Axford, the reliever who went on the disabled list just a couple of days into the season, still doesn’t have a date when he can begin throwing again. He’ll need to do some strengthening exercises, too.
Pitcher Chris Bassitt, on his way back from last year’s Tommy John surgery, will throw to hitters in the near future.
Jed Lowrie moved into the No. 3 spot in the batting order Wednesday with Ryon Healy, mired in a .156 start to the season, dropping to sixth. Manager Bob Melvin said he expected to see Healy back batting third Melvin said. “It’s more about giving Healy a little bit of a break,” Melvin said. “He’ll be back, there’s no doubt. It happens multiple times over the course of a season. Just take a little pressure off him in the three spot. But he worked his way into the three spot and for good reason, and he’ll be back.”
Triple-A third baseman Matt Chapman, on the disabled list with Nashville, had an MRI on his ailing left wrist. The MRI showed no structural damage, the club said. The report said his throwing and range of motion was improving and he should be cleared to resume swinging a bat before too much longer.
Khris Davis came into Wednesday having reached base safely in all eight games this season and in a career-best 17 consecutive games dating back to last Sept. 23. His previous career long was 15 games. Davis also leads the American League in slugging percentage at .828
Lowrie came into Wednesday with 64 consecutive errorless games at second base. That’s the fourth-longest streak by a second baseman in Oakland history.
For the history buffs, Wednesday was the 108th anniversary of the old Philadelphia A’s first game in the then-new Shibe Park.
The A’s entered Wednesday with a plus-3 home run differential, one of just seven AL teams who have hit more homers, 10, than they’ve allowed, 7. The only teams with a higher differential are Houston at plus-7 and Detroit at plus-6.