OAKLAND -- The A's will go with their understudy, Rich Hill, for scheduled opening day starter Sonny Gray Monday night against the Chicago White Sox after Gray came down with food poisoning.
Gray, who has started the last two openers for the A's, has been through a similar issue in the past, missing about a week midseason 2015 after coming down with salmonella poisoning. This doesn't seem to be nearly of that level, although he needed three liters of IV fluids and anti-vomiting medicines Monday morning in a visit to an East Bay hospital.
Trainer Nick Paparesta and manager Bob Melvin both said that if Gray feels up to it, he could start Game 2 on Tuesday. More likely, however, is that the club would move Chris Bassitt up a day, leaving Gray to go Wednesday. Because of Sunday's day off, Hill and Bassitt would be pitching on their fifth day, which is standard.
"I think there's an outside chance that he could be ready to pitch tomorrow," Paparesta said. "The smartest thing is to err on the side of caution here. You don't want to send someone out there with an empty stomach who hasn't been able to keep anything down for 24 hours and expect him to perform. And obviously fatigue is the precursor to potential further injury."
Hill, 36, has never started an opener but becomes the A's 10th different opening day starter in the last 11 seasons. He will be the fourth-oldest pitcher to start an opener for the A's behind Tom Candiotti in 1998, Dave Stewart in 1995 and Bob Welch in 1993.
"I called him at 12:30 to tell him," Melvin said of Hill. "He was excited; he'd never had an opening day start, and he was our key free agent acquisition pitcher. To be able to go out there on opening day is special for him."
The A's signed Hill in the offseason, enticed by a four-start stint with the Boston Red Sox in which he was 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA after reinventing his delivery playing in independent ball. His numbers this spring, 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA, weren't good, but he left his last start with no runs allowed, although two of the runners he put on base did come around to score.
The move continued a busy spell for the A's before most of the players even reached the park. An MRI of Felix Doubront's left arm disclosed a left elbow sprain that sent the club's No. 5 starter to the disabled list. In the short term, outfielder Andrew Lambo was recalled from Triple-A Nashville.
Doubront said he was feeling good Monday, but he's going to visit orthopedic specialist Dr. Timothy Cremchek to get a second opinion. That will happen Monday in Cincinnati.
Asked if he was facing surgery, Doubront said, "I don't know."
Paparesta doesn't know either, but his description seemed to suggest it was at least a possibility. And even if surgery isn't needed, it's likely Doubront will need substantial rehab time before he's ready to go again.
"We did see some deficiencies in his ligaments," Paparesta said in describing the MRI. "There's some fibrous tearing going on in there. He's got a muscle strain as well. We'll get a second opinion then determine what the next course of action is."
Having had the better part of a day to think it over, Doubront seemed to take the news in stride.
"It is disappointing, but it is what it is," the lefty said. "I did it before, it was a flexor tendon and I missed two weeks in spring training."
The A's would be happy were that to be the diagnosis Monday. For now, however, losing Doubront means Oakland will need someone else to start Friday's game in Seattle, probably either right-hander Jesse Hahn or left-hander Eric Surkamp.
Hahn struggled all spring to keep his pitches down. Primarily a sinkerball pitcher although with some velocity, Hahn couldn't consistently find the bottom of the strike zone and was sent out when it was announced that Doubront had made the team.
Doubront started for the A's against the Giants on Saturday but left the game after the first inning with left forearm tightness. Surkamp stepped up in Doubront's place and threw seven shutout innings allowing two hits, perhaps setting him up to pitch Friday. He has the option to in a couple months to leave the organization and try his luck pitching in Asia, and the A's would like to keep him in the organization if possible.
That, and as Melvin said, "Surkamp was terrific" against the Giants.
Claimed on waivers from the Pirates after the 2015 season, Lambo hit .333 with two homers in the spring, driving in five runs.