OAKLAND -- A's closer Sean Doolittle's banner season took an unexpected turn for the worse Sunday, when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle in his right rib cage.
Doolittle suffered the injury in Saturday night's 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels. The hard-throwing left-hander said after the game that he felt "a grab" in his right side on the second-to-last pitch of the game and again when he closed out the game for his 20th save.
Doolittle left the ballpark thinking the injury was not serious, but he was still feeling discomfort Sunday, and the A's immediately scheduled him for an MRI exam, which revealed the strain.
"I was feeling a little bit of pain after the game, but there were so many things it could have been, we didn't want to speculate one way or another until we got some pictures taken of it," Doolittle said.
It is not known how long Doolittle might be out, but the earliest he could return is Sept. 8 against the Chicago White Sox. Intercostal injuries are tricky, and tough to predict on recovery times, but a minimum of two to three weeks is generally required for even a mild strain to heal.
"We're going to take it day to day," Doolittle said. "It's something you treat based on how you feel as opposed to how many days you need off. It's something we'll have a better handle on once we start doing some stuff later in the week."
Dan Otero, optioned just two days earlier, was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento to replace Doolittle on the roster.
Doolittle, 1-3 with a 2.28 ERA, stabilized the back end of the bullpen after offseason acquisition Jim Johnson bombed as closer and was eventually released. Doolittle had converted 20 of 23 save opportunities and was riding a streak of 13 consecutive scoreless outings. He has walked just five hitters this season while striking out 80, the best walk-to-strikeout ratio among A.L. relievers.
Manager Bob Melvin said before the game that if Doolittle were to miss extended time, he would select a specific closer from the remaining cast of bullpen arms. Afterward, he said he has someone in mind but wasn't prepared to reveal who it was.
"I'm going to have a meeting with those guys (Monday) before I announce it," Melvin said.
Luke Gregerson and Ryan Cook both have done some closing in the major leagues, and Otero performed the role in the minors. Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty also could be a candidate.