A’s veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon will start Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, with Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily filling out the rest of the rotation.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said the 40-year-old Colon gives his team a “presence” it lacked last year when rookies started four of five games against the Tigers in the ALDS.
“We have that veteran presence that’s going to lead us off, we didn’t have that last year even though our guys were well suited to perform,” Melvin said. “Now you have a guy that’s a veteran guy that has pitched plenty of games and has pitched in the postseason.”
Colon (18-6) will toe the rubber against the league’s winningest pitcher, Max Scherzer (21-3), on Friday and Gray (5-3) will take the hill in Game 2 on Saturday, squaring off with Justin Verlander (13-12), who beat the A’s twice in last year’s best-of-five series.
Parker (12-8) will toss Game 3 in Detroit on Monday and Dan Straily (10-8) will get the ball on Tuesday if the series requires a fourth game.
Melvin said he opted to go with Gray in Game 2 because he wants the 23-year-old rookie to make his postseason debut at home. “A lot of times at home it can be a little easier to pitch with the backing,” he said.
Gray is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA at home this season; he’s 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA on the road.
Melvin left A.J. Griffin (14-10) off the 25-man ALDS roster because he’s experiencing tendonitis in his throwing elbow. As a result, Straily, who’s 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA over his past six starts, will make his postseason debut if the series is extended to four games.
The A’s manager said Griffin’s injury facilitated what would have been a tough choice between Griffin and Straily.
“The Griffin decision is based more on health than anything else,” he said. “Both guys were pitching well and someone would have been left out unfairly.”
Melvin said Griffin could be available for the AL Championship series if the soreness in his elbow subsides.
Catchers galore: The A’s will carry three catchers on their 25-man ALDS roster, giving Melvin flexibility in pinch-hitting situations.
In addition to Griffin, last year’s Game 2 starter Tommy Milone and rookie first baseman Nate Freiman were left off the roster, making room for catchers Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and Kurt Suzuki.
“It’s easier to make in-game substitutions at that position based on the fact that we have three,” Melvin said. “When you bring your second catcher in the game in the fifth or sixth ... you’re walking on eggshells.”
Cespedes probable: Yoenis Cespedes is expected to play in Game 1 on Friday after sitting out the last two games of the regular season because of shoulder tendonitis.
Cespedes took batting practice on Tuesday and Melvin said he expects him to throw today.
“We’re hoping that we can get him in the outfield, whether or not that’s on Friday, I’m not sure yet,” Melvin said.
Over the last two years, the A’s are 165-96 with Cespedes in the lineup and they’re 25-38 when he doesn’t play.