Inside Pitch: Dotel's Tough Decision

Inside Pitch: Dotel's Tough Decision

When Octavio Dotel was throwing his fastball this season, it wasn't painful. But when he threw his slider, the pain was so severe, he said, "you don't want to know. I don't want nobody to be in my situation. I want to quit the mound and come inside and leave the game the way it is."

As a result, Dotel threw fewer and fewer sliders this season, knowing the pain he would feel, not thinking it was worth it, trying to get by with just a fastball. When he gave up back-to-back walkoff home runs in Boston last month, he threw nearly all fastballs.

"If I keep trying to pitch with that pain," Dotel said, "I won't do my job."

That's why, despite four doctors' advice to rehab the tendinitis in his elbow, Dotel decided June 2 to have "Tommy John" surgery. Dr. James Andrews was scheduled to perform the surgery June 7. Normal recovery time is 12-15 months, although a few take longer.

A's general manager Billy Beane said he didn't try talking Dotel out of the surgery because "that would be completely irresponsible."

"It became apparent that Octavio was not going to be completely satisfied, because he was feeling pain, and would never be free of the distraction unless he had something like this done," Beane said. "He was always going to wonder. Because he has clear direction, it gives him some peace of mind."

Dotel, 31, is earning $4.75 million this year and will be a free agent when this season ends. He told Beane he would play next season for free. He told traveling secretary Mickey Morabito, "I don't deserve that" when a paycheck was given to him.

Beane called it a "noble gesture" and "I hope we both have that option," but any decision about Dotel's future will take place many months from now.

"The most important thing is to have a successful surgery and a positive diagnosis going forward," Beane said. "He's still a relatively young man and should be in the prime years of his career."

The decision weighed heavily on Dotel's mind the last four weeks. He talked with numerous friends and family, but the advice of mother Maria Diaz back home in the Dominican Republic made the biggest impact.

Dotel said his mother told him, "if you can't pitch in that pain, get whatever you have to do. If you can't pitch no more, we grew up with nothing. Now we have something. Don't feel bad. Do the best you can. That's life. Maybe that happened to you because something better is coming up."

Compared to the tendinitis he felt last year, Dotel said this pain is "not even close." He wasn't scared to throw sliders last year. Dotel hoped an off-season of throwing more often would help, but felt pain from the first game of spring training that never went away.

A's trainer Larry Davis said he couldn't recall another example when a player decided on Tommy John surgery, despite four doctors concluding rehab would be better.

"No surgery is 100 percent," Davis said. "The doctor had an extensive conversation with him. I told him the same thing. If this was 100 percent effective, there would never be any doubt. You always try to rehab first, then go the surgical options."

Rotation Rotation

A surprise starter was on the mound Friday night, and it could be just the start of changes to the A's starting rotation.

Ryan Glynn, acquired three weeks ago from Toronto because injuries at the majors and minors reduced the A's pitching depth, was called up Friday to start in place of Seth Etherton, who was sent to the A's bullpen in what manager Ken Macha called strictly "a baseball decision."

Glynn earned another start by allowing three runs in seven effective innings.

Macha compared the A's rotation to last year in Texas, where they shuffled pitchers looking for the right combo. A's starters are a combined 9-26, although Macha knows the lack of offense has contributed to the total.

"What's been alarming is when you get one-third of an inning out of somebody and the next (start) you get four innings," Macha said. "The objective is to get at least six innings out of every starter."

That's a reference to Joe Blanton, who will need to pitch better to keep his place in the rotation. Blanton responded by pitching seven strong innings Saturday against Toronto.

"We're hoping Blanton improves," Macha said. "He's going to get more chances. I can't say in concrete (he will stay or go). He might go out there two more starts and pitch three innings and we might try somebody else."

Barry Zito, of course, is safe. So is Dan Haren. Kirk Saarloos will have a shorter leash. Saarloos hasn't pitched more than six innings and often struggles the third time through a lineup.

Street Takes Center Stage

The inevitable has arrived for Huston Street, albeit much sooner than expected or planned.

The 21-year-old phenom, just a few days shy of his one-year anniversary of getting drafted, saved his first game Thursday night on a day that started with the somber news of previous closer Octavio Dotel electing to undergo season-ending "Tommy John" elbow surgery.

In Street's major-league debut two months ago, his face was "red and glowing," remember A's manager Ken Macha.

"It wasn't glowing tonight," Macha said. "I'm sure the adrenaline was flowing tough. I have confidence in him."

Street retired Reed Johnson on a grounder to short. Aaron Hill was jammed, but singled to left. Street struck out Shea Hillenbrand, then retired Eric Hinske on a fly ball to left to end it.

"I tried to approach it like any other inning, like it was the seventh or eighth, just get that first hitter out," Street said. "It makes it a lot easier after that."

But at the end, Street said smiling, "you get to stay on the field and shake hands. That's fun."

Street didn't like how he inherited the job, due to Dotel's injury, just like how he didn't like that his opening day roster spot was the result of an injury to Chad Bradford.

"You don't want it to be that way," Street said. "But I am excited. It's the role I wanted. It's a role I think I can help the team win. Still, losing O.D. will be a huge loss. He's proven he can get it done and he's a great clubhouse guy.

"Personally, he's given me so much advice and helped me mentally prepare. He's helped me with my confidence so much. His mentoring has helped me so much. I have his number and I'll be calling him for more advice."

Other News and Notes

--RHP Octavio Dotel has a date set for his "Tommy John" surgery. It will be today in Birmingham, Ala. and be performed by Dr. James Andrews.

--RHP Britt Reames was designated for assignment to make room for Glynn.

--1B Dan Johnson reached base at least once in all 10 games to start his major league career through Sunday.

--3B Eric Chavez was 2-for-4 Friday, including a double off the left-center wall, as he continued to drive the ball with authority and swing a hot bat.

--CF Mark Kotsay did another one of those "little things" Thursday night that don't show up in a box score but help a team win. With runners at first and second and one out, Eric Hinske singled to center and Kotsay quickly charged the ball and made a strong throw to home, holding the runner at third. RHP Justin Duchscherer struck out the next two batters to end the inning and preserve the two-run lead. "Kotsay's one of the best center fielders in the league," Duchscherer said. "He does everything right. I think he saved me a run."

--3B Eric Chavez hit his fifth career grand slam Thursday and first since May 11, 2002 with a blast to center off Josh Towers to give the A's the lead. Chavez is 9-for-18 with three home runs and seven RBIs lifetime against Towers. The home run was Chavez's 168th to move him past Rickey Henderson for sole possession of sixth place in Oakland history.

--You know things are getting back to normal for the A's when Barry Zito is talking about being hardy and comparing himself to a freshly waxed car.

The A's completed a sweep of the road-challenged Devil Rays on Wednesday night, scoring six runs in the second inning to give Barry Zito some rare run support in an 11-2 win.

The A's recorded double-digit hits in three straight games for the first time all season. It was their first 10-plus run games in a row. It's the A's first three-game winning streak since April 16-18.

Eleven runs must have felt like a million to Zito. The A's have scored zero runs three times and one run four times in his 11 starts, an average of 2.23 runs that is the second-lowest in American League.

"He deserved every last one of them," outfielder Eric Byrnes said. "We all know we haven't given any of our pitchers a lot of run support. To have an offensive effort the last three games is great."

Zito went home sick early Tuesday night, but took a bunch of medicine and said you'd have to break his leg to prevent him from making a start. He allowed five hits and one run in seven innings to win just his second game of the year.

"Honestly, I've gotten such an attitude, I'm so hardy over the last two months," Zito said. "I have to be like a freshly waxed car and let everything bead off you. There's no reason now to try and get wins. To me, it's just make each pitch. I'm just excited. It seems like the season's been so long already and we have four months left. I'm so excited for it."

--OF Eric Byrnes, who brought an 0-for-14 streak into Wednesday, had three hits and four RBIs. He was a home run shy of the cycle, but didn't get a fifth at-bat as he was stranded in the on-deck circle when the eighth inning ended.

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