OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland Athletics rookie right-hander Jharel Cotton’s long wait to rejoin the rotation will end one day earlier than expected.
Cotton (right thumb blister) will be activated from the disabled list and start Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins and 44-year-old Bartolo Colon in the finale of a three-game series at Oakland Coliseum.
Cotton had been slated to pitch Monday night against the San Francisco Giants, but Sonny Gray’s next scheduled start was pushed back one day, from Sunday to Monday. Gray, who has drawn trade interest from multiple teams, won’t pitch again until after the non-waiver trade deadline Monday. The only question is whether Gray’s next start will be with the Athletics or for a new team.
Cotton has been on the disabled list since July 4 and hasn’t started for the A’s since July 3, when he gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings in a 7-2 loss to the White Sox in Oakland.
“It’s been so long, I’m just happy to get back out there and pitch,” Cotton said.
Cotton went 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA in four rehab starts for Triple-A Nashville. In his last start for the Sounds on Tuesday, he allowed no runs on two hits in six innings with nine strikeouts and one walk. He threw 84 pitches.
“We wanted him to have a good outing before he came back,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said after the A’s 5-4, walk-off win Saturday night, his 1,000th career major-league victory. “I think psychologically, knowing that you pitched well before you come back up here is important, especially for a younger guy.”
As for the blister?
“It’s not there anymore,” Cotton said. “It’s looking pretty good. They did a great job. The training staff was on top of it.”
Colon, who signed a minor-league deal with Minnesota after being released by Atlanta on July 4, will make his third start for the Twins since being called up from Triple-A Rochester on July 18 and his 516th start of his career.
Colon gave up four runs and eight hits in four innings of a 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees in his Twins debut. In his second start Monday, he allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings in a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I thought it was a little bit of an upgrade from his first start, what we saw,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He still relied primarily on his fastball. It seemed like he had a couple different ones working, the 86-87 with really late movement and then he’d keep them honest by hitting 91, 92 a couple times, too, when he straightened it out a little bit.
“His command was good. He was in the zone. He got off to a really good start, similarly to his first game, and ran into a couple of home runs there.
“I thought it was good. We’re just hoping that each out there for us he’s a little bit better.”
Colon pitched for the A’s in 2012 and 2013 and went 28-15 in 54 regular-season starts. Colon was suspended 50 games on Aug. 22 in 2012, after testing positive for an excessive level of testosterone, but the A’s re-signed him in 2013 and he went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts with 117 strikeouts and 29 walks in 190 1/3 innings.
“It’s almost like he’s had three careers,” Melvin said. “A little bit of a downturn and next thing you know he’s pitching well again. Until he actually calls it quits and retires, nothing surprises me out of him.
‘He’s such a great guy to be around. I always knew when he didn’t want to come out of the game. I’d go down to the end of the dugout and he’d throw a towel over his face like I couldn’t see him.”
Colon is 17-10 with a 2.93 ERA in 36 games (35 starts) at the Coliseum. He’ll make his first start in Oakland since Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Detroit on Oct. 4, 2013.
For his career against the A’s, Colon is 9-6 with a 3.37 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts).
Cotton made his only career start against the Twins on May 4 this season at Target Field and got the win in an 8-5 A’s victory. He allowed three runs and three hits, including two home runs, in six innings with nine strikeouts and three walks.
The A’s snapped a five-game losing streak on the strength of Rajai Davis’ two-run, walk-off homer in the ninth inning off reliever Taylor Rogers. Twins closer Brandon Kintzler wasn’t available to pitch because of his heavy workload the past week.