Tyson Ross' assignment on Thursday wasn't all that easy: Join the A's at the last second to fill in for a veteran starter who'd been suspended for violating baseball's drug policy, and pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays, the team above Oakland in the wild-card hunt.
Ross was probably the fourth option for Oakland on Thursday, but none of the others were available. Dan Straily was sent down Monday and is ineligible to return until next Thursday; A.J. Griffin is on a rehab assignment; and Travis Blackley pitched in long relief Monday. Even Graham Godfrey was not a possibility: He was designated for assignment on Sunday to clear a 40-man roster spot for Stephen Drew.
Ross worked well through four innings at Tampa Bay, allowing three singles, but his constant issue in the big leagues, the one big inning, was a problem again Thursday. He gave up five runs in the fifth inning, the only runs he yielded in his six-inning outing. The A's fell 5-0 to the Rays, the big-league-leading 15th time Oakland has been shut out this season.
Because Ross tends to fare well the first time through a lineup and struggle thereafter, scouts have long said that he would be better suited to relief -- and after Thursday's game, the A's optioned Ross to Class AAA Sacramento, and Ross said he was told he would pitch out of the bullpen.
Ross is expected to rejoin the A's in September and he could find himself with a valuable role in middle relief if he takes as well to the bullpen as many expect he will.
It's unclear who now will take the spot vacated when Bartolo Colon was suspended Wednesday. The A's have a day off Sunday, so they could go with four starters until Straily is eligible, or Griffin could return early from his rehab assignment. Blackley would be available whenever needed now.