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Dustin Garneau making most of his return to A’s


Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The emergency backup catcher got hot at the right moment.

Dustin Garneau has been on the Oakland A’s before. In early August of 2017, with righty backup catcher Josh Phegley on the injured list, the A’s snagged Garneau off waivers from the Rockies. He stayed with the club for the rest of the season, finding his way into 19 games, including 15 starts behind the plate. He didn’t hit much, but he adequately filled in for the final couple months of a non-contending season.

Now Garneau is back, in a big way. Once again, it was early August and Phegley was on the IL, and the A’s picked up Garneau off waivers to replace him, this time from the Angels. It was almost exactly two years to the day since the last time they claimed him.

Garneau’s second tour in Oakland has already been a memorable one. He’s only played four games, but he’s made his presence felt and has already done more damage than his entire 2017 tenure with the team. His game log:

  • 8/4, vs STL: 2-for-3, double, BB, 2 RBI
  • 8/6 @ CHC: 1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI
  • 8/7 @ CHC: 0-for-3
  • 8/9 @ CHW: 1-for-3, double, BB, 2 RBI

That’s three extra-base hits and 7 RBI in just four games. And some of them have been quite important runs, too, off big-name pitchers.

In that Cardinals game, his two-run double broke Adam Wainwright’s shutout in the 4th inning and gave the A’s the lead in an eventual 4-2 win; he also scored another insurance run after his 8th-inning walk. His homer against Jon Lester and the Cubs came in an 11-4 rout, but he hit it in the 2nd inning when the score was still 1-0, helping blow the game open as part of an eight-run rally. It’s not a complete coincidence that Oakland won three of Garneau’s four starts, since he had a big hand in a couple of them.

Of course, none of this is to say that Garneau is suddenly a breakout star, just that he’s riding a nice hot streak at the perfect moment for his new team. After all, we saw Chris Herrmann burst onto the scene when he joined the squad in early July — he went 5-for-8 with a homer, double, and 5 RBI in his first three games against the Twins, but then cooled back off and has struggled at the plate since. But dang, it sure is nice to get some bonus production from unlikely sources, especially when you’re in the thick of a tight Wild Card race and every game counts.

It’s even nicer to get this unexpected boost from the catcher position, which the A’s essentially punted last winter. They spent just $1 million on Herrmann to be their primary starter, and then he missed the first three months to injury, and his replacement Nick Hundley flopped hard after arriving as a minor league free agent. Perhaps the plan was for top prospect Sean Murphy to arrive during the summer, but multiple injury setbacks prevented that from happening.

On the other hand, Garneau isn’t the first surprise contributor either. When Herrmann got hurt, Phegley responded with such a powerful breakout that he found himself on the fringes of the All-Star discussion. He’s since cooled back off, but his hot couple of months helped the A’s win some extra games. Later on, Beau Taylor drew some walks and popped a couple dingers in his brief emergency stints (27 plate appearances), with an above-average batting line overall. Even Herrmann had his moment, as his homer in his season debut against the Twins was a grand slam that spurred the A’s to a victory over a first-place opponent.

Unfortunately, there is probably a tough decision coming soon. Phegley is already playing rehab games in Triple-A, and while there hasn’t been a specific report about his status, presumably he won’t need much longer before returning. When he does, either Herrmann, Garneau, or Phegley himself will need to be DFA’d, as only two can remain on the 25-man roster and they’re all out of minor league options. Will it be Phegley, who is tied for the longest-tenured player on the team? Garneau, the hot hand? Herrmann, the only lefty hitter of the trio, and the one the A’s clearly liked just last winter?

We’ll have to wait and see, and even Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle isn’t sure who the odd man out will be. However, she does report that second baseman Corban Joseph appears to be on the way up to Oakland, and he’ll need a 40-man roster spot. My speculation, assuming Phegley is mostly ready to go, would be that one of the catchers will be DFA’d to clear space on the 40-man for Joseph — that would seem to eliminate any chance of pushing the catching decision until September, when rosters expand and everyone could theoretically stay.

Whatever happens, it’s been a pleasure having Garneau for this latest stint, especially after watching him notch a walk-off hit against the A’s back in June, when he was still with the Angels. He’s definitely here for at least one more day, and today just happens to be his 32nd birthday. Have a great one, Dustin, and hopefully we can keep watching you knock big hits in green and gold for a bit longer — starting with some against the Giants tonight!

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