A’s ace Chris Bassitt could return this week after being hit in face by line drive in August

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The Oakland Athletics may soon welcome All-Star pitcher Chris Bassitt back into the mix as they push for a postseason berth. The A’s are “optimistic” Bassitt will return sometime this week, manager Bob Melvin told reporters, including Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports the club is targeting Thursday for Bassitt’s return.

Bassitt was struck in the face by a line drive on Aug. 17 but is doing well in his recovery, which included surgery to repair facial fractures. He threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Monday, his fourth time throwing off a mound. Over the weekend Bassitt threw two simulated innings with no screen.

“That’s something we need to talk about,” Melvin told Rubin. “How long we think he can go and whether or not it should be in a starting role or coming out of the bullpen.”

Given the long layoff and the fact the A’s only have 12 games remaining, there isn’t enough time to stretch Bassitt out to start. He was their best starter prior to the injury, but if there’s not enough time to stretch him out, then there’s not enough time to stretch him out. Bassitt can make a greater impact pitching more frequently as a short reliever.

The A’s arguably have a more pressing need in the bullpen anyway. They’ve experienced far too many late-inning meltdowns lately. The kind of meltdowns that cost them wins and pushed them outside the postseason picture. The rotation hasn’t been great the last few weeks (4.47 ERA since Bassitt’s injury) but the bullpen has been wretched. Bassitt would definitely help there.

Bassitt, 32, had a 3.22 ERA in 151 innings prior to the injury. He has some big-league bullpen experience, so it wouldn’t be an entirely new role for him. Either way, getting Bassitt back on the mound would help the A’s during their postseason push. And if nothing else, his return would be a wonderful feel-good story following such a scary injury.

The Athletics come into Tuesday two games behind the Blue Jays for the second American League wild card spot. Here’s the up-to-date playoff picture.

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