OAKLAND -- A's reliever Eric O'Flaherty continues to thrive in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, on Tuesday throwing to hitters and working in his breaking balls for the first time since last year's procedure.
O'Flaherty threw 25 pitches at the Coliseum, and the plan is for him to throw to hitters again -- two innings' worth -- on Sunday.
Barring any setbacks, the lefty is likely nearing a rehab assignment, which would put him just weeks away from a potential return to big league action.
The A's signed O'Flaherty to a two-year, $7 million deal in the offseason and initially didn't anticipate his return until July.
The lefty compiled a 1.45 ERA in 161 appearances over the previous three seasons, which is the lowest mark among Major League relievers with 125 or more innings pitched over that span.
Closer situation remains unsettled
OAKLAND -- Oakland's plan to work Jim Johnson back into the closer's role went off the tracks Monday night, leaving manager Bob Melvin with the same closer-by-committee approach he's employed for more than a month.
"It appears that way, doesn't it?" Melvin said Tuesday.
"You're always searching for the best fit, to where you feel like you have someone that's going to be the guy that closes games for you, so that everybody leading up to that has an understanding of when guys are going to pitch. We're just not there yet, unfortunately. Jim has really made some big strides for us, but we're just not all the way there with him yet. So it's still going to probably be a matchup-type situation."
After stringing together 10 straight scoreless appearances in innings not named the ninth, Johnson appeared ready to resume the only job he knew in the previous two seasons. But he's since given up six runs over his last four outings, including one in a save situation against the White Sox on Monday.
Lefty Sean Doolittle was quickly brought in to secure the win, bringing to question his ability to serve as the full-time closer.
"[Doolittle] certainly has the stuff to do it, but there are times when he's so good coming in with guys on base, whether it's the seventh or eighth inning, and sometimes those are the most important leverage situations of the game," said Melvin. "That's a difficult part in waiting for the ninth inning for him.
"One of the reasons the organization signed him long term is him potentially filling that role. We'll see how it goes."
Of the success Johnson's had this year, most has come on the road, where he has a 2.00 ERA and .194 opponents' average. The numbers balloon at home (8.59 ERA, .194 opponents' mark), and as a result, he's been hearing plenty of boos.
"When you do come from another team and you're with another organization, a fan base like ours, you do want to go out there and show them what you have," said Melvin. "I think he's a pretty tough guy, to where at some point in time, hopefully, that's not an issue for him.
• Third baseman Josh Donaldson received his first day off of the season Tuesday, having started each of the club's first 39 games, including four at designated hitter.
• Coco Crisp (neck strain) took batting practice and did some work in the field on Tuesday afternoon but was unavailable for a sixth straight game. It's likely he'll be rested through Thursday's off-day.
• Stationed on the disabled list with a forearm strain, righty Ryan Cook "feels really good," according to Melvin.
The reliever hasn't begun throwing yet, but "as far as his exercises go, it's been real encouraging," said Melvin. "When you hear forearm, you can't help but think Tommy John, but we certainly don't expect that to be the case, and I know he's kind of champing at the bit to get going."