Duchscherer takes step forward

Duchscherer takes step forward

TORONTO -- The news wasn't all bad for the Athletics pitching staff on Thursday afternoon.

On the same day that right-hander Rich Harden was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right shoulder, Oakland received word that starting pitcher Justin Duchscherer is making positive strides in his attempt to come back from a strained right biceps muscle.

Prior to the A's series finale against Toronto, Duchscherer threw 30 pitches from 80 feet at roughly 75 percent of his arm strength and reportedly felt great afterwards.

On Tuesday, the 30-year-old was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to April 5 which means he would be eligible to return April 20 against the Royals.

"It's difficult to say," Athletics manager Bob Geren said when asked if he thought Duchscherer would be healthy enough to start by then. "But today was a good first indicator."

Heading into Thursday night's game against the Blue Jays, Oakland's starters had combined to go 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA, which ranks fourth in the American League. Surprisingly, those numbers haven't been skewed after the latest injuries, thanks in part to the emergence of rookies Dana Eveland and Greg Smith.

The two young hurlers were acquired during an offseason trade that sent right-hander Dan Haren to Arizona. Eveland entered the finale against Toronto with a perfect 1-0 record and a 1.29 ERA while Smith impressed the entire organization with a strong Major League debut on Wednesday.

Smith escaped a rough first inning to allow just two earned runs on two hits while striking out five over six innings of work.

Their performances have given Geren more confidence that the A's can fight their way through the recent injury woes.

"I feel like our strength through the entire organization is much stronger than it was last year for situations like this," Geren said. "It was proven last night [with Smith]."

Gregor Chisholm is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.