O'Flaherty's rehab assignment in final stages

DETROIT -- Lefty Eric O'Flaherty's rehab assignment is nearing its end, and it seems the A's could welcome back the Tommy John patient as soon as this week.

O'Flaherty will make his ninth rehab appearance, and eighth with Triple-A Sacramento, on Tuesday, when he's expected to enter in the middle of an inning -- as opposed to starting one, just as all relievers are often called on to do.

That could be O'Flaherty's final hurdle.

"The only thing we haven't covered with him is back-to-back days," said manager Bob Melvin, "and that's something I'm not sure we have to do."

Asked specifically if O'Flaherty could join the team on the next homestand that begins Thursday, Melvin grinned and offered, "Chance for anything."

When the reliever does make it back, it will mark his first time on a big league mound since May 17 of last year with the Braves. The A's risked a two-year, $7 million deal on O'Flaherty in the offseason, hoping to get back the same arm that posted a 1.99 ERA in 295 appearances with Atlanta over the previous five seasons -- including a 1.45 mark over his last three.

O'Flaherty's presence would only add to an already envied group of A's relievers, whose 2.87 ERA ranks second in the American League. It also sets up an intriguing roster decision, since most of their relief arms are locks to stay. Jim Johnson and Jeff Francis are seemingly the two on the chopping block.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.