Join beat writer John Hickey as he hosts an Oakland A’s live chat from Arizona.
Managers and pitching coaches would much rather have a young pitcher come to them and say “I need to develop a pitch’’ than have to suggest that kind of move themselves.
The idea is that if the prompting is internally generated, the pitcher is more likely to do the little things that go into the making of a pitch.
So the A’s are happy that starter A.J. Griffin has decided he would rather go back to throwing his changeup, a pitch he used to master, while ditching the cutter he’s thrown with mixed success since picking it up in 2011.
“What it says to me is that the player knows his strengths and weaknesses,’’ Oakland manager Bob Melvin said, “and he wants to work on his weaknesses. You want to see that in all your guys.’’
Melvin’s pitching coach, Curt Young, said that Griffin is on the same quest every other young starting pitcher (Griffin is 26) is on.
It’s not that Sam Fuld enjoys running into walls.
He just doesn’t see another option.
As long as a ball is in the air and available to be caught, Fuld is going to do whatever he can to catch it.
And whatever he can do is quite a bit.
There’s been plenty of talk about John Jaso moving from catcher to DH for the A’s this year.
It may have been nothing more than just talk.
A’s manager Bob Melvin went out of his way Saturday to stress that as long as Jaso’s health is such that he can get behind the plate, he will.
“As long as he’s healthy and can catch,’’ Melvin said, “he’ll be a catcher.’’
That says two important things about the A’s roster moving forward.
The bespeckled face of nerdpower isn’t, ultimately, the face of baseball.
A’s second baseman Eric Sogard’s wild ride through the Twittersphere came to an end Friday morning when a late push got the Mets’ David Wright over the top and a victory in MLB Networks’ #FaceofMLB competition.
“It was like going to Disneyland,’’ Sogard said Friday after the results were announced. “I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.’’
Sogard did nothing to promote his own candidacy, and said he was shocked when A’s fans originally picked him as the Oakland contestant in the competition. But as he rolled past the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, the Giants’ Buster Posey and the Jays’ Jose Bautista, his momentum morphed from a strong surge into a tidal wave.
Were fans into it? Just a little. They took photos of the man whose black-rimmed glasses have had him crowned the face of #nerdpower, digitally imposed them on every picture they could think of and inundated Twitter with them.
There was Sogard in a poster for the movie Fight Club. And Raiders of the Lost Ark. And Toy Story. And the list goes on.
“There were so many amazing memes,’’ Sogard’s wife, Kaycee, said. “Eric took it all in stride, but we loved them all. I’m going to track them all down and make a book of them. They’re too good to lose.’’
Sogard just laughed when asked if he was going to ask for a recount of the vote, which saw him lose to Wright by two percentage points, 51-49. Sogard had been ahead when the West Coast went to bed Thursday night, but the East Coast rallied early.
None of which bothered Sogard.
“It goes to show the passion of A’s fans,’’ Sogard said. “It’s not just about me, it’s about this team and the fans we have. They are amazing.’’
Reliever Sean Doolittle has a theory on how the Sogard phenomenon got so big so fast.
“Who are the Oakland A’s?’’ Doolittle said. A’s fans had a chance to flip baseball on its side and they did a great job of it.’’
As did the A’s players, at least those who are on Twitter.
“We had a blast with it,’’ Doolittle said. “It got to be seeing who could come up with the coolest things to say to promote Sogie.’’
Josh Reddick dropped a few names and got Larry the Cable Guy and WWE wrestler The Big Show on board on Sogard’s behalf.
Starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Dan Straily orchestrated a scam in which Gray directed to Straily a tweet of support of Sogard his “new’’ phone number, asking that Straily call him. The number was the A’s ticket office.
Jarrod Parker, Josh Donaldson, A.J. Griffin, Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and Tommy Milone all were out in front in leading the charge for Sogard. Even former A’s pitcher Travis Blackley, now pitching in Australia, chipped in, as did Brett Anderson and Pat Neshek, both of whom spent 2013 with the A’s.
Tweeted Norris: “Vote for the guy whose glasses are so powerful he can see the future.’’
Tweeted Crisp: “Who do you think showed @Coco_Crisp all his dance moves? Yup!! It was #EricSogard #FaceofMLB Sogie’s got skills.”
Tweeted Cook: “My timeline is a joke … #EricSogard #FaceofMLB all over the place!
“I think you saw the personality of this team come out through all this,’’ Gray said. “Everybody was into it.’’
Sogard, a second baseman who has a fight ahead of him to hold the job he won last spring, won’t soon forget any of this.
“We may not have the most fans, but we have amazing fans,’’ Sogard said. “They get the credit for all this. This was them.’’
As Thursday’s Cactus League lineup suggested, Josh Donaldson is looking at a new role for the A’s in 2014.
He drove in a team-best 93 runs for the A’s last season, mostly batting third, fourth, fifth and sixth. He was in the lineup batting second against the Brewers Thursday, and that’s likely to be where he fits in for Oakland moving forward.
The No.2 slot isn’t typically where teams put their most prolific RBI bat, so it says something about both the A’s and about Donaldson that this is the current thinking regarding the third baseman’s role in 2014.
Sure, it’s just the first game in spring training, but A’s right fielder Josh Reddick may have already come up with the catch of the season.
Check out Reddick’s home-run saving catch against the Giants’ Michael Morse on Wednesday afternoon in Scottsdale, Ariz. Reddick scaled the fence in right and reached over to rob Morse of a home run. Incredibly, Reddick later robbed Morse of another home run.
There’s no one wearing a wider smile these days than Eric Sogard.
It’s just the way he is. The fact that he’s made it into the semifinals of MLB Networks “The Face of MLB’’ competition gives him more reason to smile perhaps, but he’s never been one to need much encouragement.
In his fifth year in the Oakland organization, he’s the incumbent second baseman who has a decent chance of retaining his job with Cactus League games starting up today.
“It’s obvious the baseball is the most important thing,’’ he said. “I’m here to win a job, just like every year.’’
OK, let’s get right to it – the MLB Network’s “The Face of Baseball’’ campaign is just hokey.
Using Twitter to pick one player on each roster to represent that franchise, then put them in a series of head-to-head fan votes is just a little over the top.
But since it’s pitting the Giants vs. the A’s, it may be time to look past that.
Monday morning fans will be asked to vote on Twitter on Eric Sogard of the A’s against Buster Posey of the Giants in the third round bracket of the competition.
The first starting pitchers for A’s Cactus League play starting Wednesday will be Jesse Chavez, Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker.
Manager Bob Melvin told the Bay Area News Group Sunday evening he’d mistakenly swapped Milone and Parker when he was talking about his first three starters of the Cactus League season.
There was no official notice of an opening day starter from Melvin, but the fact that Parker is pitching Friday suggests that he is down to get the opening day start.
Oakland starting pitcher candidates Parker, A.J. Griffin, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, and Sonny Gray are expected to throw every fifth day to get them in order.
Doing that would, when you factor in days off March 20 and March 30, would have Parker scheduled for a March 31 start. And that’s opening day in the Coliseum against the Indians.
Milone has a chance to break into that rotation, but if he does so, it likely would have to be at the expense of Straily, who won 10 games for the A’s as a starter after being called up to stay at the end of April.
Although he’s been a starter and is getting Wednesday’s start against the Giants in Scottsdale Stadium, Chavez pitched only relief in Oakland last year and would seem destined for that role again this year.
–Twitter 1, Melvin 0.
Melvin joined Twitter last spring with the idea that he needed to keep abreast of the latest trends. He lasted three days. He didn’t much like what he read, finding it annoying for the most part.
But he’s back. He said Sunday he joined Twitter for a second time, this time under an alias, and for the moment, at least, will just read and won’t be posting tweets. He noted his buddy, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson joined this year and has tweeted once.
Who’s he following? A total of 29 people at this point including about 10 of his players and most of the local media involved in covering the A’s. That would include one @jhickey3.
“It’s more the players who annoy me more than anything else,’’ he said. “Some of the stuff, I don’t even want to see what they’re doing.’’