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For one night, anyway, A’s bullpen up to its old tricks

Fernando Rodriguez was one strike away from preserving a 6-3 lead, but he never got it Wednesday.

Fernando Rodriguez was one strike away from preserving a 6-3 lead, but he never got it Wednesday.

Any thoughts that the A’s had put their bullpen troubles behind them were erased Wednesday night in Dodger Stadium.

Needing to get nine outs to secure a 6-3 win and get out of Dodger Stadium with a two-game series sweep, Oakland’s bullpen instead gave up seven runs in the last two innings. Manager Bob Melvin went through four of his relievers in those two innings and they combined to be scorched for seven hits and two walks.

The two walks both came from the first reliever, Fernando Rodriguez, and they turned the tide for Los Angeles.

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Even when closing, Mujica can’t get to bullpen fast enough

Edward Mujica plans on changing nothing now that he's been tasked with being the A's closer.

Edward Mujica plans on changing nothing now that he’s been tasked with being the A’s closer.

The closer is a heralded position on any baseball club.

While most relievers are in the bullpen to begin the game, there are relievers who don’t like to jump the gun. When he was closing for the A’s, Dennis Eckersley would spend the first six innings in the dugout or clubhouse.

The A’s new closer, Edward Mujica, will have none of that. He’s the man now that Tyler Clippard has been traded, but he is not about to change the way he approaches the game.

“I’ll get to the pen right away to start the game,’’ Mujica said. “I know some guys go out there late, but this is how I’ve always done it, whether I was closing or not.’’

Mujica has just one full season as a closer, but it was a season to write home about. He had 37 saves as the main man for the Cardinals in 2013, helping take St. Louis to the World Series. Before that he’d been a setup man, and he’d had success by not changing his game.

So it’s his plan to do the same now. He’ll do the same pregame work, and he’s still go fastball, slider and curve, with more than a little help from his catcher.

“When I’m in the bullpen, the catcher is in there for every pitch, he knows what all their hitters are doing,’’ Mujica said. “I’ll always follow the catcher’s lead when they’ve been out there for the full game.’’

 

NOTES

–Coco Crisp got the night of Wednesday with Class-A Stockton after having a 3-for-4 night with two homers and three RBIs as a DH for the Ports Tuesday. A’s manager Bob Melvin has long marveled at how once Crisp gets close to being ready, his game revs up, and there’s hope that’s what’s happening now. Crisp, out for all but 13 games with elbow and neck injuries, could be back with Oakland sometime late this week, or early next.

–Closer Sean Doolittle, limited to one game this year by shoulder issues, has been playing catch without any pain, so he’s going to step it up some Thursday, throwing from a mound for the first time before the A’s-Indians game.

–Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (right shoulder) has cleared all hurdles on his rehab assignment but for pitching in back-to-back games. He’s down to do that Friday and Saturday with Triple-A Nashville, after which he’s hoping he’ll be cleared to be activated from the disabled list.

–Josh Reddick had five hits in his first six at-bats in the Dodgers series, including a couple of doubles and a solo homer.

–Billy Burns’ opened the game with an infield single, his 26th of the season. That ranks second in the big leagues.

 

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Reddick never felt in his heart that he would be traded

Josh Reddick never believed he would be traded, and he's been right about that to this point.

Josh Reddick never believed he would be traded, and he’s been right about that to this point.

The biggest of the A’s names not to get traded and not named Sonny Gray didn’t think there was much of chance he would be dealt.

Josh Reddick celebrated remaining with the A’s Tuesday with a double, single and homer in his first three at-bats against Brett Anderson. A former teammate, Anderson is a left-hander against whom Reddick might not have started if Ben Zobrist hadn’t been traded earlier in the day.

“It was special for me,’’ Reddick said of getting a chance to face Anderson. “I haven’t really had that opportunity. And it seems like it’s going to be that way with the trades that have happened.’’

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Changes galore for A’s: Brooks to start, Mujica to be closer; Lawrie may see extended time at second base

Edward Mujica will get a chance to close for A's now that Tyler Clippard has been traded.

Edward Mujica will get a chance to close for A’s now that Tyler Clippard has been traded.

In the last five days the A’s have lost their No. 2 starter, who also happens to have the league’s best ERA, their full-time utility player and their closer.

Think there might be a few jobs up for grabs with Oakland?

There are.

The first man to get a crack at taking over in the rotation for Scott Kazmir will be Aaron Brooks, the right-handed pitcher picked up Tuesday as part of the Ben Zobrist trade with the Royals.

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A’s talking about business side of baseball after wave of trades

Brett Lawrie was one of many A's to talk about the business side of the game Tuesday after three trades in five days.

Brett Lawrie was one of many A’s to talk about the business side of the game Tuesday after three trades in five days.

There’s nothing like an unpopular trade to get players to talk about how “baseball is a business.’’

When that phrase is uttered, it’s a good bet the player is going for the easiest justification.

And when there have been three trades in five days as has been the case with the A’s, with three proven and popular big leaguers shipped off to make pennant race runs elsewhere, that baseball-as-business is the handiest crutch around.

The way to have prevented the trades of Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard and now Ben Zobrist would have been to win more. And not all that much more, either, If the A’s, a Major League-worst 10-24 in one-run games, had won say six more of those, games they had a legit chance to win,  they be a .500 team and they’d have been close enough that general manager Billy Beane might have gone in another direction.

That would mean turning one-in-three of their one-run losses into wins. I you’ve been watching the A’s, you know it wouldn’t have taken that much. A few big hits and a few clutch pitches would have gotten the job done.

That didn’t happen.

“At the end of the day, baseball is a business,’’ third baseman Brett Lawrie said. “This is what happens. You hate to lose the guys we lost, guys we’d built relationships with, but this is what’s happened, and there’s nothing we can do about it now.’’

DH Billy Butler signed a three-year contract with the A’s last winter, and the team he is playing with now doesn’t look anything like the one he thought he’d be playing with. Yet he has taken it in stride.

“I’ve been through this a few times in Kansas City,’’ he said. “If you’re not in contention, then players who are in the last years of their contracts are going to be traded. There’s a lot of frustration because we didn’t play better.

“We lost a lot of those one-run games that we should have won.’’

Catcher Stephen Vogt said he’d spotted Zobrist Tuesday morning in the hotel with his family, well before the trade went down.

“I was thinking I should say goodbye, just in case,’’ Vogt said. “I’m sorry I didn’t.

“The frustrating thing is we put ourselves in this position. But we still have 60-some games to play, and I think I speak for everyone in this clubhouse that we will be trying to win each one.’’

Right fielder Josh Reddick echoed that.

“We still have a lot of games to play, and we’re going to go out every day like we have,’’ Reddick said. “We haven’t had our best year, and that’s one of the reasons we’re here now.’’

If it was up to Reddick, he would have held off on making the trades, although he says he realizes the July 31 trade deadline waits for no one.

“I would have liked to us see have more time,’’ he said.

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A’s trade of Zobrist may be the last seismic shock for now; Beane suggests there is no trade of Reddick in the works

Ben Zobrist is off to Kansas City, but it seems that the A's may be done with big deals for the moment.

Ben Zobrist is off to Kansas City, but it seems that the A’s may be done with big deals for the moment.

The A’s July housecleaning may have come to a conclusion with Tuesday’s trade infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist to the Kansas City Royals.

This deal was the third trade of a veteran who will be a free agent at season’s end by Oakland. The move followed Thursday’s trade of left-handed starter Scott Kazmir to the Astros and Monday’s deal sending reliever Tyler Clippard to the Mets.

General manager Billy Beane said he didn’t anticipate any player due to return to the club next year would be moved, That still leaves the door open for the trade of relievers Eric O’Flaherty and Edward Mujica, both of whom will be free agents at the end of the season, but Beane seemed to shut down speculation that right fielder Josh Reddick would be moved.

Reddick, who is a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, drew some interest with his offensive game back close to where it was in 2012 and because he’s superior defender, but the A’s apparently didn’t hear an offer than intrigued them.

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The trade of McGwire in 1997 has lessons for A’s now

The trade of Mark McGwire in 1997 still has lessons for the 2015 A's

The trade of Mark McGwire in 1997 still has lessons for the 2015 A’s

(NOTE: This version of the story was written before the trade of  Tyler Clippard this afternoon)

The A’s will spend the next couple of nights in Chavez Ravine playing the Dodgers, for whom longtime A’s slugger Mark McGwire is the hitting coach.

When the cameras pan to McGwire, as they surely will, it would be well to think of former Oakland pitcher Scott Kazmir and the situation the 44-56 A’s have themselves in as the clock winds toward the July 31 trade deadline.

Eighteen years ago this week, the A’s traded McGwire to St. Louis for much the same reason Oakland traded Kazmir to Houston five days ago. The team was buried in the standings, McGwire was a free agent-to-be who wasn’t going to be coming back and Oakland wanted to try to rebuild for the future.

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With Clippard to Mets, Zobrist likely the next departure

Tyler Clippard and his 17 saves were dealt to the Mets Monday.

Tyler Clippard and his 17 saves were dealt to the Mets Monday.

Tyler Clippard became the second of the A’s veteran dominoes to fall Monday afternoon when Oakland traded their closer to the New York Mets.

In getting the deal done, the A’s sent $1 million along with Clippard to cover a portion of the approximate $3 million left on Clippard’s $8.3 million deal. In exchange, the A’s landed the Mets’ third-round pick in the 2013 draft, right-handed starting pitcher Casey Meisner.

A high school draftee out of suburban Houston, Meisner has been pitching at Class-A this season, first going 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA in a dozen starts with Savannah, then moving on to St. Lucie where he has made six starts, going 3-2 with a 2.84 ERA.

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If Zito is going to help A’s, it could happen this weekend

Barry Zito's best chance to join the A's starting rotation could come in the next week.

Barry Zito’s best chance to join the A’s starting rotation could come in the next week.

If, as seems likely, Drew Pomeranz is out of the Oakland rotation once again, it may be the club sending a message about Pomeranz’s future.

The A’s have liked the left-hander in the rotation, but save for one stretch last year, he’s been inconsistent in that role.

In the bullpen, on the other hand, he had a 1.62 ERA in 2014, and with two scoreless innings in Sunday, he has a 1.40 ERA pitching in relief this season. For a team that has seen most of its relievers struggle, that’s a number not to be overlooked.

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Crisp headed out for a long-awaited injury rehab start; Melvin one of the few who had Randy Johnson’s number

Coco Crispheads out on an injury rehabilitation assignment Monday with Class-A Stockton.

Coco Crispheads out on an injury rehabilitation assignment Monday with Class-A Stockton.

For the better part of a week, Coco Crisp has been saying “I really want to get out and start playing.’’

That happens Monday when the A’s left fielder, limited to 13 games this season by elbow, then neck, problems, begins an injury rehabilitation assignment with Class-A Stockton.

Crisp has never been a huge fan of lengthy rehab assignments; this one could be short enough to see him back and active by next weekend. He’s down for at least four games, although manager Bob Melvin has said Crisp has a history of healing quickly, suggesting there could be some adjustment to the schedule.

“Coco is feeling good,’’ Melvin said of the rehab work Crisp has done since suffering a neck injury reminiscent of that of 2014. “He’ll go out and see how he feels.’’

Crisp came back from his spring elbow surgery the first week of May perhaps too soon He went hitless in his first seven games (five starts) before ending an 0-for-26 start with an infield single. He went 2-for-45, .044 in his return before diving for a ball in the outfield and suffering a neck injury similar to the one that put him on the disabled list twice last year.

He’s rehabbed the neck to the point “where I don’t feel any pain,’’ Crisp said.

What will happen when Crisp is back is a little unclear. Ben Zobrist and Mark Canha have gotten most of the starts in left field to this point. Zobrist is on the trade block with the trade deadline coming up Friday, and if he is dealt, finding playing time for Crisp will be no problem, Canha going back to being the team’s fourth outfielder.

If Zobrist isn’t traded, he could move to second base, where he’s made about half of his starts. That move would push Eric Sogard into a backup/utility role, one which was envisioned for him by the club heading into the season.

 

–With Randy Johnson going into the Hall of Fame Sunday, his career numbers will be forever immortalized in a Cooperstown plaque.

Among the 3346 hits he gave up in a 21-year career were 14 to A’s manager Bob Melvin. Only Melvin thinks the numbers are wrong. He says he remembers 18 hits off Johnson.

“Every time I see him I tell him he kept me in the big leagues for 10 years,’’ Melvin said of his career .452 average against the Big Unit. “I did get my share of hits off him. I actually think they shorted me some.

“I think I had a few more hits and a few more at-bats off him. But as to why I hit him well, I really have no idea. He probably felt sorry for me. He probably wasn’t too worried about me.’’

Melvin’s history with Johnson includes time when Johnson was starting for the Diamondbacks while Melvin was the bench coach in 2001-02, then later as the Arizona manager from 2005-09.

“His first World Series game they were doing a special on him,’’ Melvin said, looking back to the 2001 post-season. “And they did a rundown of the top guys off Randy all-time. Randy is notorious for you-don’t-talk-to-Randy on the day he pitches, let alone his first World Series game. He comes in the coaches’ office and he looked at me and he said `Do you know you hit me like that?

“I said `Yeah, you kept me in the big leagues for 10 years.’ And I thought I saw a smile. He turned around, walked out, then threw a shutout.

“This is a big day for him. And deservedly so. He’s one of the greats of all-time. He’s arguably the best left-hander of all time. He’s certainly the most dominant as far striking people out and scowling.’’

 

–Lefty closer Sean Doolittle threw on flat ground Saturday and again Sunday, making it the first time he’s played catch on back-to-back days since coming down with a left shoulder injury while pitching on May 27.

He’s down to have another flat ground session Tuesday, then will get back on a mound for the first time Thursday. The A’s are looking at a return for him sometime in late August or early September.

Doolittle has appeared in just one game this season, a left rotator cuff injury wiping out his spring training and keeping him on the DL until May 25.

The lefty said Sunday that he’s not sure when he’d be ready to return because “until this year, I’d never had shoulder problems before. So I don’t really know what to expect.’’

 

NOTES

–Disabled switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (right shoulder strain) threw one inning Saturday for Stockton, throwing only from the left side, and came out of it reporting no problems. He’s due to pitch again Tuesday for an inning, at which point he will be free to match up left-handed or right-handed, as the situation demands.

–Lefty reliever Fernando Abad has not allowed a run in 14 of his last 16 games, a 1.17 ERA over that stretch to bring his ERA down from 7.36 to 3.76. The only runs he’s allowed since May 22 have been a couple of solo homers.

–Billy Butler has a .500 batting average in interleague play (15.for-30), which is the best mark in the big leagues. Despite that, the A’s regular DH got Sunday’s start off, Ike Davis getting the start at first base and there being no DH with the game in a National League park.