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Gentry out of the gate quickly as he puts 2014 behind him

Craig Gentry (3) is off to a far better start this spring than last for A's.

Craig Gentry (3) is off to a far better start this spring than last for A’s.

Craig Gentry is already way ahead of the game, even if the A’s are just one game into spring training.

The Oakland outfielder singled in each of his first two at-bats, stole a base and scored a couple of runs as the A’s beat the Giants 9-4 to open Cactus League play Tuesday.

That’s one more game than Gentry played for the A’s last spring. He came over in a trade from the Rangers, but injured his back before reporting to camp. He went on the disabled list before the spring was out, and missed the entire first homestand of the regular season.

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Chavez takes same approach in effort to win starter’s job

Jesse Chavez gets Wednesday's start, hoping to pitch his way back into the A's rotation.

Jesse Chavez gets Wednesday’s start, hoping to pitch his way back into the A’s rotation.

Jesse Chavez’s spring setup hasn’t changed, even if everything else has.

In the space of a year, the right-handed pitcher went from the A’s bullpen to the starting rotation, then back to the bullpen. He became a starter due to injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, lost his job after 21 starts when the A’s traded for Jon Lester, and now has a chance to start again.

Chavez, who starts Game 2 of the Cactus League season against the Giants Wednesday in Scottsdale, could have blamed the Lester trade for losing his job. He didn’t. He blamed himself.

“It wasn’t a case of the job being taken away,’’ he said. “It was a case of I didn’t hold it. I shouldn’t have put the team in a position to doubt me.’’

The A’s had no early doubt. In Chavez’s first 18 starts, Oakland went 13-5 and he was 7-5 with a 3.06 ERA with hitters averaging just .248 against him. Then came a three-game July stretch against the Mariners once and the Astros twice in which he went 1-2 with a 5.94 ERA while his opponents’ average leaped to .279. He also allowed four homers, three of those against the Astros in Houston on July 28. Three days later came the trade for Lester.

“I think it came down to those three starts, a couple of bad innings,’’ Chavez said. “The three homers against the Astros was the really bad one.’’

Mare than that, there was a belief that Chavez, who’d most been a reliever for the previous decade after signing with the Rangers, was wearing down. Twelve of his first 18 starts saw him go at least six innings. Only one of his last four met that standard.

“That was the problem,’’ he said. “I was going from getting us into the seventh inning to struggling to get into the sixth.’’

So Wednesday’s start is a new beginning, although as A’s manager Bob Melvin said, “whether he had a job locked up or he was trying to win one, Chavvy would have the same all-out approach.’’

“The chance to be a starter is there,’’ Chavez said. “For me, I just approach it like last year when I was trying to just win a spot on the staff. I’m always going to pitch like I’m pitching to win a job.’’

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Parker adds curve as he gets closer to facing hitters

Jarrod Parker is getting closer to facing live hitters after adding a curve in bullpen session Tuesday.

Jarrod Parker is getting closer to facing live hitters after adding a curve in bullpen session Tuesday.

Jarrod Parker broke out his curve in one of his twice-weekly bullpen sessions Tuesday as he used his full repertoire for the first time since his Tommy John surgery 49 weeks ago.

Or at least as full a repertoire as he’s likely to throw this season as he gets over having the ligament replaced in his right arm.

“It was 43 pitches, fastballs, changeups and curves,’’ Parker said. “The slider? Not yet. If I wait it’ll come back. And it’s no big deal if I don’t throw it this year.’’

The slider takes more of a bite out of the arm as it heals, and Parker isn’t ready to go down that route. He’s had two Tommy John surgeries now, and caution is his byword.

“I’m going to be cautious with the slider; I’m more comfortable with the curve, the right-hander said. “There’s more of a hand motion in throwing the curve. The slider puts more strain (on the transplanted area).’’

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Hassan could make a nice addition for A’s moving forward

Alex Hassan has been an on-base machine in Red Sox's system, which is why A's wanted to give him a shot.

Alex Hassan has been an on-base machine in Red Sox’s system, which is why A’s wanted to give him a shot.

 

Alex Hassan stepped into the A’s lineup Sunday just hours after getting off a plane from Florida and walked twice in an intrasquad game.

“Two walks – he fits right in here,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.

Oakland has been certain for a while that Hassan would be a good fit in the A’s outfield plans. He can play the corners, and he also can play first base. Offensively, he’s something of an on-base machine with a .287 average last year in Triple-A with a .378 on-base percentage and a .426 slugging percentage.

For his six-year minor league career, the slash line is .291/.396/.436, so it’s small wonder the A’s went after him, claiming Hassan on waivers from the Red Sox on Nov. 17 after Boston ran into a roster crunch and had to put him on waivers.

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A’s hoping Crisp’s time out due to pinkeye will be short; Muncy’s RBI single drives in only run of intrasquad game

Coco Crisp will miss some time after coming down with conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye.

Coco Crisp will miss some time after coming down with conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye.

The A’s are looking at being without Coco Crisp for Tuesday’s start of the Cactus League season after the center fielder missed Saturday’s workout having come down with a case of pinkeye.
“He wasn’t here today; we hope he’ll be here tomorrow, but we don’t know,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.
Crisp didn’t start for nine consecutive days from Sept. 19-27, 2012, with the same problem.
“We’re hoping we’ve caught it early,’’ Melvin said. “He came in with it yesterday and we’ve got him at home now hoping this resolves itself quickly.’’
Pinkeye, known medically as conjunctivitis, manifests itself in redness as swelling of the eyelid and eye surface, which becomes red and swollen. It’s a contagious affliction, but is usually not serious and goes away in 7-10 days without medical treatment.
Crisp, who was wearing sunglasses indoors Thursday, when he talked with the media about his new iPhone game app, Coco’s Fro Patrol, didn’t start a game from Sept. 19-27 in 2012 because of pinkeye as the A’s were in the middle of their dramatic rally to edge Texas on the season’s last day for the American League West title.
“We’re hoping very much that it’s not going to take him that long this time,’’ Melvin said. “But if it had to happen, this is a good time, with so much of the spring left.’’
Even before this, Melvin wasn’t planning on putting Crisp in center field in the early going of the Cactus League, which opens Tuesday with the A’s hosting the Giants with lefty Brad Mills on the mound.
Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld have plenty of experience in center field, but Melvin pointed to infielders Matt Olson, Tyler Ladendorf, Andy Parrino and Alden Carrithers as being likely to pick up playing time with Crisp out.
The manager said he felt Crisp, who has a history of being able to return to play quickly after being sidelined, would only need one or two nine-inning games to be ready to go for the season.
Crisp, 36, is the A’s leadoff hitter and the man who usually makes the offense go. Oakland is protective of his health, and the A’s would love to see him start more than the 126 games in which he played last year.
Since 2010, the A’s are 303-252 with Crisp in the lineup, a .546 winning percentage, and 130-125 without him, .510.

–Threatening skies held off Saturday morning and early afternoon as the A’s got in a four-inning intrasquad game.
Only one run was scored, that on an RBI single by minor league infielder Max Muncy, who drove in Billy Burns. Burns was hit by a Brock Huntzinger pitch in the second, took second on an Eric Sogard single and scored on Muncy’s one-out hit.
The game was played with particular attention to the new baseball rules on batters staying in the batter’s box between pitches if they don’t swing.
“We’re just trying to get a feel for the new rules,’’ Melvin said.
Fernando Rodriguez, who threw a scoreless second inning, was singled out by the manager for his performance, as was R.J. Alvarez, who walked the first two men he faced, then came back to strike out the next two before getting an inning-ending grounder.
And then there was switch pitcher Pat Venditte. He warmed up as a left-hander, then started the inning as a right-hander against right-hander Rangel Ravelo before moving back to the left side to close out the inning.
Melvin also singled out the defensive work of outfielders Gentry and Fuld and infielders Brett Lawrie and Marcus Semien.

–Chad Smith, claimed off waivers from the Tigers, reported to camp Saturday. The A’s will work him into the pitching mix in the next day or two.
“I’m excited to be here,’’ Smith said. “You really don’t expect to be traded. You think it will be the other guy. But I have some family in the Bay Area, which is nice.

–The A’s starters for the first three games of the Cactus League season will be lefty Brad Mills, right-hander Jesse Chavez and lefty Barry Zito.
–Ryan Doolittle, the right-handed brother of A’s lefty Sean Doolittle, pitched the final half inning Saturday and showed a lively fastball.
–Alex Hassan, picked up on a waiver claim from the Orioles, should be in the A’s camp Sunday

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A’s lose Coco Crisp for the short term with case of pinkeye

Coco Crisp is out of action for the moment in spring training with a case of pinkeye.

Coco Crisp is out of action for the moment in spring training with a case of pinkeye.

 

The A’s were without Coco Crisp Saturday on photo day and the center fielder could miss a few more days of spring training after having come down with a case of pinkeye.

The hope is that Crisp, who missed more than a week down the stretch of the 2012 season with the same problem, won’t miss as much work this time around.

“We’re hoping we’ve caught it early,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “He came in with it yesterday and we’ve got him at home now hoping this resolves itself quickly.’’

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A’s look at Viciedo after taking Hassan in waiver claim; Butler/Reddick team wins Friday’s situational hitting trophy; Crisp enters ditigal age with Coco’s Fro Patrol app for iPhone

A's Billy Butler, left, and Josh Reddick walk off the field with winning trophy from today's situational hitting competition (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

A’s Billy Butler, left, and Josh Reddick walk off the field with winning trophy from today’s situational hitting competition (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

It seems that the A’s are in the market for a little more pop in the person of outfielder/third baseman Dayan Viciedo.

That’s the word from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, two days after the Chicago White Sox signed infielder Gordon Beckham and designated Viciedo for assignment. Chicago has 10 days to trade or release Viciedo.

Going after Viciedo makes a bit of sense from the A’s point of view. He hit 21 homers for the Sox last year and 25 three years ago. Oakland is in a bit of a power vacuum with the losses over the last seven months of Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes.

Vicideo, a right-handed hitter, could fill in as the left fielder over the current pairing of Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry, but the A’s defense would take a hit. And the offense would, too, because Viciedo doesn’t walk much and his .294 on-base percentage over the last three years offsets the 60 homers he’s hit in that spell.

But he is young, just 25, so he seems to have some upside the A’s find appealing. The Blue Jays reportedly also have some interest.

Earlier in the day Oakland did make a roster claim, adding outfielder Alex Hassan from the Orioles and put Griffin on the 60-day disabled list to make room.

The A’s had claimed Hassan from the Red Sox on Nov. 17, but lost him to a claim from Baltimore about a week later.

Hassan, who made his big league debut with the Sox last year by going 1-for-8, hit .287 with a .378 on-base percentage at Triple-A last year. He also had a .326 slugging percentage.

 

–The A’s had an atypical day Friday, skipping batters vs. pitchers and closing out with a situational hitting.

The win went to a team led by Billy Butler and Josh Reddick, the winners walking off Field 1 at Fitch Park with a trophy of sorts – a coffee maker and an MC Hammer bobblehead cobbled together by minor league hitting coordinator Greg Sparks.

Butler put the trophy above his locker after the workout.

“We struggled in situational hitting last year,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. He said that Ike Davis was “perfect when I saw him,’’ and added that Butler, Reddick, Fuld and Gentry all had good days.

“That’s something I can do,’’ Davis said. “You give up some outs, and that hurts your batting average, but it’s OK as long as it helps the team.’’

 

–Coco Crisp took a step into the digital world Thursday night, launching a game app for iPhones call Coco’s Fro Patrol.

The idea is to catch as many fly balls in the outfield as possible while dodging obstacles including gum and trash cans.

He got 150-plus viewers overnight, including former A’s first baseman Daric Barton, who ranks third on the early leaderboard. Crisp is first; his mother ranked fifth early in the day Friday.

“I could have launched it last year, but I wanted to make it as perfect as possible,’’ Crisp said. The concept was his, although he needed the help of web designers to get the program off the ground. “I know there will be some people who will find little faults with it, but it’s starting in a good place.’’

The game is free, although there is the possibility of expenditures depending on how fast and how deep into the game a player wants to get. The player gets one free “umpire’’ per day, while more can be purchased.

Crisp is a longtime gamer who has been trying to pick up college-level programing classes the last couple of years.

Some of his A’s teammates, who learned about the launch Thursday and Friday, were experimenting with it Friday morning.

 

–Saturday and Sunday see the A’s scheduled for back-to-back intrasquad games, but there is a good chance of rain, particularly on Sunday.

–Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Raul Alcantara threw bullpen sessions Friday while the rest of the staff took the day off from bullpens. All three seemed to come through the process well, although Griffin has a bruise on his left (non-throwing wrist).

–Jason Pridie, the only non-roster outfielder in camp before Hassan was claimed Friday, figures to get plenty of spring starts with the A’s looking to have Coco Crisp ease slowly into playing shape. Oakland figures Crisp only needs a couple of nine-inning games to be ready for the season. Also likely to get outfield time are infielders Tyler Ladendorf, Alden Carrithers, Matt Olson and Andy Parrino.

–The A’s signed a new four-year radio deal with 95. FM The Game that will see the A’s games broadcast there through the 2018 season. The A’s have been on 95.7 since 2011.

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Crisp enters the app world with launch of Coco’s Fro Patrol

OAK-SPRAIL-0228Coco Crisp took a step into the digital world Thursday night, launching a game app for iPhones call Coco’s Fro Patrol.

The idea is to catch as many fly balls in the outfield as possible while dodging obstacles including gum and trash cans.

He got 150-plus viewers overnight, including former A’s first baseman Daric Barton, who ranks third on the early leaderboard. Crisp is first; his mother ranked fifth early in the day Friday.

“I could have launched it last year, but I wanted to make it as perfect as possible,’’ Crisp said. The concept was his, although he needed the help of web designers to get the program off the ground. “I know there will be some people who will find little faults with it, but it’s starting in a good place.’’

The game is free, although there is the possibility of expenditures depending on how fast and how deep into the game a player wants to get. The player gets one free “umpire’’ per day, while more can be purchased.

Crisp is a longtime gamer who has been trying to pick up college-level programing classes the last couple of years.

Some of his A’s teammates, who learned about the launch Thursday and Friday, were experimenting with it Friday morning.

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Speaking from experience, Zito says ex-teammates Ellis, Hudson could find retirement tougher than they think

Barry Zito's winter spent with pitching guru Ron Wolforth has resulted in an invitation to A's spring training camp.

Barry Zito’s winter spent with pitching guru Ron Wolforth has resulted in an invitation to A’s spring training camp.

Barry Zito hadn’t heard that Mark Ellis had announced his retirement. He also hadn’t heard that Tim Hudson has indicated this might be his last year in the game as well.

After hearing the news on both longtime teammates, Zito smiled and offered a word of caution Thursday to any player who may be thinking about calling it quits – think long and hard about it.

“I think hanging it up is going to be harder for guys than they realize, after being out of it for a year,” said the 36-year-old lefthander, who is trying to revive his career with the A’s after a year’s hiatus from the game. “You feel like you’re in control of the game, and then you’re not in it, and you want be back in that game so bad.”

Based on his own experience, Zito said players may look at retirement a little too cavalierly.

“We’ve got a long way to go in life once we get out of this thing,” he said. “That’s not a factor for you when you’re in it. You say, `Ah, I’ve had enough.’ But it’s a difficult decision.”

Zito had his year off pre-planned before his 2013 season had ended with the Giants, and added that it was hard to watch, particularly in the playoffs when his competitive juices would start to kick up.

“The playoffs are such an intensified version of what we do,” he said. “That’s really what we live for. It was difficult in ’13 and ’14. Watching the Dodgers go up against the Cardinals, I was wishing I was out there.”

As far as his own career resuscitation, Zito took another key step Thursday. He faced live hitters for the first time, threw 30 pitches, and came away satisfied.

“It definitely felt pretty good for the first time out,” he said. “It’s not quite game intensity, but it’s definitely a step up from throwing bullpens.”

Zito admitted he can’t gauge where he is compared to where he might be if he hadn’t taken a year off, but said his conditioning is good and his motivation to pull off his return is off the charts.

“I definitely want to come out and bust my tail and leave everything on the field every day,” he said. “If you’re getting comfortable in spring training, that’s probably not the mindset to have. I’m definitely giving more every day than I would if I hadn’t been gone for a year.”
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A’s chances of landing Cuban 2B Olivera dwindling

Hector Olivera, at the plate in 2010 for Team Cuba, could be a good fit for A's, but money may get in the way (Getty Images).

Hector Olivera, at the plate in 2010 for Team Cuba, could be a good fit for A’s, but money may get in the way (Getty Images).

A month ago, the A’s had high hopes of being able to sign Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera with the idea that he could slip into the Oakland starting lineup at second base, freeing Ben Zobrist to move to left field.

But as time as gone on and Major League Baseball has not moved to make Olivera eligible as a free agent, more competition has come on the market. Olivera has had group workouts for scouts, and he’s had individual workouts, but for the moment, that’s all he can do.

The workouts have given rise to the belief that the Dodgers, the Padres, the Red Sox and the Yankees all have interest. More than that, they all have money.

“It seems like the A’s are going to get priced out of the competition,’’ a source said. “There are teams out there that can simply outbid Oakland.’’

The Dodgers are in particular a concern. First-year Los Angeles general manager Farhan Zaidi went south from Oakland this winter with a history of thinking about the game the same way A’s general manager Billy Beane does. And he has money to spend that Beane and the A’s don’t.

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