1

A little more on Curt Young

Just a quick update on the possible destination for former A’s pitching coach Curt Young, who left Oakland on Sunday to pursue other options.

It was widely assumed that Young could be a natural to land with the Arizona Diamondbacks as their pitching coach, being that he lives in Scottsdale. But the Arizona Republic is reporting that Charles Nagy is the front runner for that position. Everything I’m now hearing points to Young getting consideration from the Boston Red Sox to be their pitching coach. The Sox have a vacancy now that John Farrell has left to become Toronto’s new manager. Of course, with today’s news that the Yankees will part ways with pitching coach Dave Eiland, perhaps that could open up another opportunity for Young. We shall see …

4

Pitching coach Curt Young leaves A’s

The A’s announced today that pitching coach Curt Young is leaving the team “to pursue another opportunity within Major League Baseball.” That opportunity must have presented itself in the past couple of days. The A’s sent out a release Wednesday announcing the hiring of hitting coach Gerald Perry and bench coach Joel Skinner. That same release indicated that Young, third-base coach Mike Gallego and bullpen coach Ron Romanick all would be returning in 2011.

So who came calling for Young? The Boston Red Sox just lost pitching coach John Farrell, who was hired as Toronto’s manager. And Boston manager Terry Francona is familiar with Young, as both coached in the Oakland organization before Francona was hired as the Red Sox skipper. Perhaps Young winds up in Boston, though that’s speculation at this point. I haven’t talked to him yet. But Young obviously received an opporunity he felt he couldn’t pass on.

He served seven years as the A’s pitching coach. I’ll have a story posted at contracostatimes.com, insidebayarea.com and mercurynews.com later in the day …

6

Jim Skaalen out as A’s hitting coach, Gerald Perry replaces him, plus other staff changes

The A’s just announced a shakeup of their coaching staff. I’ll have a story online a little later. Here’s the nuts and bolts:

–Jim Skaalen has been dismissed after two seasons as hitting coach, with Gerald Perry hired to replace him. You’ll remember Perry was the A’s hitting coach in 2006.

–Joel Skinner was hired as the A’s new bench coach, with former bench coach Tye Waller sliding over to first-base coaching duties. Todd Steverson, the first base coach for the past two years, has been offered a minor league position.

The A’s also confirmed that head trainer Steve Sayles has been let go …

–It’s not a huge surprise that Skaalen was fired considering the team’s offensive woes the past two seasons. But players and manager Bob Geren did speak highly of him during the 2010 season.

More to come later at contracostatimes.com and insidebayarea.com …

7

Some thoughts as the 2010 season wraps up

Today’s lineups, as the A’s go for a four-game sweep of the Mariners and a .500 record for the season …

A’s — Davis CF, Ellis 2B, Cust DH, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Carter LF, Donaldson 1B, Hermida RF, Pennington SS; Braden LHP.

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Figgins 2B, Gutierrez DH, Smoak 1B, Bard C, Saunders LF, Halman CF, Mangini 3B, Wilson SS; Rowland-Smith LHP.

–Daric Barton’s strained quadriceps is still bothering him, though he’s available to pinch-hit. Josh Donaldson draws a rare start at first base, where he’s played plenty in the minors.

–Michael Wuertz won’t be available in the bullpen as he hasn’t thrown in a few days because of right thumb tendinitis. Wuertz said an offseason of rest should allow his thumb to heal, and he won’t require surgery.

–Holy cow, this season has flown by fast, but they all do. Here’s a few quick-hit observations/thoughts as the season draws to a close. Feel free to sound off on any of them.

***The A’s 2010 MVP: I think Trevor Cahill is a pretty obvious pick. Normally I’d go with a position player here, but Cahill’s mostly excellent work every fifth day is too much to ignore. He developed an effective curve ball and learned to locate his sinker and throw it to both sides of the plate. There’s no reason to think he won’t continue to get better.

While Cahill’s emergence was the biggest success story on the pitching staff, I’d say Gio Gonzalez’s season was the most surprising. I think the A’s envisioned Cahill someday being able to produce as he did this year. But based on Gonzalez’s inconsistency for much of 2008 and 2009, did anyone expect him to be a 15-game winner so soon? Not me …

**Dallas Braden’s perfect game was the biggest highlight of the A’s season, I think we’d all agree. But that unfolded in a gradual manner, with excitement building with each 1-2-3 inning Braden delivered. If I had to pick the best single play of the season, I’d go with Gabe Gross’ over-the-wall grab that robbed Detroit’s Gerald Laird of a homer May 29 at Comerica Park. Pretty amazing effort, and it sticks out in my mind more than any other play. You can watch a clip of it here. Coco Crisp turned in a couple of highlight-reel grabs that are strong runners-up.

–Mark Ellis certainly made his push for his 2011 option to be picked up based on his torrid September, when he hit .413 and set an Oakland record with 43 hits. But just as scouts caution that you can’t read too much into a young player who tears it up in September, I think the A’s should only lend so much weight to Ellis’ incredible month when they decide on his $6 million option. That’s a hefty investment for a team that needs to find a power hitter or two and typically isn’t a big spender in the offseason. However, I’ve got my own selfish reasons for wanting Ellis back. He’s money when it comes to a good quote and is one of the most likable and cooperative guys in the clubhouse from a media standpoint. I still think the most sensible move is for the A’s to decline his option and see if he’s willing to negotiate a new deal with a lower base salary. That might depend on what kind of interest Ellis thinks he could get from other teams, though he’s stressed how much he wants to return to Oakland.

–Gotta give a special tip of the cap to David Feldman, an A’s historian who’s been a huge help finding stats every time that I’ve hit him up with a request. Talk about a beat writer’s best friend …

And thanks to everyone for reading the blog and taking time to share your thoughts this season. Spring training will be here before you know it! …

1

Postgame notes from A’s 5-3 victory over Mariners

The A’s have been very good on the field this weekend, and they were a pretty entertaining product in the clubhouse after the game. A lot of this didn’t make my game story for tomorrow, so here’s some details.

–Jack Cust’s homer in the fourth inning came on a 3-0 pitch, his first career home run on that count. He said he enjoys swinging on 3-0, but that the A’s usually give him the ‘take’ sign. “That’s their decision,” Cust said. “I would swing 3-0 every time if I could. It’s the only time you know what you’re going to get.” He was asked if he thought his homer might encourage the A’s to let him swing away more on 3-0. “If they can remember next year,” he said, “if I’m here next year.”

Cust had an interesting take when asked about his low home run total — Saturday’s long ball was just his 13th of the season, though he spent the first five-plus weeks of the season in the minors after the A’s surprisingly designated him for assignment before Opening Day. “This was a year, after the stuff that happened to me, I was trying to show a little more of what I could do offensively,” he said. “I can hit home runs. I averaged almost 30 homers over the last three years and it didn’t get me anywhere. I was just trying to show them I can do something else.”

Cust was referring to his .275 average, considerably higher than the .239 mark he brought into 2010. I see where he’s going with that point, but no matter what, Cust knows what he does best and what the team needed from him. The A’s are a light hitting team that desperately needed more power, and he was their best candidate to provide that. So I’m only willing to cut him so much slack on this topic.

–Brett Anderson said he suffered a bit of whiplash when a soft liner came his way on the mound and deflected off his glove. Anderson looked a bit comical as he fell to the ground, then tried to recover and throw to first for the out. What’s great is that he’s as entertained as anybody by his adventures. “It wouldn’t be a Brett Anderson start this year if a ball wasn’t hit at me and something weird happened,” he said. “I tried a ‘Matrix’-style move. This body’s not made for that.”

Bob Geren and head trainer Steve Sayles came out to visit Anderson, but he stayed in the game and delivered seven strong innings. … Solid way for him to end the season.

Talk to you tomorrow afternoon …

0

Two games and counting …

With the season down to its final two games, the mood is loose inside the A’s clubhouse right now. They’re certainly playing like a relaxed bunch, having outscored the Mariners 17-1 over the first two games of this series. Tonight’s lineup is identical to last night’s with one exception — Jeremy Hermida and Chris Carter flip-flop, with Hermida batting seventh and Carter eighth. … Don’t tell players such as Hermida that these final games don’t mean anything. Hermida, Aki Iwamura, Jeff Larish … They all joined the club late in the season, and they hope to either 1) stick in the A’s thoughts for next season, or 2) make an impression with scouts from other clubs who might be watching.

As for the day’s news, Matt Carson said his back is getting better, and he hopes to be available tomorrow. The Mariners will throw lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith, and Carson would figure to play right field if he’s healthy.

On to the lineups …

A’s — Davis CF, Barton 1B, Ellis 2B, Cust DH, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Hermida RF, Carter LF, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Figgins 2B, Gutierrez DH, Smoak 1B, Moore C, Mangini 3B, Halman CF, Saunders LF, Wilson SS; Pauley RHP.

1

Matt Carson a late scratch with back spasms, other A’s thoughts

I’m not sure there’s an official stat kept for last-minute scratches and lineup changes, but the A’s have to be among the major league leaders. Matt Carson was supposed to start in right field tonight but came down with lower back spasms. Jeremy Hermida takes his place. I saw Carson in the clubhouse and he was walking hunched over and in obvious discomfort. …

I asked Bob Geren before the game about Vin Mazzaro and where he fits into the mix for next year’s rotation. He didn’t expand much on Mazzaro specifically, but mentioned him as a starting candidate along with several others. Four of the five spots seem set with Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, so that leaves Mazzaro battling it out with Josh Outman, Tyson Ross, Clayton Mortensen and whoever else the A’s bring to camp. We all know that offense is the obvious area for improvement for the 2011 Athletics, but the competiton for that fifth starter’s spot will be worth keeping tabs on.

Geren also was asked about Rajai Davis and the season he’s had. It’s going to be interesting to see how much the A’s emphasize the running game next year if they do bring in a power hitter or two. The way I see it, Coco Crisp, Davis and Cliff Pennington could all be back in next year’s lineup, meaning one-third of Oakland’s batting order (at least) could consist of speedy, base-stealing types. The A’s were so successful running this year (and in 2009) that it’s tough picturing them not doing it again in 2011. But the main reason they’ve been so aggressive on the bases is because they’re so woeful in the power department. If they import some power over the winter, they’re going to have to strike a balance between pushing the envelope with the running game, and dialing it down and letting their big bats do some damage. Their personnel will help determine that. …

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Davis CF, Barton 1B, Ellis 2B, Cust DH, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Carter LF, Hermida RF, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Figgins 2B, Gutierrez DH, Smoak 1B, Langerhans LF, Bard C, Saunders CF, Mangini 3B, Wilson SS; French LHP.