4

Wuertz to DL, trade talks warming (updated)

In for Joe Stiglich again tonight …

Friday night, Bob Melvin almost made it through a 13-minute session with the media without talking about an A’s injury. Then he blew it by mentioning on his own that reliever Grant Balfour was iffy to pitch after he was hit in a back with a baseball earlier in the week.

Saturday night, it was back to the status quo — injury talk right out of the blocks. This time, reliever Michael Wuertz. He’s headed to the 15-day DL with what the A’s are terming  right thumb tendinitis, and Jerry “The Human Yo-Yo” Blevins is being recalled once again from Triple-A.

If you saw Wuertz pitch Friday night in giving up four earned runs in the eighth inning, including a three-run homer to Minnesota’s Michael Cuddyer, you might have suspected something was wrong. Wuertz has … well, he isn’t sure. It’s not really a thumb injury so much as a wrist condition which affects him almost like carpal tunnel.

He said he started his outing feeling fine, but then the sensation — or lack thereof — kicked in.
 
 “It started toward the end of the outing, once I got over about 20 pitches,” he said. “It’s kind of had to pitch when you can’t feel the ball.”
 
Wuertz had this same issue late last year, got a shot of cortisone but never really knew what it was.
“After the season I got it checked out and now I think we have a better handle on it,” he said. “But I still don’t even know what it is, to be honest with you. It swells up and there’s a little numbing in the fingers. It’s kind of a hard thing to explain.”
Manager Bob Melvin said Wuertz will have another cortisone shot, shut it down 4-5 days and then begin throwing again. Wuertz added that he’ll have the shot in an area more specific to where the problem is originating this time.
   “(The shot last year) wasn’t in the problem area because we didn’t really know what was wrong with it,” he said. “Now that we have it narrowed down to a specific area we know a little bit more. It’s more so in the wrist. It just swells up and gets real tight and stiff.”
Melvin hypothesized that the way Wuertz throws certain pitches may have created the problem.

“The way he torques his slider, it puts a lot of pressure on that area,” the manager said. “He grips the ball back and throws a slider a little bit differently than most. After the first 15 pitches or so, you could see the stuff go down and the velocity on the slider go down. So it’s flared up on him enough that it’s been a little bit of a concern.”

———————

There wasn’t much trade talk involving the A’s as the game neared, but several baseball sources in the East reported during the game that the Boston Red Sox had acquired pitcher Rich Harden for Triple-A first baseman Lars Anderson. Neither team has officially announced it as of yet, but that could happen as soon as the conclusion of tonight’s game.

Josh Willingham was in the lineup Saturday night. He’s at DH, Hideki Matsui’s in LF. Suppose it doesn’t matter where to those who don’t wish to see the A’s biggest power threat traded. Right now, it looks like he just might stay. Even his wife sent a note out on Twitter saying that she’d be surprised if her husband was dealt.

The Pirates were reportedly interested in Willingham and possibly one of the A’s relievers, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that those talks are now dead and that they never really caught fire in the first place. The Braves and Red Sox have also been mentioned regarding Willingham, but nothing serious appears to be in the works.

Willingham going to DH is just a precautionary thing, by the way. He said Friday his Achilles is feeling good, but as Melvin said, “We want to make sure it continues to feel good.”

As for all the other A’s possible trade commodities … nothing worth mentioning. The Rangers acquired reliever Koji Uehara Saturday, which will surely end all the speculation regarding their reported pursuit of Andrew Bailey, which never seemed like a serious possibility. Surprising there haven’t been more discussions involving Coco Crisp, who’s healthy, playing well and would be a terrific addition at the top of some contender’s lineup.

Of course, things could change on a moment’s notice, and the trade deadline isn’t until 4 p.m. Sunday.

———————–

If there was a bright spot to Friday night’s 9-5 loss, it was the performance of right-handed reliever Fautino De Los Santos, who replaced Gio Gonzalez in the sixth and got out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam. He had a long two-out battle with the Twins’ Joe Mauer, but finally retired Mauer on a weak fly to left.

Melvin said he really likes what he’s seeing from De Los Santos

“We’re kind of spoon-feeding him into a more prominent role,” he said. “He is definitely a stuff type of guy who has the ability to either be a set-up guy or a closer down the road. You don’t want to throw him all at once and say, `Here’s the seventh inning.” But we’re moving him up and last night was another step in that direction. He comes in bases loaded, one out and gets us out of it. As long as he throws the ball over the plate, he’s going to be good.”

—————–

Melvin doesn’t really have any concrete answers about the woefulness of the A’s defense other than to say it’s a “work in progress.” He did say that after Gonzalez’s throwaway at second base on a potential double play comebacker might prompt some pitchers’ fielding practice soon.

——————-

The lineups:

A’s: 2B Weeks, CF Crisp, LF Matsui, DH Willingham, RF DeJesus, 1B Jackson, SS Pennington, 3B Sizemore, C Powell. P Moscoso

Twins: CF Revere, 2B Plouffe, C Mauer, 1B Cuddyer, RF Kubel, DH Thome, 3B Valencia, LF Young, SS Nishioka. P Blackburn



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

Bailey addresses trade rumors, Melvin sidesteps extension talk

In for Joe Stiglich tonight. I sense a pattern here; he’s always taking the fireworks nights off …

It’s rather puzzling that of all the A’s players you would be expecting to get buzz two days before the MLB trading deadline, Andrew Bailey would be far down the list. But right now, he might be the hottest. The word out of Texas is that the Rangers are working the cellphones hard regarding Bailey, along with Padres closer Heath Bell. Another Texas news outlet said the Rangers are looking at A’s relievers without mentioning Bailey specifically.

As Joe noted in his blog post right before this one, you can see both sides of the argument as far as the notion of the A’s trading Bailey. Yes, he’s under A’s control through 2014, he’s making a pittance (although he’ll be due a hefty raise in his first arbitration next year), and — oh yeah — he’s a pretty darned good closer when he’s healthy.

On the other hand, this is a team that believes it can sign or develop a closer whenever it needs one. It’s a team that traded a young closer in Huston Street just a few years ago. Bailey has also had elbow issues, which might prompt the A’s to strike while the iron is hot if the right deal drops in their laps. It’s highly unlikely they’re pushing a Bailey trade, but it makes sense that they’d listen.

I would doubt the A’s will be shipping Bailey somewhere, particularly to a division rival. But you never know, especially if Billy Beane sees a young prospect he covets.

So how does Bailey feel about being mentioned in trade talk?

I think our bullpen is one of our strong points and other teams’ GMs are just doing their due diligence to find the best arms out there,” he said. “It’s a little different, since I’ve only known this organization. So we’ll see what happens.”

Bailey straddled the fence on whether he would welcome a trade. On one hand, he doesn’t want to be excised from what the A’s may be building. On the other hand, if he could play with a contender now …

“I love this organization,” he said. “Obviously, the name of the game is winning and I want to be part of that. We have a lot of young talent and something to build around. But maybe go somewhere and have an opportunity to win now would be cool as well.”

Bailey said he’s only heard what he’s read on Twitter and elsewhere online, so he’s not getting too nervous yet.

“Right now, it’s all media speculation, I assume,” he said. “I haven’t heard one thing from the organization or my agent.”

——

Get ready for the every-day-or-so update on Bob Melvin’s status as manager beyond this year. The A’s are 20-22 under Melvin (they’d be .500 without yesterday’s bullpen abomination) and seem to have responded to his leadership. Then again, Oakland actually started the season 22-20 under Bob Geren — their high-water mark over .500 this year — so he hasn’t exactly moved the needle that dramatically yet.

Whatever, this is what Melvin had to say about his situation in Oakland and whether the A’s have approached him about a long-term deal.

“They have not,” he said. “When I came in here, I came on an interim basis and that’s where I’m at.”

Would he like to receive an extension before year’s end?

“I don’t know that it’s possible,” he said. “I think there’s been some scenarios before where an interim manager has been extended, but I think the hiring process is in part to do with where I am right now. Nothing’s been promised to me and I take it day to day, and that hasn’t changed since the first day I’ve been here. I came in under those terms, so obviously, I’m fine with that.”

But isn’t it something Melvin would want resolved quickly once the season was over?

“Sure,” he said. “I think in my position, anybody would like to be considered the answer long-term. I’d like to be here long-term and they know that.”

—————

Grant Balfour was hit in the small of the back by a baseball during batting practice earlier in the week. Melvin said he had him up in the bullpen during Thursday’s game and he wasn’t feeling very good. He’s hoping Balfour will be available tonight, but wasn’t sure before the game.

———-

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s: 2B Weeks, CF Crisp, DH Matsui, LF Willingham, 1B Jackson, RF DeJesus, 3B Sizemore, C Suzuki, SS Pennington. P Gonzalez

Twins:  CF Revere, 2B Plouffe, 1B Mauer, RF Cuddyer, DH Kubel, LF Young, 3B Hughes, SS Tolbert, C Butera. P Liriano

“They have not

8

Thoughts on Andrew Bailey trade talk

The rumor mill is cranking up regarding the Texas Rangers’ interest in A’s closer Andrew Bailey. Brady Tinker of the Dallas-based DFW Sports Beat mentions Bailey specifically as someone the Rangers are pursuing, while Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News adds that Texas is engaged in talks with the A’s about relievers, without mentioning a specific name.

I have heard nothing  to suggest a Bailey-to-Texas deal is in the works, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the A’s would trade him. There’s two ways to look at this decision. On one hand, Bailey is a two-time All-Star who is still affordable and under team control through 2014 (he is arbitration-eligible after this season, but won’t reach free agency until after the ’14 season). The A’s have incentive to hold on to this guy and feel secure about the ninth inning for the next three seasons. But I’d also argue that Bailey’s presence is not going to make or break the A’s chances to be a contender in 2012. This team will need offensive upgrades (let’s assume Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui and other veterans won’t be back) to be ready to challenge for the division title. Acquiring (or grooming) capable closers has been an easier task for the A’s than landing impact hitters . A young, affordable and proven closer such as Bailey is attractive to Texas for obvious reasons, and Bailey could fetch a lot in a deal. Or at least the A’s should demand a lot and see if the Rangers bite.

 What would the A’s want in return? This is purely speculation, but I could see them targeting shortstop Jurickson Profar. He’s just 18, playing for low Single-A Hickory (N.C.), so he’s not close to big league-ready. But the A’s need a long-term answer at shortstop (that’s evident by the Grant Green-in-center field experiment), and Profar is ranked by Baseball America as the Rangers’ No. 2 prospect.  I’m told Texas isn’t eager to part with him, but that’s the caliber of player the A’s should want as the centerpiece of such a package.

A’s general manager Billy Beane says he doesn’t feel the need to make any trades by Sunday’s deadline. That may be true, but it doesn’t mean he won’t pull the trigger if he gets the right offer. Again, all speculation on my part, but interesting to ponder …

Any thoughts?

6

Crisp gets a day off, plus a little Matsui discussion

Slow news morning for the A’s … Coco Crisp is getting a day off, with Ryan Sweeney playing center field after his big night Wednesday.

–Hideki Matsui was a big topic in Bob Melvin’s media session, no surprise considering how he’s hitting. I asked Melvin about whether he thinks the outfield time that Matsui is getting might be benefitting him on the offensive side. Melvin said he definitely thinks that’s the case, and that Matsui told him after interleague play ended that he’d like to continue playing some defense in addition to serving as DH.

“I think it helps with his focus,” Melvin said. “He’s so in tuned to the game, you’re almost not using the full potential of him by just DH’ing him.”

Today’s lineups:

A’s — Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney CF, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B; Harden RHP.

Rays — Jennings LF, Damon DH, Longoria 3B, Zobrist 2B, Kotchman 1B, Upton CF, Joyce RF, Chirinos C, Rodriguez SS; Davis RHP.

3

A’s option reliever Joey Devine to minors, recall Trystan Magnuson

The A’s optioned reliever Joey Devine to the minors today and recalled right-hander Trystan Magnuson to take his place. Obviously, they think Devine’s recent struggles weren’t just about him losing his grip on the baseball. A’s manager Bob Melvin pointed to Devine’s past three outings, when Devine allowed four earned runs and four walks combined against Detroit and the New York Yankees. “Joey was struggling with his command, and in his role, being the seventh inning guy, it’s a difficult one to struggle with your command in,” Melvin said. “… We just felt like it was best to work on things in the minor leagues and get his command back there.”

Devine unintentionally threw pitches behind hitters on Friday and Sunday against the Yankees, saying he was having trouble gripping the ball because of the extreme humidity. He didn’t appear to have much confidence in his fastball Sunday. I lost track of how many sliders he threw in a row at one point, and when a guy possesses a mid-90’s fastball, you don’t want him shying away from it.

Magnuson impressed the A’s with 3 1/3 scoreless innings against Florida on June 30, but then he had to be sent down because the A’s needed a fresh arm for the next day. He told me he’s been working on his split-fingered fastball to use as another weapon against lefties.

Here’s your lineups:

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney RF, Pennington SS, Sizemore 3B, Powell C; Cahill RHP.

Rays: Jennings CF, Damon DH, Zobrist 2B, Longoria 3B, Kotchman 1B, Joyce RF, Shoppach C, Fuld LF, Rodriguez SS; Shields RHP.

2

A’s need strong start from McCarthy; Barton has torn labrum in shoulder

The A’s are looking for a strong pitching performance to support the impressive hitting they’ve been getting. … Wait, did I just write that? It’s true. Oakland suddenly is a team swinging the bats well, while the starting pitchers have struggled a bit. The starters have tossed fewer than six innings in each of the last six games and are 1-3 with an 11.13 ERA over that time. Overall, the pitching staff has a 5.30 ERA over the last 14 games. Brandon McCarthy takes the hill tonight trying to turn things around. The bullpen could certainly use some rest …

–First baseman Daric Barton confirmed to me that he has a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder, and that he’s visiting Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California on Wednesday. Surgery is a definite possibility, and that would all but certainly end Barton’s season. Shortstop Cliff Pennington had a 5-6 month recovery period when he had a labrum tear repaired on his left (non-throwing) shoulder last offseason.

Barton said he originally hurt his shoulder diving back into second base during the A’s series at Minnesota in early April, so it’s something that he’s been dealing with all season and perhaps is partly to blame for his struggles. He hit .212 with no homers and 21 RBIs with the A’s and got demoted to the minors June 22. Since then, he’d hit just .197 in 17 games with Triple-A Sacramento.

The lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Willingham DH, Jackson 1B, DeJesus RF, Sizemore 3B, Suzuki C, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Rays – Jennings LF, Damon DH, Zobrist 2B, Longoria 3B, Kotchman 1B, Upton CF, Joyce RF, Chirinos C, Rodriguez SS; Price LHP.

2

Sonny Gray could help A’s to a sunnier future soon

In for Joe Stiglich tonight …

I’ve been spending the last few hours trying to think of some famous Sonnys. Tough. Sonny Bono. Sonny Barger. Sonny Boy Williamson. A lot of great saxophonists, for some reason: Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Criss. One of the Godfather’s bullet-riddled offspring, of course, Sonny Corleone.

In sport, we’ve had a heavyweight champ named Sonny, Sonny Liston. A Hall of Fame quarterback, too, Sonny Jurgensen, and here’s one A’s PR man Bob Rose pulled out of his deep recesses – former Washington QB Sonny Sixkiller, one of the great names in the history of sports. Longtime Warriors fans will also remember swift swingman Sonny Parker.

But it’s a rare name in baseball. In fact, the last two major leaguers of note who went by Sonny are from the 1960s: former Atlanta shortstop Sonny Jackson and one-time Cleveland pitcher Sonny Siebert. Siebert retired in 1975, and at least in my Baseball Reference search, nobody since.

Enter Sonny Gray, the A’s top draft pick, who could end the drought sooner than later. The 18th overall selection, the right-handed pitcher not only signed Monday, Oakland immediately put him on  the fast track. He’ll head to the Rookie League in Arizona Tuesday, but he’ll only be there for a week or two to get his arm ready. Then he’ll make a big leap to Double-A Midland.

Gray, 21, was 12-3 with a 2.12 ERA and .200 opponents batting average in 18 games, all starts, for Vanderbilt University this year, including two appearances in the 2011 College World Series.  In 119.0 innings, the junior struck out 124 and walked 46 while allowing just four home runs.

Gray said there was never any doubt he was going to sign with Oakland.

“One of the reasons I signed so soon is I’m going to go to Midland probably around Aug. 5-6 and stay there for the rest of the season,” he said. ”I thought it was a great opportunity. (The A’s) came up with the proposal to go to Midland and we jumped on it. Going to Double-A is exciting. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s something I’m looking forward to.
Gray arrived in the East Bay Sunday, took a physical Monday morning and signed Monday afternoon. He suited up at O.co Coliseum before Monday night’s game against Tampa Bay and worked out on the field with the major-league team. He’s had to deal with ribbing throughout his baseball career about his name — he’s aware it’s an oxymoron — but he’s used to it.
 
In college, going around from town to town, I kind of got yelled at a lot for that,” he said. :Some of the Oakland guys were even asking me, `What’s your real name?’
   
14

A’s go for rare series victory over Yankees

The temperature has taken a small dip today, and there’s even a chance of rain for the A’s-Yankees series finale ….

The A’s would take the series with a victory, and it would be significant. They’ve dropped nine straight series to the Yankees, an Oakland record for most consecutive series lost against any team.

The morning’s news …

–Tyson Ross will make a rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento today, throwing 65-70 pitches. His role once he’s activated from the DL is TBA (starting or relieving?), and I’d think the decision is tied to A) how Guillermo Moscoso continues performing in the rotation, and B) which pitchers (if any) are dealt before the trade deadline. If Moscoso has another shaky outing or two, perhaps the A’s swap in Ross for that rotation spot. I can’t see Ross replacing any of the current relievers unless someone is traded.  He could also join Sacramento’s rotation.

–Scott Sizemore gets a day off, with Eric Sogard playing third and batting ninth. Cliff Pennington, 11 for 27 over his past seven games, moves up to eighth.

–Interesting note from Elias: Hideki Matsui has hit 32 percent of his major league home runs (54 of 169) off left-handed pitchers. That’s the highest percentage among the 62 left-handed hitters with 50 or more career homers.

The lineups:

A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Suzuki C, Pennington SS, Sogard 3B; Gonzalez LHP.

Yankees — Jeter DH, Granderson CF, Teixeira 1B, Cano 2B, Swisher RF, Martin C, Jones LF, Nunez SS, Laird 3B; Colon RHP.

6

Will the daylight change A’s luck against Yankees?

Afternoon ball at Yankee Stadium today … The A’s don’t get many Saturday ‘day’ games on the road, as lots of teams like playing their Saturday contests at night. Maybe the earlier start is advantageous for the A’s. The quicker they flush out Friday night’s blowout loss, the better.

A’s manager Bob Melvin acknowledged this morning that this 11-game losing streak to the Yankees is probably taking a mental toll on his team. “Typically, when you’ve lost that many games, you can’t help but think about it,” Melvin said. “Every game you don’t win, the questions arise, and you have to think about having answers for them.”

–With Coco Crisp getting a day off, Cliff Pennington is hitting second. Hideki Matsui is back in the No. 3 spot and Josh Willingham is hitting cleanup. Melvin says he flip-flopped his 3-4 combo to keep the left/right variation throughout the batting order.

–Joey Devine’s brief but eventful outing last night was all over the highlights shows, thanks to his wayward pitch that went behind Brandon Laird. Both Devine and Melvin maintain that Devine’s primary problem Friday was the constant sweat he had on his hands that kept him from getting a good grip on the ball. “Every throw it was sweat dripping down to the finger tips,” Devine said.

That’s potentially a problem, since pitching in humid weather is a fact of life for major leaguers, especially on the East Coast. “Hopefully I can make an adjustment and get back out there and have a better outing,” Devine said. As part of that adjustment, he’s wearing a lotion on his arm today called Sweat Shield, which is supposed to close his pores and make him sweat less. Melvin said he wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Devine as his regular seventh-inning reliever, but Melvin also said: “Everybody is pitching in the same conditions, so he’s going to have to find ways to combat that.”

The A’s are having a hard enough time handling the Yankees. They don’t need perspiration working against them too …

The lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, DeJesus RF, Sizemore 3B, Sweeney CF, Jackson 1B, Powell C; Harden RHP.

Yankees – Gardner LF, Jeter SS, Granderson CF, Teixeira 1B, Cano DH, Swisher RF, Martin C, Nunez 2B, Laird 3B; Burnett RHP.

3

A’s try to beat the heat (and the Yankees)

It’s a scorcher at Yankee Stadium this evening. It’s just past 6:30 p.m., and weather.com lists the temperature at 101 degrees, with a heat index of 109  (factoring in the humidity). Several A’s players are saying this is some of the worst weather they’ve experienced as far as temperature and humidity combined. No surprise the A’s cut batting practice a bit short. The Yankees didn’t hit outdoors at all …

–The lineups, w/Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore  back in action:

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Willingham DH, Matsui LF, Sizemore 3B, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Suzuki C, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Yankees: Gardner LF, Jeter SS, Granderson CF, Teixeira DH, Cano 2B, Swisher RF, Posada 1B, Nunez 3B, Cervelli C; Hughes RHP.

–A’s manager Bob Melvin said a pitcher’s energy and stuff can fade quickly in this weather, so keep an eye on how Trevor Cahill fares as the innings tick away. Cahill obviously wants to turn his luck around against the Yanks. Two hitters in particular that he must bear down on: Robinson Cano (4 for 9, 1 HR off him lifetime) and Mark Teixeira (4 for 8, 2 HRs). No stats jump off the page as far as A’s hitters vs. Phil Hughes, the Yankees starter. The body of work is pretty small for everybody in the lineup.

–There was no Eric Chavez reunion with his old teammates today: The former Athletic is down in Tampa for a rehab assignment. He’s close to returning from a bone bruise in his left foot that landed him on the 60-day DL back in May.

–If you get to New York City and visit Little Italy, I recommend lunch at Cafe Napoli. Great daily specials … order the chicken piccata!