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Melvin hopes there’s carryover to A’s fans’ late-season fervor

Carl Steward, in for John Hickey throughout the Bay Bridge Series …

Managers and coaches from every sports team always pay lip service to “our great fans, the best fans on the planet.” But when A’s manager  Bob Melvin talked this morning, it didn’t sound like a man making a sales pitch with hollow platitudes. He gushed sincerely about how Oakland fans came to the fore down the stretch in 2012, gave the team incredible emotional momentum and generally turned the dank old Coliseum into a happy, happening animal house.

“Especially those last six days of the season before the postseason even started, everything came together as one – the fans, us – I mean, that was a special relationship,” Melvin said. ”We really felt them in those last six games. There were some games where we came back and won because they were pushing and supporting. There were a couple games against the Mariners, I know against the Rangers and then again in the postseason, it was unlike any other feeling I’ve had from a group of fans coming down the stretch. They were a big part of our winning and our success.”

Melvin’s right. I was around for the terrific teams of the late ’80s and early 2000s and I’d almost forgotten how whipped up A’s crowds can get when you give them a team with personality and promise that they can get behind. Last year was probably even more special because few people thought the 2012 club had a division title chase in them.

When it started to gather steam, it truly was unreal — the loudest and most fervent A’s crowds I’ve probably ever seen if not the largest. Oakland fans embraced this club as its own, primarily because so many of these young players had never experienced this type of stage, let alone this type of success, before.

It should be interesting today, but more importantly Monday’s Opening Night (and actually, AFTER Opening Night), to see how much cacaphonous carryover there will be. Melvin believes there will be.

“Our fans only know one way,” he said. “There are times where we’re not full here, but it’s a very passionate fan base. When they come out in full force, it’s unlike any other. It is very raw energy. We have diehards here … and some affordable tickets, too. It makes for a raucous crowd. It’s just a different feeling than I’ve felt anywhere. Some of the Detroit players were saying it was more difficult to play here than in Yankee Stadium for the  (ALCS).

“Really, it’s always been like that. Even when I’ve been on other teams coming in here, when Oakland fans come out in full force, it’s a difficult place to play. They’re on you as far as the visitors go and they’re supportive of the home team. This place gets loud.”

There is some semblance of stability for a change in Oakland with owner Lew Wolff’s request to keep the A’s in Oakland for at least five more years. Of course, he has to get a lease extension done with the Joint Powers Authority and negotiations didn’t get off to such a great start. There’s no telling how the folks at Major League Baseball reacted to the crazy scene here at the end of 2012, but hopefully they were paying attention.

It was special. Good job by Melvin to acknowledge it — and speak from the heart — as another A’s journey is set to begin.

Other stuff: The A’s will make their final roster moves to get down to the 25-player limit after today’s game against the Giants. Quite likely, Melvin said, shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will start the season on the disabled list.

In one tidbit of news, the manager did say Bartolo Colon will likely make his first regular-season start in the A’s sixth game following his five-game season-opening suspension and then begin taking his normal turn into the rotation from there.

 

 

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A’s bullpen could be ridiculously good this year, Doolittle adds another weapon

In for John Hickey for the Bay Bridge Series …

The A’s lost to the Giants 3-1 Friday night and now it’s on to Oakland Saturday afternoon for the last non-counting game for a good long while. These two games in San Francisco have played like counters, though, and both teams look primed for Opening Day.

The highlight for the A’s in this game was their pitching. Starter A.J,. Griffin, pitching against fellow San Diegan Barry Zito, had one shaky stretch in the fifth inning, but otherwise looked to be in fine form. He walked one and struck and six, and threw 57 of his 79 pitches for strikes. If Chris Young doesn’t misjudge Brandon Crawford’s two-out liner to right in the fifth, Griffin probably has a scoreless final spring outing.

But as promising as the A’s rotation may be, I can’t wait to see this Oakland bullpen in action this year. It could be special. I have long considered the Giants to have the best, most versatile and deepest pen in baseball, but I think the A’s can match them this year and possibly be even better.

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Lowrie could be a lifesaver at shortstop with Nakajima’s nightmarish spring

Carl Steward in for John Hickey for the Bay Bridge Series …

The A’s thought they made a good trade in early February when they pried Jed Lowrie away from the Houston Astros for Chris Carter and Brad Peacock. Now it’s looking like a deal that could save Oakland from all kinds of early season hardship.

After beating the Giants at AT&T Park Thursday night, what appeared to be a good likelihood became a done deal. Hiroyuki Nakajima was officially diagnosed with a strained left hamstring that will keep him out of action for an unspecifiied length of time, and likely off the Opening Day roster. Bank it, Lowrie will start at shortstop on Opening Night against Seattle Monday, and might have done so anyway the way Nakajima, the high-priced Japanese offseason acquisition, has struggled throughout the spring.

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Loading of the truck spells the beginning of the end of spring training, 2013

It’s moving day at Phoenix Muni, sort of.

The A’s don’t fly out to the Bay Area until after Wednesday’s Cactus League finale against the Rockies here.

But not everything flies. Much of the gear that the A’s will use this season gets trucked to Oakland, and the truck is being packed up now as the A’s are playing the Brewers and will hit the road later this afternoon.

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Demotion end of a bad-luck spring for A’s Weeks

Jemile Weeks has gone from one of the favored few to one of the early exits at the Oakland A’s camp.

Weeks and outfielder Shane Peterson both were set to Triple-A Sacramento after Sunday’s game.

Both were hitting well, Peterson at .408 and Weeks at .370, but Peterson, a first-year player in terms of the Cactus League, never had a chance of cracking an entrenched outfield.

It was different for Weeks, who had bad luck on a couple of levels to wind up getting shipped back to the minor leagues.

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Sizemore, Rosales, Sogard battle for one roster spot, increasing likelihood of a deal being done

After the A’s dispatched the Dodgers 7-4 Sunday, the club sent down second baseman Jemile Weeks and outfielder Shane Peterson.

Those were tough cuts, with Peterson hitting .408 and Weeks hitting .370.

It’s not going to get any easier, but some of the players who will make the team aren’t going to have numbers anywhere close to the numbers of the players just sent down.

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Freiman an imposing presence in A’s clubhouse

Nate Freiman s an imposing figure in A's camp

The initial impression brought on by Nate Freiman’s first morning in the A’s camp is that the Warriors missed out on a good bet.

This guy has a power forward’s body.

It’s yet to be proven if he’s the right-handed power hitter the A’s need as an option to the left-handed Brandon Moss at first base, but spring is all about optimism, right?

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