How important can one player be on a 25-man roster?
The A’s may be about to find out. If past experience is any guide, the return of Yoenis Cespedes Sunday could be a sign that happy days may once more be here again.
Oakland went 9-2 out of the starting blocks with Cespedes in the lineup before he injured his left wrist. They have not been the same team since.
When the injury happened, the A’s were hot. They’d scored 70 runs in 11 games, an average of 6.36 per game. Coming into Sunday’s series finale with the Orioles, since that hot start the A’s have scored just 57 in 14 (4.07 per game).
Talking about Cespedes the other day, first baseman Brandon Moss said “he’s the one true superstar we have. He’s that good.’’
He’s good enough to make the players around him better, manager Bob Melvin says with some sense of conviction. Since Cespedes joined the organization last spring out of Cuba, Oakland is 91-48 with him in the lineup, a .655 winning percentage. When he’s not, the A’s are a dismal 16-32 (.333 winning percentage).
Clearly the A’s need him desperately.
“There is no doubt that he makes everybody else in the lineup better,’’ Melvin said. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a presence in the lineup.’’
The “it’’ Melvin is talking about is the home run differential when Cespedes is in the lineup. It’s not that Cespedes himself has hit all that many homers this year. He’s gone deep three times. But when he’s in the lineup, the team as a whole has hit 19 homers in those 11 games. In the 14 games when he’s been absent, Oakland has just five homers in 14 games.
“Just having him sit in the middle of the lineup makes pitchers change the way they pitch to our lineup,’’ Melvin said.
And with the A’s struggling to score runs and having lost eight of their last nine, change is good.
–Left-hander Brett Anderson will miss Monday’s start against the Angels with pain in his right (landing) foot. It cropped up in his last start and the decision was made to give him time to heal. He’d had problems with the foot already, and aggravated it while planting to make a throw trying to get Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury Wednesday.
Dan Straily, who struck out 11 Astros in his only start for Oakland this year, has joined the team and will make Monday’s start. What isn’t known is if Straily will be kept around for the next week until the A’s are absolutely sure Anderson will make a start next Saturday in New York against the Yankees.
“It’s getting better,’’ Anderson said. “But it was feeling worse after the last start. It was kind of a mutual decision. I want to be out there. If you are going good, you want to keep going. If you are going bad, you want go out and correct it.’’
Straily, pitching against the Astros on April 5 in Houston, struck out 11, walked none and allowed two runs in 6.2 innings. He was sent down the next day to make room on the roster for Bartolo Colon.
–Casper Wells may be on the verge of setting a record. For the third time in the month of April he’s been designated for assignment by a team. First it was Seattle, then Toronto and now Oakland.
DFA is a uniquely baseball manner of roster manipulation. To clear room on the 25-man roster (in this cast to get Cespedes active), players can be designated for assignment, giving the team 10 days to trade the player, have him claimed on waivers by another team (which then has to keep him on its 25-man roster) or, if the player clears waivers, send him down to the minor leagues.
Wells was claimed by Toronto, but designated five days later and traded to Oakland. During all this time, Wells got into no games with the Mariners or Blue Jays, but did pinch-hit twice and started one game, going 0-for-5 in all. An outfielder with a strong arm who can play any of the three outfield position, Wells is a player the A’s would like to keep.
And he’d like to stay.
“For sure, I’d like to be here,’’ Wells said. “I don’t know how it will go, but if they didn’t want me, they would have just released me. I’ve seen how this club works and I like it and I like the guys here.’’
Other news: Jed Lowrie woke up with a stiff neck and wound up being scratched from the lineup. “I could play,’’ Lowrie said, “but we decided this was better.’’ Melvin wouldn’t rule out using Lowrie later in the game, if needed. … Josh Reddick got Sunday’s start off because Miguel Gonzalez, the Orioles right-handed starter, is holding left-handed hitters to a .190 average, and right-handers are hitting .341 against him. So even though the left-handed Reddick would generally start against any right-handed pitcher, in this case, with Reddick struggling at .155, he’s getting the day off. … Straily’s arrival could mean that right-handed long reliever Jesse Chavez, could be headed back to Triple-A Sacramento. Chavez was starting for the River Cats before getting called up.