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Reborn offense puts a serious hurt on Giants for a second straight night while Madsen saves an aching pen

With Josh Reddick off the disabled list and back in his familiar third spot in the batting order Tuesday night, the A’s fielded their optimum offensive lineup for the first time in more than a month.

Even though Reddick didn’t have much to do with it, Oakland once again looked like a team that has rediscovered some serious potential at the bat rack. Even though the A’s saw their bullpen spring a leak for the second time in three days, the A’s rallied from a pair of three-run deficits for a wild 13-11 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park.

Jake Smolinski’s three-run pinch-hit home run off veteran Giants reliever Javier Lopez in the eighth inning was the most dramatic blow that ultimately gave Oakland its fifth victory in six games, and a two-game mini-sweep at a park where they’d lost 13 of 16 coming into this year’s Bay Bridge clash. Now it’s over to the Coliseum for two more to see if they can inflict even more damage to the reeling Giants.
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Daniel Mengden dazzles Giants, may be here for long term

Daniel Mengden has done nothing but impress since he brought his wacky windup, high socks and handlebar mustache to Oakland, and the A’s finally rewarded him for all of his fine work on Monday night.

After scoring just four runs for him combined in his first three major-league starts – all losses Mengden didn’t really deserve — the A’s hammered the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija for five runs in the second inning, continued to add on in later frames and rolled to an 8-3 victory at AT&T Park.

Marcus Semien’s towering three-run homer to center field was the big blow in Oakland’s early outburst as the A’s continued to gather steam following an impressive four-game series in Anaheim, where they won three of four from the Los Angeles Angels and were a bullpen blowup from completing a sweep.
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Gray cures the One-Run Loss Flu in delayed first start

Sonny Gray finally beat the bug that knocked him out of his Opening Day start and made up for lost time against the Chicago White Sox Wednesday night.

Not coincidentally, the A’s also recovered from the One-Run Loss Flu. With Gray allowing just three hits over seven innings and striking out five, Oakland made a meager offensive output stand up in a 2-1 victory over the Sox after two disheartening defeats by a run to open the season.

The A’s ran into a tough pitching customer themselves at the Coliseum in Chicago’s latest left-handed starter, Carlos Rodon (0-1), but Rodon was outpaced by Gray, who other than some slight command rustiness (four walks), only really allowed one hard-hit ball that ultimately became the visitors’ only run.
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Chapman reveling in Bay Bridge reward, Graveman looks ready, the surgery lowdown on Jarrod Parker

SAN FRANCISCO – Eleven years is a long time. It’s an even longer time for a baseball team not to develop one of its own draft picks as a fixture position player.

But that’s how long it’s been for the A’s, whose last drafted-and-developed everyday player who played any extended length of time with them was shortstop Cliff Pennington, their top pick way back in 2005.

Most of their top position prospects since either didn’t make the grade, didn’t last long like Jemile Weeks, or were traded to other teams before making it to the majors like Addison Russell.

Enter 22-year-old third baseman Matt Chapman, who looks like the best bet to end that dubious drought. Chapman, who hit 23 home runs in just 80 games for Class A Stockton last year despite fighting a bad wrist, could conceivably be in Oakland by September if his impressive spring carries over into his anticipated next assignment at Double-A Midland.
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Melvin promises lineup mix-and-match, a strong outing for Bassitt and Alonso shows his deft touch at first

SAN FRANCISCO – A’s manager Bob Melvin called a team meeting Thursday night at AT&T Park to remind his position players one last time that the team is likely to have a lineup that changes fairly dramatically from day to day.

Translation: Nobody’s head should be so big that they should consider themselves a lock everyday starter.

Right fielder Josh Reddick may not have to worry much about that, but for just about everybody else, a look at the lineup card will be essential viewing upon arrival in the Oakland clubhouse in 2016. That may even include assumed regulars like designated hitter Billy Butler, shortstop Marcus Semien and third baseman Danny Valencia.

“Starters for us are relative,” Melvin said. “We’ll have two different lineups with what we feel are all potential starters. There will be five different guys in the lineup (Friday night) who we feel are all starters, too. It’s going to be about the collective 25 and these guys need to know that. We need to put egos aside for the team and know if we’re going to succeed, it’s going to take all 25 guys.”
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Gray has a rough day, while Valencia continues to enjoy hot spring

It just wasn’t Sonny Gray’s day Saturday, both on and off the field.

The A’s ace starter was up in the wee hours of the morning to tend to his 1-year-old son Gunnar, and the youngster was still so cranky after his latest spring outing, he had to bolt Hohokam Park without speaking to the media.

Earlier, on the mound, things didn’t go so well, either. Gray pitched 5-plus innings and gave up six runs – five of them earned – on eight hits and a walk. He also committed an uncharacteristic error and threw two wild pitches in the A’s 7-6 split-squad victory over Cincinnati. He didn’t strike out a batter.

Gray did say via text message that – little wonder — he just got a little tired during his third spring outing and that there wasn’t anything to worry about. Manager Bob Melvin wasn’t worried, either.

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Bullpen newcomer Ryan Madson could be a guiding light to Jarrod Parker’s baseball future

As A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker grapples with whether to continue his baseball career after a fourth major arm injury, he really owes it to himself to stop by new teammate Ryan Madson’s locker for a chat before he makes a decision.

Parker doesn’t necessarily have to ask Madson for advice. He simply needs to hear his story, both for his psychological and physical well-being, and perhaps to develop a proper framework to make that decision.

Madson only endured one significant arm injury, not four. But he did spent two fruitless seasons trying to come back from an elbow injury first suffered during spring training in 2012, and frustrated by his efforts to complete a comeback with two different clubs for which he never threw a single pitch, he retired altogether in 2014, bitter and full of self pity.

“I wasn’t on a content path when I was finished in 2012 and 2013 and basically in 2014 when I actually quit,” Madson said. “I was happy at home, but I wasn’t content with the way my career ended and I think that would have haunted me for a long time, not being to overcome my injury.”
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Vogt comes back to life with a pair of awards and a return to the field

Stephen Vogt missed 12 games with one of the worst foul tip shots to the groin you are ever likely to see on a baseball field. I hadn’t actually seen the video until Tuesday night, and it was hard to watch. You’d like to say you feel Vogt’s pain, but … uh, no thanks.

“I don’t wish that on my worst enemy,” Vogt said. “It was the worst 10 days of my life, and I don’t ever want to go through it again.”

But he’s finally getting back to normal. After a couple of games at designated hitter, Vogt was at first base against the Rangers and he could be getting back behind the plate sometime this weekend, perhaps for Barry Zito’s momentous Saturday start against old pal Tim Hudson.

W”e’re pretty much healed, we’re glad to be back in there,” he said. I want to play every day. I’m glad that it wasn’t anything more than it was. I’m glad it was a two-week thing and not a life thing. I’m very blessed and lucky that it wasn’t anything worse.”

Vogt also has been prepping for getting behind the plate both mentally and physically. He caught what he said was an hour’s worth of bullpen sessions Tuesday, because the biggest challenge is overcoming the psychological aspects of the hit he took. You get a little gun-shy after what he went through, and he wants to break through those mental barrier.
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Ryan Cook trade was quietly made, but he was just one of the big reasons A’s have failed this year

In for John Hickey …

People forget just how good Ryan Cook was in 2012. Really good, and really nasty. He was 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 14 saves, only allowed 42 hits in 73 1/3 innings and struck out 80 with a 0.914 WHIP. He made the All-Star Game, where he pitched a 1-2-3 inning and struck out Bryce Harper and David Wright looking. He was a mainstay in the A’s power bullpen along with Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour and one of the big reasons the A’s wound up winning the American League West.

“He was paramount to the success we’ve had here the last three years,” said manager Bob Melvin. “We don’t accomplish what we did, certainly in ’12.”

But Friday, just before the trade deadline, Cook was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later, who is not likely going to be anyone you’ve ever heard of. It was done swiftly, quietly, and without much emotional reflection.

But really now, what the heck happened to Cookie?

He still had the stuff, as he showed in spring training. He just didn’t know where it was going. He pitched in just four games for the A’s this season, and gave up runs in three of them. He was dispatched to Triple-A Nashville, where he was on-again, off-again, and never returned to Oakland. He was 4-1 with eight saves but had a 4.05 ERA and his hits-to-innings pitched ratio was almost dead even. His strikeouts were down, and his WHIP was a less than imposing 1.380.

It’s easy to dismiss Cook as a non-factor in 2015, but he should have been. He’s only 28, should be in the prime of his career, and had he even been close to his form in 2012 and 2013, he really would have helped this ’15 club. With Doolittle out, he conceivably could have stepped in as the closer as hard as he threw. It never came close to materializing, which makes you wonder why the A’s could never get him straightened out.

“Sometimes when you sent down, you can get a little bogged down with your confidence and your motivation,” Melvin said. “Sometimes a change of scenery in a new organization can really invigorate you. I think that will be the case with him. I know he’s excited about the opportunity.”

But what happened?

“Baseball’s about making adjustments and being consistent, and this year, he was not as consistent as we’d seen in the past,” Melvin said. “Maybe a little at the end of last year, too, the command issues ended up biting him a little bit. I think more than anything, it was the command issues, because the stuff was pretty close to the same.”


Coco Crisp played nine innings at Class A Stockton Thursday night, was scheduled to play another nine Friday night and may play another game over the weekend, then he’ll return to Oakland on Sunday and possibly play on Monday.

Melvin said the A’s don’t yet have a plan for left-hander Felix Doubront, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations just before the trade deadline, but he’s inclined to think Doubront will get some starting opportunities, if for no other reason that the A’s have no left-handed starters at the moment. A 25-man move will be made once Doubront arrives in Oakland.

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As strange as season has been, Billy Burns offers great hope for long-range future

I Believe In Billy Burns. And so does Stephen Vogt.

“He’s been a consistent, solid baseball player all season,” Vogt said Saturday night. “He’s the Rookie of the Year, in my opinion.”

Burns should be the Rookie of the Year in a lot of people’s opinions by now. If he’s not, they’re not paying close enough attention, and that’s entirely possible considering Oakland’s standing in the American League. But the campaign needs to start now, because there is not a better candidate out there, and he may need some public relations to drive home the obvious.

Burns scored the game-winning run in the A’s 3-2 10-inning victory on Vogt’s first-pitch single, and if Rickey Henderson was watching at home, you know he was saying, “Yeah, kid.”

Vogt got the Gatorade shower and the shaving cream pie, but Burns was the true hero of the winning rally. He not only opened the bottom of the 10th with a double in the right-center gap, he boldly bolted for third with nobody out and stole the base. Maybe not the proper play with the meat of the A’s order coming up, but no question, once he made it, the odds increased significantly that Oakland would get him home.

“I tried to time it up to get a good jump and I feel like I did get a good jump, so I just carried through with it,” Burns said. “Sometimes I’ll shut it down but I felt with the timing I had I thought I had a good shot at it, so I just took a chance.”
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