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Can new kids on the block relocate A’s from the cellar?

Will Joey Wendle and the rest of A's newcomers lead an escape from last place?

Will Joey Wendle and the rest of A’s newcomers lead an escape from last place?

It won’t mean much outside the West Coast if the A’s were to do an about-face in the final four weeks of the season and pass the Angels in the standings.

Both teams have had miserable years. The A’s finished dead last in the AL last year, and while a repeat of that is unlikely with the Twins having nine more losses than the A’s to this point, they are last in the AL West with a 59-79 record.

The Angels have trailed the A’s much of a yo-yo season, but a recent surge had moved the Anaheim crew four games up on the A’s in battle to avoid cellar rental. If the Angels would have won Tuesday’s game to stretch that lead to five games, the A’s would have had few answers as to how to take the Angels down.

But coming into Wednesday, the A’s are only three back, and a win Wednesday would not only give the A’s a series win by a realistic chance of finishing out of last place.

And when vacating last place is all there is for a baseball team, it matters quite a bit, regardless of what outsiders might believe.

Do the A’s have enough in the tank to escape the cellar? Not unless they get some unexpected help. But they got some Tuesday night from a pair of rookies, Ryon Healy and Joey Wendle, who drove in all of the Oakland runs in the eighth inning of a 3-2 win that stole a seemingly easy victory from the Angels.

But there are new faces here, and more on the way. Jharel Cotton, the Virgin Islands native who came over in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade with the Dodgers on Aug. 1, gets his first Major League game in a start Wednesday.

Raul Alcantara, who stumbled through his MLB debut Monday, will, manager Bob Melvin believes, be better now that he’s had a game to get his nerves under control.

And then there are some minor league hitters, including first baseman Matt Olson and center fielder Jaycob Brugman could get looks, as could slugger Renato Nunez, who doesn’t have a regular position but who hit 23 homers and drove in 75 runs while bouncing between left field and third base.

Could they make the difference between last place and fourth place for the A’s?

That’s what the next four weeks are all about.

 

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Jharel Cotton’s long trip from Virgin Islands to join A’s starting rotation plus a double dose of Alcantara

Jharel Cotton, who came to the A's in the Josh Reddick-Rich Hill trade with the Dodgers, makes his MLB debut Wednesday.

Jharel Cotton, who came to the A’s in the Josh Reddick-Rich Hill trade with the Dodgers, makes his MLB debut Wednesday.

When Jharel Cotton was 7 and hanging around his house in the Virgin Islands watching TV, he said his stepdad told him he needed to get outside

He did as told, ran into a local baseball game, liked what he saw and said he wanted to play, too. On Wednesday, 17 years later, he makes his Major League debut as the starting pitcher for the A’s in the series finale against the Angels.

The 5-11, 195-pound right-hander moved to the Virginia when he was 16 in order to play a higher level of high school baseball and eventually made it to East Carolina University where the Dodgers made him a 20th-round pick in the 2012 draft.

He was making some progress toward to Dodgers rotation this year when he got word that changed everything.

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Henderson Alvarez, Andrew Triggs both done for the season as Oakland’s starting rotation continues to take injury hits

Henderson Alvarez, who had hoped to pitch the final two-thirds of the season with Oakland, has been shut down for the year because of ongoing shoulder pain.

Henderson Alvarez, who had hoped to pitch the final two-thirds of the season with Oakland, has been shut down for the year because of ongoing shoulder pain.

After six months of hoping that Henderson Alvarez would  be able to join their starting rotation, the a’s have given up for this year with Alvarez’s right shoulder continuing to give him trouble.

Manager Bob Melvin said Alvarez, who pitched three innings on an injury rehabilitation assignment last week, continues to feel discomfort. He will leave the team sometime this week and will visit Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedist who performed the original surgery on Alvarez’s right shoulder in July, 2015.

At the same time, the A’s say that Andrew Triggs, the reliever-turned-starter who came out of his last start after one inning after back trouble, won’t be pitching again this season.

“Henderson is having a tough time again with his shoulder,’’ Melvin said. “He’ won’t probably pitch this year, and he’s going to see Dr. Andrews again. Unfortunately he’s hit another hurdle and I really feel bad for him. This is a guy who has worked so hard to get back with us. He’s been right on the cusp a couple of different times, then has had to go back on the rehab cycle, which is very difficult to do.

“My heart goes out for him. Hopefully we get this thing settled, whether it’s another surgery we’re not sure. But this is an issue that has been with him all year. This is a great kid who loves to pitch. Always has a smile on his face.’’

Alvarez was twice one injury rehab start away from joining the A’s rotation. The first time was in June and then again about a month later he was close again. Melvin said he was guessing, but Alvarez might never have been right after that first time he was shut down.

The A’s have had Alvarez, who signed last winter as a free agent with the A’s willing to take a gamble on a right-hander who was a 2014 National League All-Star, undergo a series of MRIs since June in an effort to locate the problem. None so far has been able to do so, which is why Melvin said another surgery might be necessary.

“Dr. Andrews will make that decision,’’ Melvin said.

As for Triggs, who had hopped the back pain was just a minor setback, he hasn’t even been allowed to begin strengthening exercises. He came out of a Sept. 2 start after one inning and had he remained healthy, his next start would have come up Wednesday.

“I doubt he will pitch again this year,’’ Melvin said. “We don’t have a schedule for him to throw yet.’’

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New music, same results for the A’s Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle was back on the mound for the A's Monday after missing 59 games and he brought new music with him.

Sean Doolittle was back on the mound for the A’s Monday after missing 59 games and he brought new music with him.

For most of his big league career, Sean Doolittle has come out of the A’s bullpen to the sounds of Metallica playing “For Whom The Bell Tolls.’’

No more.

When he return to the A’s by walking from the bullpen to the mound to start the seventh inning Monday, it was still Metallica, but this time the song was “Disposable Heroes.’’

None of which seemed to matter to a crowd of 18,149 who’ve been waiting since June to see Doolittle, the one-time A’s closer, on the mound again.

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Ryan Dull benefits from some time off, as do the A’s

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stepohen Vogt, was sharp Sunday after getting almost a week off.

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stepohen Vogt, was sharp Sunday after getting almost a week off.

Ryan Dull, as much as anyone, has been the backbone of the A’s bullpen this year.

The rookie reliever hasn’t gone on the disabled list, ranks in the top 10 in the American League in games pitched, has a 2.32 ERA, has allowed just 14 percent of inherited runners to score and hitters are averaging just .078 against him with runners in scoring position.

Dull was, however, a non-factor in the A’s bullpen in the last week until Sunday, when he reappeared to throw 1.2 scoreless innings in helping the A’s beat the Red Sox 1-0.

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Daniel Mengden will get Saturday’s start for A’s, who will spend weekend playing on turf cut up by two NFL games

Daniel Mengden will get called up by the A's to start Saturday vs. the Red Sox.

Daniel Mengden will get called up by the A’s to start Saturday vs. the Red Sox.

Daniel Mengden made the trip from Nashville to Oakland will make Saturday’s start against the Red sox.

Manager Bob Melvin said Mengden, who will be activated before the game, has pitched better that his 1-5 record and 5.73 ERA with Oakland would suggest.

The club likes his assortment of pitches and when they sent him down the last time, it was because they saw signs of midseason weariness in him. He was 8-2 with a 1.67 in his time with Triple-A Nashville.

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A’s focus turns to 2017 as calendar turns to September

First baseman Matt Olson could be one of many to get a look with the A's this month.

First baseman Matt Olson could be one of many to get a look with the A’s this month.

Welcome to 2017.

While most of baseball is concentrating on finishing up business regarding the 2016, the A’s will be one of a minority of Major League teams whose prime focus will be the future.

“It’s fair to say a lot of September will be about evaluating players for next year and beyond,’’ A’s general manager David Forst said Thursday. “Some of the players we’re talking about are already here.’’

More will be coming with the expansion of rosters MLB goes through every September, going from 25 roster spots to as many as 40.

The elevation of Ryon Healy to the starting third base job after the All-Star break was the beginning. The promotions in the last month of outfielder Brett Eibner and infielders Chad Pinder and Joey Wendle added fuel to the blaze.

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Joey Wendel, Chad Pinder A’s new platoon at second base

Joey Wendle will be half of A's second base platoon.

Joey Wendle will be half of A’s second base platoon.

Joey Wendel, who was almost certainly going to be called up after the rosters expanded from 25 to 40 on Thursday, got a jump on the competition when he was promoted Wednesday from Triple-A Nashville to Oakland and immediately went into the A’s starting lineup.

The arrival of Wendel, picked up from the A’s in the Brandon Moss trade of two winters ago, does a minor remake of the A’s infield. Max Muncy, who had been getting most of the work at second base, will step into the outfield as a backup with Wendle and Chad Pinder, called up last week, moving into a platoon at second base.

“I didn’t think it would be this soon,’’ Wendle admitted. He was called into Nashville manager Steve Scarsone’s office Tuesday night and told him he’d been promoted.

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A’s and Indians make it official, Oakland getting minor league lefty Colt Hynes as Cleveland adds Coco Crisp

It's official. A's have traded Coco Crisp to the Indians for minor league LHP Colt Hynes.

It’s official. A’s have traded Coco Crisp to the Indians for minor league LHP Colt Hynes.

The A’s and the Cleveland Indians have made official Wednesday morning what was reported here Tuesday night, that Oakland has traded veteran outfielder Coco Crisp back to the Indians.

Cleveland is the team with which Crisp got to the Major Leagues in 2002 and for which he played the first four seasons of his career. He’s been one of the faces of the A’s since 2010, but that ended when Crisp waived his 10-and-5 rights to not be traded (10 years in the MLB, the last five with the same team) in order to accept the deal.

The A’s, who will also ship cash to the Indians, will get left-handed pitcher Colt Hynes from Cleveland. Hynes, 31, started the year with in the Toronto Blue Jays organization before being traded to the Indians. He has a 3-1 record, two saves and a 3.99 ERA while bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A in both organizations

The money the A’s are sending will be to help defray the Indians’ costs with Crisp owed a little less than $2 million for the rest of the year and a $750,000 buyout of his 2017 contract.

Even with the money being included in the deal, the A’s are now in no danger of having a massive $13 million Crisp contract on their books for next year. He’d played in 102 games at the time of the deal, and the $13 million in 2017 would vest if he would have reached 130 games played.

The big payout now is a remote possibility – the Indians have 31 games left on the schedule, but Crisp isn’t expected to play every day for Cleveland but rather to be part of the solution as the Tribe attempts to fill in for Michael Brantley, who is on the disabled list.

Crisp was unhappy that his playing time had been cut by the A’s to the point where it became unlikely that he would be able to get to the 130-game mark, and came out mid-August to say “I know some strings are being pulled’’ to keep him only a semi-regular, adding “it all seems a little suspect.’’

He’d been limited to just 44 games last year by head and neck injuries, and even this year needed to alter his daily game preparation to be able to be ready, including the use of pain-killers.

“I haven’t felt this good in a couple of years,’’ Crisp said at the time.

And it showed. The A’s have used the disabled list a club record 27 times in 2016, but Crisp didn’t appear on it.

With Crisp traded, Oakland has contracts with just five players for 2017. DH Billy Butler, second baseman Jed Lowrie and relievers Ryan Madson, John Axford and Sean Doolittle are locked in for next season for a total of $32.1 million.

Crisp’s now former A’s teammates were uniformly unhappy to see him go but delighted at the same time that the 36-year-old switch-hitter was getting a chance to play in a pennant race, the Indians attempting to hold off the Tigers and the Royals in the American League Central.

“It’s tough so see him go,’’ left fielder Khris Davis said. “But I’m glad for him to have a chance to go back home where it started and be in the race. It’s what we all want to do at some point, to get a chance to play for a winner.’’

The A’s are bringing up second baseman Joey Wendle to fill Crisp’s spot on the roster, with Wendle and fellow rookie Chad Pinder likely to share time at second base. The time in the outfield will be spread out among Danny Valencia, Jake Smolinski and Brett Eibner, with Eibner likely to get the bulk of the freed-up playing time.

As far as the top of the Oakland lineup goes, the A’s, who already traded Billy Burns, don’t have a true leadoff hitter now. Shortstop Marcus Semien and center fielder Jake Smolinski are the only players on the current roster to have led off for Oakland this year, Semien having done it seven times and Smolinski three times.

 

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Teammates happy for Coco Crisp, but sad to see him go

His A's teammates are sorry to see Coco Crisp leave, but happy he'll be in a pennant race with Indians.

His A’s teammates are sorry to see Coco Crisp leave, but happy he’ll be in a pennant race with Indians.

The official announcement of the trade of Coco Crisp to the Indians will come down Wednesday morning.

For the A’s, it came Tuesday night as his now former teammates said their goodbyes before Crisp packed up and left, there being no need for him to watch an Oakland 3-1 loss to Houston. It was the A’s 75th loss against 57 wins, a record that screams out for roster shakeups.

The A’s are packaging a bunch of cash to go with Crisp to the Indians, and Cleveland will send a mid-level prospect or two to the A’s in return. Whoever it is the A’s get, he won’t join Oakland as Crisp’s replacement. That will be Triple-A second baseman Joey Wendel, who should be in Houston in time for Wednesday’s series finale.

“Coco was great; he did a lot here in Oakland on the field and with fans and he was a great teammate,’’ Kendall Graveman said in the wake of pitching seven innings and taking his ninth loss of the season. “We played one last game of cards and I won; I told him `you can’t leave me a loser’. I think maybe he let me win.

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