Burns’ leg issues have cut into his explosiveness on bases; Lawrie, Semien get a day off; decision on Coke by July 10

Billy Burns has been missed by the A's offense while getting the last two games off to deal with leg issues.

Billy Burns has been missed by the A’s offense while getting the last two games off to deal with leg issues.

The A’s will be keeping a close eye on center fielder and leadoff man Billy Burns Sunday and for the next few days after he was given two days off to deal with some pain behind his right knee and a left hip flexor problem.

Burns didn’t ask for the time off, but manager Bob Melvin and the medical crew felt it was in the best interest of the club and the player to see if they could get him right. The A’s actually held off for a bit because Burns was (and is) in the middle of a 15-game hitting streak, the best for an Oakland hitter this year.

“I think I’ll come back more refreshed,’’ Burns said Sunday morning. “There was some tightness that meant I didn’t feel like I had my usual explosiveness when I was running.’’

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Vogt frustrated at letting Royals’ Davis off the hook

Stephen Vogt says he left Royals' reliever Wade Davis off the hook in eighth inning Saturday.

Stephen Vogt says he left Royals’ reliever Wade Davis off the hook in eighth inning Saturday.

The most frustrated man leaving the Coliseum Friday night was Stephen Vogt. He’d been hit by a pitch, and while his right wrist wasn’t fractured or broken, it was painful.

The most frustrated man leaving the Coliseum Saturday was Stephen Vogt. He’d gotten into the starting lineup but left men in scoring position in the third and fifth inning, and his at-bat in the eighth inning was the game’s pivot, and he struck out.

Wade Davis, who came into the game with a supernatural 0.29 ERA for the first dozen weeks of the season, had been asked by Royals’ manager Ned Yost to hold a 3-2 lead. Davis had only walked 10 men all season, but he walked both Sam Fuld and Brett Lawrie.

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Cook, Otero still are needed in the A’s bullpen, Melvin says

Ryan Cook,, along with Dan Otero, still will have a spot with the A's at some point later this season, manager Bob Melvin says.

Ryan Cook,, along with Dan Otero, still will have a spot with the A’s at some point later this season, manager Bob Melvin says.

Ryan Cook and Dan Otero, two men who have been key parts of the bullpen the last two seasons, are still working out their problems at Triple-A Nashville, but both are expected to be back with the A’s at some point.

“These are two guys we felt would be pitching late in games for us,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “And they have in the past. It just shows you how bullpens can be in flux from year to year.

“But we do need them, both of them, and I expect both of them to be back. We have to go on what we’re hearing from our development people down there. Both are making progress but at this point, we’ve had to make some adjustments.’’

The A’s are using right-handers Evan Scribner, Edward Mujica and Fernando Rodriguez late in games, situations in the past that would have called for Cook or Otero.

Before either is recalled, progress has to be shown, the manager said.

Both men pitched Friday for Nashville, Otero throwing the sixth and seventh innings without allowing a base runner while striking out four in the Sounds’ 3-2 win over Oklahoma City. Cook, charged with protecting a 2-1 lead in the ninth, blew the save but got the win when Nashville scored twice in the bottom of the ninth.

Otero has a 1.54 ERA and Cook is at 3.52. Otero may be closer to a return thanks to decent control, two walks in 11.2 innings since being sent down on June 5. Cook has walked 10 in 23 innings total in two different stays with Nashville. Otero had a 6.39 ERA when he was sent down while Cook’s struggles have included a 10.38 ERA.


–The A’s caught a break by not catching a break Friday. Stephen Vogt was hit on the hand by a 93-mph fastball, but his right wrist was intact and he was in Saturday’s lineup against the Royals.

Vogt was the DH, which only made sense, given that his right hand was still stinging, but Melvin said that having him as the designated hitter was not an absolute necessity. He could have caught or played first base.

“He’s a tough guy,’’ Melvin said, “Today being a day game, it’s well-served for him to DH.’’

Melvin was breathing a sigh of relief that there was no break.

“At the time it looked like it could be a lot worse,’’ Melvin said. “As long as it’s not broken, there’s a good chance he’s going to be in the lineup.’’


–Not in the lineup for the second day in succession was center fielder Billy Burns, who had played 34 games in succession before getting Friday and Saturday off.

“Billy still a little tight,’’ Melvin said of Burns’ legs. “If he was a first baseman or something, we could probably play him, but his legs are a big part of his game. We’ll give him one more day and I’m confident he’ll be able to play tomorrow.’’

The injury is being described as a hip flexor.


–Pat Venditte was all smiles after being on the field playing catch for the first time since going on the disabled list two weeks or go.

The switch-pitcher only threw right-handed, his right shoulder being the reason he landed on the disabled list. He will throw both lefty and righty his next time out, although it will be a while before he actually gets on a mound.

“It felt great to be able to just play catch,’’ Venditte said. “The shoulder felt much better than two weeks ago.’’

Venditte said that when he’s tried to throw from both side when injured in the past, even throwing from the uninjured side causes problems with the muscles of the shoulders and neck pulling at the injured area.

“We’ll work slowly and not put on extra pressure.’’


–The A’s Turn Back the Clock game Saturday included a visit from longtime Charlie Finley-era broadcaster Monte Moore, first pitches thrown by John “Blue Moon’’ Odom and Bert Campaneris and Charlie O., who was looking pretty sprightly for a 50-year-old mule.  Must’ve had some work done.


A’s attitude suggests this forward surge could last a while

Jesse Hahn had high hopes for an A's comeback against the Royals Friday night.

Jesse Hahn had high hopes for an A’s comeback against the Royals Friday night.

When Stephen Vogt was hit by a pitch on his right hand in the ninth inning Friday night, it looked like a possible fracture and A’s pitcher Jesse Hahn winced.

Hahn and Vogt have worked well together for the most part, and Vogt “is someone we absolutely need to have healthy,’’ the pitcher said.

Hahn pitched six innings and was in the clubhouse when Vogt was hit. But when Vogt’s pinch-runner, backup catcher Josh Phegley, scored from first base on a booming double from Ben Zobrist, Hahn raced back to the dugout.

“I thought that might turn it around for us,’’ Hahn said. “I wanted to be in the dugout cheering the guys on when we came back.’’

That attitude says something about the A’s, a team that had won five consecutive games to climb out of the American League West cellar by percentage points entering play Friday.

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Sogard getting first-ever shot as a leadoff hitter

Eric Sogard get his first big league start as a leadoff hitter Friday vs. Royals.

Eric Sogard get his first big league start as a leadoff hitter Friday vs. Royals.

Eric Sogard moved into the A’s leadoff spot Friday, becoming the sixth different leadoff hitter employed by Oakland this season.

In taking over for Billy Burns for the night with Burns “a little banged up right now’’ in the words of manager Bob Melvin, Sogard is venturing into uncharted territory. He has played in 381 big league games since coming to the big league with the A’s in 2012, and in exactly none of them has he been the leadoff hitter.

“I’ve batted leadoff before,’’ Sogard said. `I just can’t remember when.’’

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Lawrie shrugs off bad call at third base to get A’s going

Brett Lawrie thought he was safe on this attempted steal of third base. After replay review, the out call against him stood.

Brett Lawrie thought he was safe on this attempted steal of third base. After replay review, the out call against him stood.

No one has yet convinced Brett Lawrie that he was out on his attempted steal of third base in the second inning Sunday.

No one has yet completely convinced A’s manager Bob Melvin that he should have had to forfeit his replay challenge when the replay did not go the A’s way, either.

Lawrie tried to take advantage of Angels’ third baseman David Freese setting up close to the shortstop spot as the Angels shifted weigh Ike Davis at the plate.

He seemed to beat the throw from pitcher Garrett Richards, getting a “safe’’ call from ump Greg Gibson before Gibson called him out for over-sliding the bag.

“I was safe,’’ Lawrie said. “I haven’t watched the video, but I’m 100 percent sure of that.’’

The A’s challenged the call on the over-slide. After a horrifically long delay of five minutes, 14 seconds, the out was confirmed – not on the over-slide, but on the original safe call.

The ruling was that Lawrie had been tagged by Freese on the right shoulder, a ruling that wasn’t immediately obvious on watching the replay.

Because he hadn’t challenged that part of the play, Melvin argued that he shouldn’t be penalized the loss of his right to challenge.

“There is probably still some debate on whether he got him or not,’’ Melvin said of the Freese tag of Lawrie. “The debate went on for a few innings. I wanted to see if I could get my challenge back. The (umpiring) crew is terrific. They did everything they could; they called back to New York. There has never been that precedent before. I credit them.

“I think what they are saying is that no matter what the challenge is, it’s the whole play (that gets reviewed). I did not get the challenge back. If I did, I would have brought it here with me (to the interview room.’’

Melvin had no problem with Lawrie’s decision on his own to try at steal third.

“It’s a pretty heady play,’’ the manager said. “No one is paying attention to him and the third baseman is quite a ways away. It took an absolutely perfect throw to get him. And then there is probably still some debate on whether he got him or not.’’

It was a big day for Lawrie, who made a tumbling catch on the bullpen mound in the fourth inning, and who singled to drive in the first of two Oakland add-on runs in the sixth inning. After a slow start to the season, his overall average is up to .291 after averaging .365 so far in June, 23-for-63.

“He was huge for us today,’’ catcher Stephen Vogt said of Lawrie. “With that unbelievable catch there, he’s the player of the game for us today. This whole year, Brett Lawrie’s been the same guy. Nothing has changed. Whether it’s four punch outs or hitting like he has been lately, he shows that intensity, always plays hard.’’

Lawrie wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I make a conscious effort for it to be that way,’’ Lawrie said. “There’s just so much baseball, so much time. Yesterday is one day, but today’s another day. I can’t let it bother me.

“I’ve been playing this game for a little while now. Stuff will bother you, but to let it linger, that’s something I’ve been working hard on. Every day is a new day and it’s just good to come each day into a clubhouse of fresh energy.’’


Vogt makes his pitch for All-Star inclusion with his bat

Stephen Vogt is making a strong case for inclusion on the AL All-Star team.

Stephen Vogt is making a strong case for inclusion on the AL All-Star team.

Stephen Vogt, All-Star. Has a nice ring to it.

Vogt is making a very strong case for himself to get a berth in next month’s showcase game in Cincinnati, including three more hits Saturday and an RBI, his 51st, moving him at least temporarily into a tie with the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera for the American League RBI lead.

Vogt said he doesn’t allow his focus to drift in that direction, but he’s heard the talk.

“It’s awesome to be in that conversation,’’ he said. “I don’t think about it much, but obviously it’s an honor as a major league baseball player. It’s pretty special.’’

Manager Bob Melvin said that Vogt, hitting .293 with 13 homers, along with starting pitcher Sonny Gray and right fielder Josh Reddick, need to be in the conversation. As for Vogt specifically, Melvin can’t sing his catcher’s praises enough, even when Vogt is the DH, as was the case Saturday.

“He’s been as consistent a performer, not only for us, but for anybody in the American League,’’ the manager said. “You try to find ways to get him in there. Today was at DH. He’s hitting lefties; he’s getting big hits for you. You look at his body of work and he’s played as well as anybody in the league.’’

The 51 RBI is not only a single-season high, it matches his previous career total spread over parts of the previous three season with Tampa Bay and, since 2013, with Oakland.

Vogt said it’s just a matter of being the right bat in the right spot.

“I’ve just been feeling good at the plate,’’ he said. “I’ve been hitting behind a lot of guys who are getting on base this year. A lot of guys in this lineup are having great years. I’ve been fortunate to hit behind them.’’

Melvin hasn’t pitched his case yet with AL All-Star manager Ned Yost yet, but it’s likely the subject may come up next weekend with the Royals in town.

“If I feel like I need some input, I’ve done that before,’’ Melvin said about approaching the All-Star skipper, who does get some picks after the fans and the players have their choices. “I think a lot of our guys, the numbers speak for themselves.’’

That would be particularly true of Gray, who continues to lead the AL in ERA at 1.95 despite having his poorest start of the season Friday, giving up six runs (five earned) in six-plus innings. Melvin sees Gray on the short list of candidates to start for the AL.

“There is no question about Sonny,’’ he said. “There are other guys in the conversation, but he certainly has to be there.’’



Melvin pushes Gray as strong candidate for All-Star start, sees Vogt and Reddick as worthy of inclusion on AL roster

Sonny Gray should be a strong candidate to start All-Star Game, manager Bob Melvin says.

Sonny Gray should be a strong candidate to start All-Star Game, manager Bob Melvin says.

When Major League Commissioner Rob Manfred stopped by the Coliseum Friday, he said that even with fans in Kansas City making a strong effort to stack the vote for the All-Star Game, he was satisfied for the most part with the selection process for the mid-summer showcase.

A’s manager Bob Melvin agrees with that, but as the manager of a last-place team with at least three men he sees as potential All-Stars – catcher Stephen Vogt, starter Sonny Gray and right fielder Josh Reddick – he also realizes the system isn’t the A’s friend.

Teams with the worst record in the league traditionally have trouble getting multiple representatives. Even teams better than dead last have problems, In the eight seasons between 2005 and 2012, the A’s had more than one player on the team just once.

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Error-per-game defense has become almost unwatchable

Brett Lawrie's fourth-inning error led to second of Angels' runs Friday.

Brett Lawrie’s fourth-inning error led to second of Angels’ runs Friday.

To watch the A’s play defense this year is a study in the macabre.

With Friday’s four errors in a 12-7 loss to the Angels, Oakland has made 69 errors in 70 games and is on a pace for 160 errors this season.

It wouldn’t be a club record – from 1977-79, three of the worst clubs in Oakland history averaged 182 errors – and the 1982 team, the last of the Billy Martin “BillyBall’’ teams, committed 160 on the nose.

Still it’s been three decades since the A’s made that many, and this team, the numbers notwithstanding, should be better defensively than it is.

Brett Lawrie’s inability to grab a hard grounder hit to third base by Albert Pujols in the fourth inning led to a run.

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Familiarity with Sonny Gray breeds Angels’ respect

Sonny Gray has been as tough on the Angels as anyone in baseball.

Sonny Gray has been as tough on the Angels as anyone in baseball.

Friday night was the A’s 70th game of the year and the 15th start of the season for Sonny Gray.

It was the fourth of those 15 in which Gray had been matched against the Angels, and while that may just be a schedule fluke for most, it’s a major impediment to the Angels, who are 0-3 against Gray, scoring just four runs (three earned) in 22.2 innings.

Angels’ slugger Mike Trout is an MVP candidate year-in and year-out, but against Gray he’s been amazingly ordinary, just four hits in 22 at-bats (.182) coming into Friday. Seeing lots of Gray he hopes will at some point show some benefit.

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