A’s bullpen candidate R.J. Alvarez won’t be borrowing Pat Venditte’s ambidextrous glove any time soon.
It’s well-reported by now that they have the only ambidextrous pitcher in a big league camp in Pat Venditte.
Less well known is that they almost have two. R.J. Alvarez is a candidate to come out of the bullpen who throws touches 99 mph on the radar gun and who routinely pitches at 95 mph. He does it all from the right side.
He’s a natural left-hander, however. His father, Roy, a collegian at North Florida with an abiding passion for the game, thought R.J. was going to be an infielder, so he taught him to throw right-handed. When Alvarez turned to pitching instead midway through high school, he continued to throw right-handed.
The lefty leanings have not left him entirely, however.
“Even now when I pick up a baseball, I’ll pick it up with my left hand,’’ Alvarez said. “A lot of the time I’ll be shagging in the outfield, and I’ll do it as a left-hander.’’
No one came calling when the A’s put reliever Fernando Rodriguez on the designated for assignment list on Dec. 18.
The A’s put him up for grabs one year into his recovery from Tommy John surgery. They had the choice to trade him, release him or sign him to a minor league deal if no one put in a claim on him.
No club did.
While it’s true that the A’s as a whole did not have a long or prosperous post-season, there are exceptions, including Arnold Leon.
The 26-year-old right-hander pitched at home in winter league baseball, in part in an effort to make sure the A’s were paying attention after a 10-7 season at Triple-A.
The A’s eyes were opened. Leon, pitching for Culiacan, went 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 10 starts, holding batters to a .179 average while helping the Tomateros to the Caribbean series. Leon pitched the first half of the playoffs going 3-1 in five starts with a 2.61 ERA before heading to Arizona to be ready for the start of spring training.
“It was a busy winter,’’ Leon said through a big smile. “There was a lot going on. I was coming off my first full season at Triple-A, then I was able to go play at home and pitch in the post-season.’’
While he did well, there is a question if Leon actually pitched too much. He threw 145 innings at Sacramento, then 57 in the Mexican winter league and finally 31 innings in the Caribbean series. That’s a total of 233 innings, which is a whopping amount for someone who has never pitched in the big leagues. (Leon did get called up briefly last May by the A’s but did not pitch).
Leon says his arm “feels fresh, ready to go.’’
It’s not clear that the A’s agree. There is some organizational concern over the number of innings he pitched, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the club is careful with him this spring. He’s not a candidate for the rotation at this point, so any game experience he gets in the Cactus League will come from bullpen work.
The A’s will not get a look at left-handed starting pitching candidate Sean Nolin for a while.
Oakland had hoped a flat ground throwing session Saturday would indicate Nolin was ready to throw off a mound following off-season sports hernia surgery.
Manager Bob Melvin said that the throwing did not go well.
A’s lefty Fernando Abad, Green Card in hand, has big plans for A’s this season.
2015 figures to be a monumental year in the life of A’s reliever Fernando Abad.
Less than a month ago, the Dominican left-hander got his Green Card from the U.S. Government. In June, he’s due to get braces off his teeth, braces he’s worn for most of the last seven years.
And he’s a key member of an Oakland bullpen that helped the A’s make it to the playoffs last year, one that has hopes of doing the same in 2015.
“It’s been a big year already,’’ Abad said of getting his Green Card. It meant he had to spend almost all of the off-season in the U.S. rather than going to his native Dominican Republic, but he’s more than cool with that.
His goal for the next off-season is to get his kids, 23-month-old Fernando Jr. and 3-year-old Camilla Fernanda and their mom, Bettania, all green cards.
Jesse Chavez starts this year as he did last year, feeling he has something to prove to the A’s.
Here’s what A’s manager Bob Melvin said about Jesse Chavez’s first session throwing off a mound in camp Friday:
“He looks in mid-season form every time I ever see him,’’ Melvin said, “whether he’s throwing bullpen, or in a game early. Impressive. He’s a very focused kid who comes here with the mindset he has something to prove. That’s always what you like to see.’’
Twelve months ago he said virtually the same thing and Chavez went out and won a job in the starting rotation after beginning the spring with 12.2 scoreless innings in the Cactus League.
Chavez will have something to prove again. Last year he got an unexpected chance to start when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin went down with season-ending Tommy John surgeries. Chavez lost his job in the rotation after 21 starts in which he posted a 3.44 ERA as the A’s traded for veteran starter Jon Lester at the trade deadline.
Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin said he sent get well wishes to Giants manager Bruce Bochy Thursday night after hearing that Bochy had been admitted to a Scottsdale hospital after his physical exam revealed the need for an operation that inserted two stents into his heart.
“That’s scary, and he’s talking like it’s no big deal,’’ Melvin said. “He’s the best manager in the big leagues.
“I don’t know if that gets caught in the physicals they gave 10 years ago or when I was playing.’’
Melvin said Thursday that the only quirk he’d had during a physical was when as a player he was detected as having a heart murmur. It turned out to be something of an overly vigorous heart.
“It turned out my heart was too strong,’’ he said, shaking his head.
Tyler Clippard remains likeliest candidate to start season as A’s closer
Tyler Clippard thought he’d dodged a bullet when he started talking contract with the Washington Nationals last month, so it came as a bit of a shock for him to learn he’d been traded to the A’s on Jan. 14
`I kind of thought I was out of the woods,’’ Clippard said after reporting to the A’s with the rest of the pitchers and catchers at the extensively remodeled Hohokam Stadium Thursday morning. “Our arbitration date was three days away and we were talking about contracts.’’
The surprise came in the form or Yunel Escobar. Oakland had picked up the shortstop along with Ben Zobrist four days earlier from Tampa Bay in a deal that sent John Jaso to the Rays.
The countdown to the start of pitchers and catchers reporting to the A’s new spring training camp can be measured in hours now instead of days.
So we thought you might like to see what the new Hohokam Stadium looks like from the inside – from places you’d never likely see without signing a contract.
Along the way, there’s some audio narration, more proof that I should stick to the keyboard rather than the microphone. Bear with me on that.
Next up: The weight room