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Fuld’s acrobatic catch has A’s marveling at his defensive skills

Sam Fuld's eyes never lost the ball on this catch in right-center against the Astros Monday night.

Sam Fuld’s eyes never lost the ball on this catch in right-center against the Astros Monday night.

The A’s defense has had its share of issues the first eight games of the season, but there have also been some highlight film candidates, including Sam Fuld’s full-stretch dive in right-center to end the fifth inning Monday in Houston.

It saved a run and it saved right fielder Josh Reddick from kicking himself.

“I thought that was my ball,’’ Reddick said of Jake Marisnick’s rope into the gap with a man on second base. “it was very impressive to see what Sam did on that play. I didn’t get a good break on it, but he did; he always gets a good jump.’’

Manager Bob Melvin said he assumed the ball wouldn’t be caught, but if it was, it would have been Reddick to catch it.

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Trouble signs from the bullpen for a second straight day could portend a longer-term problem

I’d have to go back and check, but I don’t know that the A’s bullpen gave up two three-run homers all year in 2014. Maybe, probably, but back-to-back days like we saw Saturday and Sunday? Doubtful. And of the six home runs allowed by the pitching staff over the first seven games, five of them have been hit off the relief corps. That’s not good.

Of all the trouble signs that emerged over the weekend in two dispiriting extra-inning losses to the Seattle Mariners, the performance of the bullpen is perhaps the most disturbing.

“We’re better than that,” said manager Bob Melvin.

But are they? Think about it. The A’s are without their closer, Sean Doolittle, whose return from a shoulder injury is still sketchy. Before Sunday’s game, Melvin said he didn’t know when Doolittle would get on a mound, and he offered up late May as a guess-timate regarding his return, but he wasn’t really basing it on any hard and fast evidence. If there’s still a shoulder tear in there, even a small one, the A’s have to brace for the possibility that even if Doolittle does return on the late-May timetable, there will be a question if that shoulder can hold up.

Last year’s two primary set-up men, Luke Gregerson and Ryan Cook, aren’t here. Gregerson left via free agency and Cook is in the minors trying to figure out some serious mechanical issues.

Hence, everyone else is being pushed back into roles where they may not be quite as comfortable. Tyler Clippard, a very good setup man in Washington, is closing. Eric O’Flaherty and Dan Otero are pitching later in the game than they normally do, and in O’Flaherty’s case, even though he is in his second season following Tommy John surgery, he still isn’t showing the kind of explosive stuff he possessed that he had in Atlanta before the injury.

Fernando Abad, a situational lefty, is being asked to pitch to lefties and righties. Evan Scribner couldn’t make this bullpen a year ago, and R.J. Alvarez is a hard-throwing young guy who is just getting his feet wet as a major-leaguer. Jesse Chavez is the long guy, probably more suited to starting than relieving, but he may be pressed into seventh- and eighth-inning service if the problems continue.

So right now, it’s tough to say they’re “better than that.” Maybe better than what we’ve seen so far, but perhaps not good enough without Doolittle and an effective Cook.

The A’s had bullpen issues out of the gate last season, mostly with Jim Johnson, but Melvin and Co. were able to work around Johnson because of the depth of the pen. That depth isn’t there this year, nor is the experience or the quality. After a week, you have to give this group the benefit of the doubt that they can, as Clippard said, “clean some things up.”

We’ll learn more on this upcoming road trip, for sure.

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Pomeranz is the first daily recipient of a Jim Harbaugh Michigan helmet

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was in spring training with the A's and Oakland now has a Michigan helmet that will serve as a player of the game award. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was in spring training with the A’s and Oakland now has a Michigan helmet that will serve as a player of the game award. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

It merely hung from a hook in his locker by the time A’s left-hander Drew Pomeranz met with the media Friday night, but earlier Pomeranz admitted he was wearing the Michigan Wolverines helmet nestled behind him.

No, Pomeranz doesn’t have any affinity for the maize and blue. He’s an Ole Miss product. But he didn’t mind slipping it on after pitching seven inning of two-hit ball in the A’s 12-0 blasting of the Seattle Mariners.

Pomeranz said the helmet was a gift to the team from Jim Harbaugh, the former 49ers coach who is now at Michigan. You may recall that Harbaugh came to visit the A’s during spring training and served as a first base coach for them. Continue Reading

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Reddick will return this weekend; A’s sign Oakland Tech product

Josh Reddick is likely ticketed for a Sunday return to the A's lineup.

Josh Reddick is likely ticketed for a Sunday return to the A’s lineup.

Josh Reddick remains scheduled to return from the disabled list this weekend, but it might not come Saturday when he first becomes eligible.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Reddick will be back at “some point at time in this series.” Sunday seems like the liklier timeframe for Reddick’s season debut, with Melvin going as far as joking “it would be like a normal Opening Day” for Reddick.

That’s because it’ll be Felix Hernandez on the mound Sunday for the Mariners. Hernandez started against the A’s on Opening Day for four straight years from 2010-13, including Reddick’s first two seasons with the A’s.

The A’s will have to make a roster move when Reddick comes back, so delaying it a day makes all the sense in the world. Seattle is throwing left-hander J.A. Happ on Saturday, so Reddick might sit anyway. This probably gives Cody Ross a chance to get another start. Continue Reading

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Ladendorf shares his MLB debut with two special people

Tyler Ladendorf looks to umpire Jim Wolf after sliding by Rangers Robinson Chirinos Wednesday.

Tyler Ladendorf looks to umpire Jim Wolf after sliding by Rangers Robinson Chirinos Wednesday.

Tyler Ladendorf got his first big league start Wednesday.

It came just in time for his two biggest fans. Ladendorf’s mother, Linda, and his grandmother, Judy, were both in the stands but were heading back to their Chicago-area home Thursday.

Before they left, they saw him triple home a run in his first at-bat. Before his Wednesday was done, he’d scored two runs, driven in two and drawn a walk.

And the ball with which he delivered his first hit was a gift to his mother.

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Smooth debuts power A’s to 10-0 win over Rangers

OAKLAND – The A’s crushed the Rangers 10-0 on Wednesday thanks to a series of successful debuts.

Mark Canha and Tyler Ladendorf made an impact in their first major league games and Cody Ross also joined the party on his first day with the A’s before 19,479 at O.co Coliseum.

Scott Kazmir mowed the Rangers down, even after experiencing what appeared to be some discomfort in his back or oblique. He needed a mound visit from manager Bob Melvin and head trainer Nick Paparesta in the fourth inning, but delivered seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball.

Kazmir didn’t allow a hit after Leonys Martin led off the game with a bunt single. He allowed only three other baserunners before leaving the game after throwing 95 pitches.

Canha’s first impression was a big one as he came within a few feet of two home runs. Instead, he settled for a 3 for 5 day with two doubles and four RBIs. Continue Reading

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Cody Ross was “blindsided” by Diamondbacks release, but happy to join a winner in Oakland

Cody Ross will platoon against left-handed pitching for the A's. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Cody Ross will platoon against left-handed pitching for the A’s. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

New A’s outfielder Cody Ross was “blindsided” by his release from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but said he’s thrilled to come to Oakland with a chance to win.

“It caught me off guard,” Ross said of Arizona releasing him on Saturday.  “I was definitely blindsided and obviously upset and had some bitter feelings.

“You sit back and look at the way the roster’s made up and what they’re trying to do and it just wasn’t a fit. To be honest with you, I don’t want to be on a rebuilding team.  I love those guys over there. I wish them nothing but the best. But I think my aspirations are a little higher and it was sort of a blessing.”

To make room for Ross, the A’s sent outfielder Billy Burns to Triple-A Nashville and designated outfielder Alex Hassan for assignment. Continue Reading

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A’s manager Bob Melvin: “Just a bad game for us overall”

Manager Bob Melvin said the A's "just played a bad game" on Friday night.

Manager Bob Melvin said the A’s played “just a bad game for us overall” on Friday night in a 4-0 loss to the Giants.

The A’s eight-game spring winning streak is over. Oh. The Horror.

Of course, nobody is going to fret about that. The A’s lost 4-0 to the Giants on Friday night in what manager Bob Melvin called, “just a bad game for us overall.”

“We’ve been swinging the bats, we’ve been playing great defense, we’ve been getting great pitching,” Melvin said. “We just didn’t play a very good game today.” Continue Reading

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Kazmir sharp in spring finale, finishes with a 1.00 ERA

Scott Kazmir finished a strong spring with six solid innings in a win against the Giants on Thursday night.

Scott Kazmir finished a strong spring with six solid innings in a win against the Giants on Thursday night.

Scott Kazmir closed out a second straight strong spring training for the A’s on Thursday night with six sharp innings in Oakland’s 8-2 win over the Giants.

He allowed four hits and one run (on an Angel Pagan solo home run) and watched his ERA raise slightly from 0.75 to 1.00. Afterwards, he said the might’ve been the best he’s ever felt coming out of spring training.

“In the past, I’ve had one or two pitches really working and other stuff I’m still working on,” Kazmir said. “This spring, I felt like out of the gates, I had a good feel for everything.” Continue Reading

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Zito convinced he can start in a Major League rotation, but he’s not sure what he’d do if the only offer was in the minors

Barry Zito had his streak of consecutive innings without a run allowed end at 13 Tuesday, but he feels good about the way he's pitched.

Barry Zito had his streak of consecutive innings without a run allowed end at 13 Tuesday, but he feels good about the way he’s pitched.

Barry Zito ended the Cactus League season with a 5.03 ERA, and that doesn’t bare much resemblance to the way Zito pitched this spring.

Before giving up seven runs in the third and fourth innings combined in a 13-10 win over the Angels, Zito stretched his streak of consecutive innings without allowing a run to 13. Before the Angels got eight hits and seven runs off him in his four innings, Cactus League batters were hitting .135 against him.

So believe Zito when he says the one awful inning — three homers from the Angels first five hitters in the third — doesn’t negate what he’s done all spring.

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