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Yonder Alonso’s glovework keeps A’s defense together

Yonder Alonso is making fans in A's clubhouse with his defense at first base.

Yonder Alonso is making fans in A’s clubhouse with his defense at first base.

Yonder Alonso didn’t have a hit Monday night in Safeco Field, although it took a nice running catch from former Giant Nori Aoki to deny him.

Nonetheless, Alonso had a quietly huge night for the A’s in a 5-0 win over the Mariners.

In the second inning, he helped starter Rich Hill get out of a bases-loaded jam by spearing a grounder at first base hit by Aoki and throwing a strike to the plate for a force.

In the ninth inning, with Ryan Madson pitching in relief, Alonso snared a bullet off the bat of Dae-Ho Lee and turned what could have been an RBI double into a double play, snuffing out almost the Mariners’ last breath.

The A’s have almost gotten too used to the smooth defense Alonso brings to first base, although pitcher after pitcher, including Hill Monday, is sure to point out the high level at which Alonso is playing defense.

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A’s lose 5-4 as Yankees complete four-game sweep

The New York Yankees celebrate at the end of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Sunday, May 22, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The New York Yankees celebrate at the end of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Sunday, May 22, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

OAKLAND — Dealt another medical punch to their ailing roster earlier Sunday, the A’s badly needed a splash of something good on the field.

They did not get it.

The Yankees rallied to beat the A’s 5-4, completing the first four-game sweep in Oakland by a visiting team in 17 years.

On a day the A’s placed ace Sonny Gray on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his neck and shoulder area — officially a strained right trapezius — manager Bob Melvin had hoped his starter Sunday, Jesse Hahn, would give the team a lengthy outing.

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A’s explore rotation options with Sonny Gray landing on disabled list; RHP Zach Neal could get Wednesday start

Sonny Gray landed on the disabled list Sunday, leaving the A's scrambling with now 13 players on the DL.

Sonny Gray landed on the disabled list Sunday, leaving the A’s scrambling with now 13 players on the DL.

In the course of a four-game series with the Yankees, the A’s have put their best position player and their best starting pitcher on the disabled list.

Right fielder Josh Reddick fractured his left thumb Thursday with a slide at second base Thursday and is out for 4-6 weeks.

Sunday morning came the word that another All-Star, Sonny Gray, is disabled. The right-hander, who has struggled through a Major League-worst 9.61 ERA in May, has been diagnosed as having a strained right trapezius. For the moment, lefty reliever Daniel Coulombe has been been recalled to take his spot on the roster, but the A’s will need a starter for Wednesday’s game in Seattle.

Gray, who had been saying all along he felt fine, said Sunday morning he’d gotten a cortisone shot after his May 13 start in St. Petersburg, Fla. against the Rays. But he’d been rocked in his next start against the Yankees, lasting just 3.1 innings Friday, leading to the move to the DL. He said he doesn’t expect to be out more than the 15-day minimum.

In looking at the options for Wednesday’s game against the American League West-leading Mariners, one suggestion is that the A’s might bring up Daniel Mendgen. The right-hander has rocketed from Double-A Midland to Triple-A Nashville and has allowed just two runs in his last 27 innings with the Sounds.

But as recently as Saturday an A’s executive said that Mendgen, a 2014 Houston draftee acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade mid-2015, was not on Oakland’s immediate radar with his having only made four starts above Double-A. He hadn’t been part of the conversation, but now he almost certainly will be.

It’s more likely that the A’s will go with Zach Neal, who has been up and pitched once on May 11 in Boston, giving up three runs in three innings in his MLB debut. Neal is 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA with the Sounds this year. More significantly, he’s got significant Triple-A experience, 48 games, 46 of them starts, and, as the numbers show, the 27-year-old has gotten to the point where he’s knocking on the door.

Lefty Dillon Overton is an option as well, but he hasn’t had Neal’s success this year, going 2-4, 4.37 in seven starts for Nashville. Neal is on the A’s 40-man roster and Overton isn’t, and that plays in Neal’s favor.

One option, lefty Eric Surkamp, is off the table for the moment. He was optioned to Nashville just five days ago and won’t be eligible for another five days, meaning Wednesday’s start is currently out of the question. He was 0-3 in five starts with a 4.09 ERA. But he started and allowed two runs in 4.1 innings in Seattle April 8 and the A’s won the game 3-2, although he did not get the decision. So if yet someone else goes on the DL, he could be an option because of his recent Safeco Field experience.

In talking with the media Sunday, Gray said it was best to go on the DL now, get past the problem and get back to the rotation. He had become increasingly frustrated as his streak of rotten games stretched to five and last year’s All-Star became one of just four MLB starters with qualifying innings with an ERA over 6.00, 6.19.

“It’s unfortunate,” Gray said. “We’ve had some things, injuries, nicks and things not really go our way. I think that’s why we kind of made the decision — do you knock this thing out now and come back in 15 days and feel strong and your body feels a little refreshed and everything. I think it will be a huge benefit in the long run.”

Manager Bob Melvin seems reasonably confident that a short stint on the DL will get Gray turned around.

“I think it has affected him, at least the last couple of times out,” Melvin said. “I don’t think it’s really affected his velocity. But it’s affected the command. It’s like pitching with a rock in the bottom of your neck, the upper part of your shoulder. I think it was affecting his extension some and certainly the command.

“After going through this a couple of times, we need to get this out of there and iron it out so he can throw the baseball where he wants to. At this point, it hasn’t gotten any better.”

Gray is the 14th A’s player to go on the DL this year and the 13th currently disabled. That’s the most in the big leagues currently and the most for any A’s team since at least 1979. Currently riding the pines are an entire big league starting rotation: Gray joining Henderson Alvarez, Chris Bassitt, Felix Doubront and Jarrod Parker.

Others on the list include relievers R.J. Alvarez and Liam Hendriks, catcher Josh Phegley, infielders Mark Canha, Jed Lowrie and Eric Sogard and outfielders Reddick and Sam Fuld. Oakland has had at least six players disabled every day this year and at least nine every day since May 9.

In the same Wednesday game that Gray will now miss, Phegley and Lowrie, both of who are off on injury rehabilitation assignments, are expected to be activated.

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Will Khris Davis jumper after slam rile Rangers?

Khris Davis put on a show after his walkoff grand slam Tuesday. Will Rangers be offended?

Khris Davis put on a show after his walkoff grand slam Tuesday. Will Rangers be offended?

If you watched the journey Khris Davis took from batter’s box to home plate in the ninth inning Tuesday, you saw something that is new to Davis and the A’s.

With about 15 feet left on his journey down the third base line with the entire A’s roster massed at the plate, Davis took his batting helmet and took a Steph Curry-like jumper with the helmet.

He got good elevation with his jumper and good arc on the helmet.

“I’ve had that in the back of my head since like last year,’’ Davis said. “And I finally got the chance to do it. I wasn’t going to miss it. It was a swish, by the way.’’

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Pregame: Jesse Hahn to make A’s season debut Saturday

Oakland Athletics' Jesse Hahn (32) fields the ball during spring training at Lew Wolff Training Complex in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

Right-hander Jesse Hahn will start for the A’s on Saturday against the Hpuston Astros at the Colisuem. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

***Ray Hacke is filling in for John Hickey on Saturday. Here are his pregame notes***

OAKLAND – The A’s called up pitcher Jesse Hahn from Triple-A Nashville to start Saturday’s home game against the Houston Astros.

Hahn went 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts for the A’s in 2015 before spending the final three months of the season on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. The right-hander then began the season in Nashville after a disastrous spring in which he posted a whopping 11.15 ERA.

Cactus League batters hit .382 against Hahn.

“He probably didn’t have a lot on his fastball,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Our reports are that he does now.”

The numbers bear that out. Despite a rough last outing, Hahn posted a 2.04 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .246 average in four starts at Nashville.

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Postgame: Yonder Alonso caps A’s rally with walk-off HR

Oakland Athletics' Yonder Alonso watches his three-run home run against the Houston Astros in the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, April 29, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. The Athletics won 7-4. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Yonder Alonso watches his walk-off three-run home run against the Houston Astros in the ninth inning on Friday night as the A’s rallied to win 7-4. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

OAKLAND – As far as major league debuts go, Sean Manaea gave the A’s a chance Friday night as the big left-hander with bushy black hair pitched into the sixth inning before departing with the score tied.

But the prized arm in the trade that sent Ben Zobrist to Kansas City last July had to wait a while to celebrate.

Houston scored three runs in the sixth – all charged to Manaea – to take the lead, but the A’s rallied for two in the eighth to tie the score and won 7-4 when Yonder Alonso blasted a three-run, walk-off home run to right in the ninth.

“He’s got that kind of power,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s been swinging better a little bit in batting practice.”

Stephen Vogt led off the decisive inning with a fly to left-center that got past center fielder Carlos Gomez and rolled to the wall for a double. Three batters later, Alonso smashed a 1-0 offering from Pat Neshek into the seats, putting an end to a slide in which Oakland had lost five of six games.

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A’s Danny Valencia trip to disabled list seems probable; likeliest replacement figures to be INF/OF Tyler Ladendorf

Danny Valencia's next stop may be the disabled list thanks to a hamstring injury.

Danny Valencia’s next stop may be the disabled list thanks to a hamstring injury.

The A’s had to go without third baseman Danny Valencia, as expected, in the final game of their series with the Yankees Thursday after Valencia suffered a left hamstring strain Wednesday.

The question awaiting the club is whether or not Valencia will have to go on the disabled list. There was no decision before the game, but manager Bob Melvin expected to be able to announce a decision one way or another after the game.

It didn’t sound like he was expecting good news.

“Hamstrings are a tough deal,’’ Melvin said. “Hamstrings aren’t a day or two and you’re back in the lineup for the most part.’’

Valencia said he hurt himself popping up from a slide at the plate in the fourth inning Wednesday. He spent all of the pregame Thursday getting treatment on his left leg from the training crew.

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A’s Mark Canha having trouble finding much playing time

Mark Canha isn't getting much of a chance to celebrate or do much else on the field in the early weeks of the A's season.

Mark Canha isn’t getting much of a chance to celebrate or do much else on the field in the early weeks of the A’s season.

As an unknown quantity last year, then-rookie Mark Canha wasn’t supposed to play much. He wound up getting some early chances and capitalized.

Canha is a known quantity this time around with 16 homers, 70 RBI and a slash line of .254/.315/.426 as Rule 5 pickup. He was supposed to get a big contributor, but that’s not how it’s worked.

He played in 10 of the A’s first 13 games a year ago, but in only four of the first 13 this time around and in just one of the last nine. And he was on the bench again Tuesday as the A’s opened a 10-game road trip in Yankee Stadium.

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Knee surgery scheduled for A’s Eric Sogard; on the plus side, infielder’s disabling shoulder injury has now been cleared up

Eric Sogard's left knee will require surgery next week, meaning his stay on the DL will be another 6-8 weeks.

Eric Sogard’s left knee will require surgery next week, meaning his stay on the DL will be another 6-8 weeks.

Infielder Eric Sogard, who began the season on the disabled list with shoulder discomfort, will have his stay on the disabled list extended by perhaps two months by left knee surgery.

An MRI on the knee, which has periodically given Sogard trouble the last two seasons, wasn’t encouraging.

“They found some loose bodies in the knee near the patella tendon,’’ Sogard said Saturday morning. “And they have to take them out. I’ve played through the pain the last couple of years, but this is the time.

“You never want to be on the disabled list, ever, but I’m thinking that I’ll have the surgery and then maybe be back and have a good second half.’’

The veteran infielder left the A’s Saturday morning to get a second opinion, but as manager bob Melvin said, surgery “sounds like it’s going to happen.’’

Sogard said he’d been told to expect to miss between six and eight weeks, which would have him on target for a return sometime around the All-Star break in mid-July.

“It’s not what I’d hoped,’’ Sogard said, “but we’ll get it dealt with now and go from there.’’

This will be just Sogard’s second career appearance on the disabled list. He wound up there from Aug. 7 through the end of the season in 2012 with back trouble.

 

–Starter Henderson Alvarez will throw a bullpen session Sunday morning, after which he could be headed out on an injury rehabilitation assignment.

Alvarez, who says his arm “feels real good right now,’’ has thrown two successful simulated games facing hitters, his highest level of work since last July’s shoulder surgery when he was with the Marlins.

Melvin said Alvarez has been impressive throughout, and “if all goes well, he’ll be ready to go out on rehab.’’ The manager said the idea was that he’d be ready to join the A’s starting rotation in late May or early June.

“He’s right on the timetable our guys set out for him,’’ Melvin said.

 

NOTES

–The Royals made sure to get Ryan Madson’s ring size when they were putting together a World Series ring for him. Even so, the A’s reliever is finding the ring, which he received Friday from Royals’ manager Ned Yost, a tad on the big side. “I thought I might wear it from time to time,’’ Madson said. “But it’s kind of loose and might fall off.’’ No matter, he said “it’s a beautiful thing.’’

–Friday Melvin said he didn’t want to move shortstop Marcus Semien out of the No. 9 position in the batting order. But Semien, who leads the team with four homers, had a single and a walk Friday, leads the club’s regulars with a .281 batting average, .378 on-base percentage and .656 slugging percentage, and Saturday he was batting second. “I still like him ninth,’’ Melvin said. “but he had a walk and a knock last night. And with Chris Coghlan out of the lineup, he was the best choice.’’ Coghlan, who has batted second three of the previous five games, is in an 0-for-19 skid.

–Coghlan isn’t the only struggling A’s hitter. First baseman Yonder Alonso is hitless in his last 13 at-bats and is sitting at 3-for-33 (.091) for the season. Even so, his defense has been a major plus and Melvin had Alonso in the lineup again Saturday. “He’s hit a few balls hard lately,’’ Melvin said. “We’ve got a few guys who are struggling.’’

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Edgar Martinez offers Warriors some advice on balancing between setting wins record and focusing on NBA title

As the Golden State Warriors head into their last two games with the chance to set the NBA record for most wins in the regular season, we thought it would be a good time to talk to someone who’s been there.

Enter Edgar Martinez, the longtime Seattle Mariner designated hitter, the man for whom the American League DH of the Year title is named. Martinez, now the Mariners’ hitting coach, was a key member of the 2001 Seattle team that set the AL record for most wins in a regular season.

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