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A’s will have to wait and see on recoveries of Crisp, Parker

Coco Crisp is swinging a bat already, but A's don't know what he will be able to give them in 2016.

Coco Crisp is swinging a bat already, but A’s don’t know what he will be able to give them in 2016.

Much of the focus of the A’s in spring training will be on two of the players who weren’t able to make it to FanFest Sunday, left fielder Coco Crisp and right-handed starter Jarrod Parker.

The A’s had been at their best with Crisp leading off in 2011-14, but elbow surgery and neck injuries limited him to just 44 games in 2015, and the A’s don’t know what they can expect from Crisp, who made just one start the final month of the season.

“Coco has already started hitting,’’ A’s manager Bob Melvin said Sunday at the club’s annual FanFest. “But we won’t really know about him until we get to spring training.’’

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Valencia signed for 2016; Reddick, Rodriguez still to go

Danny Valencia has a new one-year deal worth $3.15 million after a couple of big months with Oakland last year.

Danny Valencia has a new one-year deal worth $3.15 million after a couple of big months with Oakland last year.

The A’s struck a deal with third baseman Danny Valencia on a one-year contract worth $3.15 million late Thursday.

The club now has just two arbitration-eligible players unsigned, right fielder Josh Reddick and right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez.

Valencia came to the A’s the first week of August when Oakland claimed him off waivers from Toronto. Plans to have him play second base were quickly scuttled, but even more quickly he became an integral part of the A’s offense while splitting time between third base and DH.

He hit safely in his first six games with three doubles, three homers, seven RBIs and a slash line of .391/.462/.913 and for the month of August, those numbers stood at six doubles, five homers, 17 RBIs and a slash line of .305/.356/.561.

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Teammates salute Dave Henderson, dead too soon at 57

Rickey Henderson (24) Dave Stewart and Dave Henderson (42).

Rickey Henderson (24) Dave Stewart and Dave Henderson (42).

Dave Henderson’s ever-present gap-toothed grin symbolized the joy with which he lived, and that’s what teammates remembered Sunday upon the news that the longtime A’s center fielder died of a massive heart attack in Seattle. He was 57.

“I never saw him have a bad day,’’ first baseman Mark McGwire said. `He’d strike out, and he’d come back to the dugout flashing that gap-toothed grin. He loved to play the game. He was a beautiful man.’’

Henderson joined the A’s in 1988 as just another player in a massive roster reorganization orchestrated by general manager Sandy Alderson, but as the former A’s general manager and current Mets’ GM said, “he was incredibly important to the run of success we had in those years.’’

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Ex-A’s star Dave Henderson gone too soon at 57

Outfielder Dave Henderson, the former first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners who became an All-Star and World Series champion as part of the core of the 1989 Oakland A’s, died Sunday at 57.

Henderson had a kidney transplant about a month ago, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today,

Henderson hit one of the most dramatic home runs in post-season history, a two-out, two-strike ninth-inning bomb in the American League Championship Series that helped get Boston into the World Series.

Two years later after a 15-game stay with the 1987 Giants, Henderson signed with the A’s just before the Winter Meetings and had his best year on the 104-win A’s team with a .304/.363/.525 monster season that included 25 homers and 38 doubles.

The owner of an almost ever-present gap-toothed grin, Henderson grew up in Dos Palos southwest of Merced and was a multiple-sport star at Dos Palos High before signing with the Mariners as the 26th pick in the in 1977 draft.

He made it to the big leagues in 1981 and spent six seasons as a fixture in the Mariner outfielder before being traded to Boston in August of 1986. The acquisition seemed to be a flop when he hit just .186 in 36 games, but Henderson wrote his way into Red Sox lore with his Game 5 off the Angels’ Donnie Moore with California one strike away from its first-ever pennant.

The Red Sox came back to win the game and the series.

After the game, Henderson said “everybody talks about the pressure on me for that at-bat, but there was no pressure.’’

“Defensive replacements aren’t supposed to hit closer,’’ he said. “(Angels’ manager) Gene Mauch caught a lot of flak for changing pitchers, but any manager would take that matchup 100 percent of the time.

“Donnie Moore against a defensive replacement who had five at-bats in two weeks? You gotta go with those odds. They’re in the Angels’ favor. Basically I was looking for a way to get back to our dugout after striking out.’’

Henderson would go on to be at his best in the post season with a slash line of .298/.376/.570 in 151 post-season at-bats.

He had some trouble getting national notice with the 1988-92 A’s loaded with stars, but his connection with fans was strong.

“Hendu’s Bad Boy Club’’ was a fixture in center field at the Coliseum from 1988-93, and occasionally he would spend time with its members after game. He made the All-Star team for the first and only time in 1991 with 18 homers and a slash line of .298/.378/.551 for the first half of a season when the A’s were struggling with injuries.

He played with the A’s through 1993, played the 1994 season in Kansas City then retired at 35, moving back to the Puget Sound after that. He did some radio and television work after that for the Mariners and his engaging personality made him a hit.

He never worked full time as a broadcaster, preferring instead to pick and choose his appearances, but Mariners fans found his insights and personality a winner.

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Alonso’s on-base percentage, defense at 1B intrigued A’s; Pomeranz surprised to leave, but happy for opportunity

Yonder Alonso moves from Padres to A's with Wednesday's trade that sends Drew Pomeranz to San Diego

Yonder Alonso moves from Padres to A’s with Wednesday’s trade that sends Drew Pomeranz to San Diego

In a prelude to what might be an active session at the winter meetings for them, the A’s traded for a long-coveted target Wednesday, landing slick fielding first baseman Yonder Alonso from the San Diego Padres.

The A’s also added left-handed situational reliever Marc Rzepczynski in the deal while sending big league lefty Drew Pomeranz, Class-A left-hander Jose Torres and a player to be named later to the Padres.

While the A’s traditionally go for power and on-base percentage from first basemen when they can, Oakland general manager David Forst and his boss, Billy Beane, have long liked Alonso for other qualities, including a glove that, Forst says, might be as good as any in the business.

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Jed Lowrie’s return to Oakland means a probable departure for either Danny Valencia or Brett Lawrie in roster redesign

The A’s acquisition of infielder Jed Lowrie Wednesday almost certainly means the club will trade one of its two third basemen, Danny Valencia or Brett Lawrie, before too much time has passed.

The A’s are overloaded in the infield with the addition of Lowrie, who played for Oakland in 2013-14 before signing a three-year, $23 million deal with the Astros in free agency last winter.

Manager Bob Melvin said the team will “have to see where he fits in,’’ but Lowrie doesn’t have the range to play shortstop anymore and was mostly a third baseman in Houston after the arrival of Rookie of the Year shortstop Carlos Correa. The A’s turned to Marcus Semien in 2015 to play, and while he led the league in errors, he improved from start to finish and his range was more toward the A’s liking.

General manager David Forst, asked about Semien’s position with the team, he replied simply “shortstop.’’

Forst also said “we acquired Jed to play,’’ so second base would be the likeliest spot for him to get consistent at-bats. Lawrie moved to second from third, but it wasn’t a good fit defensively. The A’s thought about putting Lowrie at second base in 2013, but Japanese import Hiro Nakajima didn’t pan out at shortstop, so Lowrie wound up there.

Suddenly, the A’s infield is crowded, particular at third base.

“There has got to be a corresponding move, at least you would think so,’’ an American League executive said in looking at the A’s move Wednesday.

Lowrie, meanwhile, comes back to the A’s with mixed feelings. He liked playing for Melvin, but he makes his home in Houston, and did even before signing with the Astros last winter.

“I’m disappointed to leave Houston,’’ Lowrie, who makes his fulltime home in Houston, told MLB.com‘s Brian McTaggart. “I signed the three-year deal here thinking I’d be here for those three years.’’

Oakland sent minor league right-handed pitcher Brendan McCurry to Houston in exchange for the veteran infielder. Lowrie originally was traded to the first-place A’s by the last-place Astros just before the 2013 season began. He now leaves a wild card Astros team to head to an Oakland team that led the AL in losses.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the A’s put reliever Daniel Coulombe on the designated for assignment list, giving them 10 days to trade him, release him or resign him to a minor league deal.

At the same time, starting pitcher A.J. Griffin, whose comeback from 2013’s Tommy-John-style ligament replacement surgery stalled late in the 2015 season, was released.

In bringing back Lowrie, the A’s are getting a known quantity. And while Lowrie, a switch-hitter, averaged just .212 with Houston in an injury-troubled 2015 season, he averaged .290 in two seasons with the A’s in 2013-14.

“We are very familiar with Jed,’’ Forst said. “It was a good opportunity for us. We acquired Jed to play. Where, we have some time to figure that out. He played a very good third base at Houston.’’

He will play somewhere, because, in Forst’s words, “he’s a really good player.’’

Melvin described Lowrie as “a very versatile guy, someone who had two good years for us, production-wise, from both sides of the plate.’’

Lowrie missed three months of the season with a torn ligament in his right thumb and was never able to regain his offensive stroke in a .222 season that saw him hit nine homers and drive in 30 runs. Before the injury Lowrie hit .300 with four homers and 10 RBI in 18 games.

“He had the one big injury with the torn thumb ligament,’’ Forst said. “And he was slowed at the end by a quad injury, but he was 100 percent by the end in the playoffs. He is healthy.’’

McCurry had 27 saves last year with Class-A Stockton and Double-A Midland, a total that led all A’s minor leaguers. The 23-year-old right-hander had a 1.95 ERA in 36 games with Stockton and a 1.62 ERA with Midland. He was the A’s 22nd-round draft pick in 2014.

Melvin said Griffin’s injuries “snowballed’’ on him in the last 12 months, but said the right-hander could be a winner again in the big leagues, given time.

Scouts say Griffin needs to throw his fastball at least 90 mph, and he didn’t show he could do that while working his way back from surgery last season.

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A’s bring veteran infielder Jed Lowrie back from Houston

After a year in Houston, Jed Lowrie is back with the A's.

After a year in Houston, Jed Lowrie is back with the A’s.

Jed Lowrie, who helped the A’s to consecutive American League playoffs berths in 2013 and 2014, is coming back to the A’s.

Oakland sent minor league right-handed pitcher Brendan McCurry to Houston in exchange for the veteran infielder. He’d left the A’s after the 2014 season to sign a three-year contract with the Astros, so he has two years left on his deal.

The A’s will announce a 40-man roster move later in the day.

Lowrie missed three months of the season with a torn ligament in his right thumb and was never able to regain his offensive stroke in a .222 season that saw him hit nine homers and drive in 30 runs. Before the injury Lowrie hit .300 with four homers and 10 RBI in 18 games.

The veteran switch-hitter average just .194 in his final 51 games.

In his two seasons with the A’s in 2013-14 he averaged .290, hit 21 homers and drove in 125 runs in 290 games played, mostly at shortstop.

He comes back to the A’s primarily in a backup role, although he could move in at second base, a position that never got locked down in 2015. The A’s had thought of Lowrie as a second base candidate when he was with the club the first time around.

He’s said in the past he’s open to the job at second, although he would prefer not to bounce from position to position. Eric Sogard and Brett Lawrie did most of the second base work in 2015, Lawrie moving over when Danny Valencia came in to play third base the final two months of the season.

With Houston, Lowrie played mostly third base with rookie Carlos Correa moving into the shortstop’s job en route to winning Rookie of the Year honors.

McCurry had 27 saves last year with Class-A Stockton and Double-A Midland, a total that led all A’s minor leaguers. The 23-year-old right-hander had a 1.95 ERA in 36 games with Stockton and a 1.62 ERA with Midland. He was the A’s 22nd-round draft pick in 2014.

 

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Vogt comes back to life with a pair of awards and a return to the field

Stephen Vogt missed 12 games with one of the worst foul tip shots to the groin you are ever likely to see on a baseball field. I hadn’t actually seen the video until Tuesday night, and it was hard to watch. You’d like to say you feel Vogt’s pain, but … uh, no thanks.

“I don’t wish that on my worst enemy,” Vogt said. “It was the worst 10 days of my life, and I don’t ever want to go through it again.”

But he’s finally getting back to normal. After a couple of games at designated hitter, Vogt was at first base against the Rangers and he could be getting back behind the plate sometime this weekend, perhaps for Barry Zito’s momentous Saturday start against old pal Tim Hudson.

W”e’re pretty much healed, we’re glad to be back in there,” he said. I want to play every day. I’m glad that it wasn’t anything more than it was. I’m glad it was a two-week thing and not a life thing. I’m very blessed and lucky that it wasn’t anything worse.”

Vogt also has been prepping for getting behind the plate both mentally and physically. He caught what he said was an hour’s worth of bullpen sessions Tuesday, because the biggest challenge is overcoming the psychological aspects of the hit he took. You get a little gun-shy after what he went through, and he wants to break through those mental barrier.
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Ryan Cook trade was quietly made, but he was just one of the big reasons A’s have failed this year

In for John Hickey …

People forget just how good Ryan Cook was in 2012. Really good, and really nasty. He was 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 14 saves, only allowed 42 hits in 73 1/3 innings and struck out 80 with a 0.914 WHIP. He made the All-Star Game, where he pitched a 1-2-3 inning and struck out Bryce Harper and David Wright looking. He was a mainstay in the A’s power bullpen along with Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour and one of the big reasons the A’s wound up winning the American League West.

“He was paramount to the success we’ve had here the last three years,” said manager Bob Melvin. “We don’t accomplish what we did, certainly in ’12.”

But Friday, just before the trade deadline, Cook was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later, who is not likely going to be anyone you’ve ever heard of. It was done swiftly, quietly, and without much emotional reflection.

But really now, what the heck happened to Cookie?

He still had the stuff, as he showed in spring training. He just didn’t know where it was going. He pitched in just four games for the A’s this season, and gave up runs in three of them. He was dispatched to Triple-A Nashville, where he was on-again, off-again, and never returned to Oakland. He was 4-1 with eight saves but had a 4.05 ERA and his hits-to-innings pitched ratio was almost dead even. His strikeouts were down, and his WHIP was a less than imposing 1.380.

It’s easy to dismiss Cook as a non-factor in 2015, but he should have been. He’s only 28, should be in the prime of his career, and had he even been close to his form in 2012 and 2013, he really would have helped this ’15 club. With Doolittle out, he conceivably could have stepped in as the closer as hard as he threw. It never came close to materializing, which makes you wonder why the A’s could never get him straightened out.

“Sometimes when you sent down, you can get a little bogged down with your confidence and your motivation,” Melvin said. “Sometimes a change of scenery in a new organization can really invigorate you. I think that will be the case with him. I know he’s excited about the opportunity.”

But what happened?

“Baseball’s about making adjustments and being consistent, and this year, he was not as consistent as we’d seen in the past,” Melvin said. “Maybe a little at the end of last year, too, the command issues ended up biting him a little bit. I think more than anything, it was the command issues, because the stuff was pretty close to the same.”


Coco Crisp played nine innings at Class A Stockton Thursday night, was scheduled to play another nine Friday night and may play another game over the weekend, then he’ll return to Oakland on Sunday and possibly play on Monday.

Melvin said the A’s don’t yet have a plan for left-hander Felix Doubront, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations just before the trade deadline, but he’s inclined to think Doubront will get some starting opportunities, if for no other reason that the A’s have no left-handed starters at the moment. A 25-man move will be made once Doubront arrives in Oakland.

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Changes galore for A’s: Brooks to start, Mujica to be closer; Lawrie may see extended time at second base

Edward Mujica will get a chance to close for A's now that Tyler Clippard has been traded.

Edward Mujica will get a chance to close for A’s now that Tyler Clippard has been traded.

In the last five days the A’s have lost their No. 2 starter, who also happens to have the league’s best ERA, their full-time utility player and their closer.

Think there might be a few jobs up for grabs with Oakland?

There are.

The first man to get a crack at taking over in the rotation for Scott Kazmir will be Aaron Brooks, the right-handed pitcher picked up Tuesday as part of the Ben Zobrist trade with the Royals.

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