Sonny Gray finally beat the bug that knocked him out of his Opening Day start and made up for lost time against the Chicago White Sox Wednesday night.
Not coincidentally, the A’s also recovered from the One-Run Loss Flu. With Gray allowing just three hits over seven innings and striking out five, Oakland made a meager offensive output stand up in a 2-1 victory over the Sox after two disheartening defeats by a run to open the season.
The A’s ran into a tough pitching customer themselves at the Coliseum in Chicago’s latest left-handed starter, Carlos Rodon (0-1), but Rodon was outpaced by Gray, who other than some slight command rustiness (four walks), only really allowed one hard-hit ball that ultimately became the visitors’ only run.
The A’s got their collective minds off baseball Saturday morning with a trip next door to the Arena, where they had a team free throw and 3-point shooting competition.
There were some serious highlights to be had, including Josh Reddick pulling off a Steph Curry shot from the tunnel leading to the Warriors’ locker room and John Axford channeling his inner Rick Barry with an underhanded bomb from the lower stands.
Forewarning of the competition, an idea proposed by visiting clubhouse manager Mike Thalblum, was given to the A’s earlier in the week by manager Bob Melvin, who threatened to compete in it himself – “I could dunk when I was a sophomore in high school,’’ the skipper said – but ultimately bowed out.
SAN FRANCISCO – Eleven years is a long time. It’s an even longer time for a baseball team not to develop one of its own draft picks as a fixture position player.
But that’s how long it’s been for the A’s, whose last drafted-and-developed everyday player who played any extended length of time with them was shortstop Cliff Pennington, their top pick way back in 2005.
Most of their top position prospects since either didn’t make the grade, didn’t last long like Jemile Weeks, or were traded to other teams before making it to the majors like Addison Russell.
Enter 22-year-old third baseman Matt Chapman, who looks like the best bet to end that dubious drought. Chapman, who hit 23 home runs in just 80 games for Class A Stockton last year despite fighting a bad wrist, could conceivably be in Oakland by September if his impressive spring carries over into his anticipated next assignment at Double-A Midland.
SAN FRANCISCO – A’s manager Bob Melvin called a team meeting Thursday night at AT&T Park to remind his position players one last time that the team is likely to have a lineup that changes fairly dramatically from day to day.
Translation: Nobody’s head should be so big that they should consider themselves a lock everyday starter.
Right fielder Josh Reddick may not have to worry much about that, but for just about everybody else, a look at the lineup card will be essential viewing upon arrival in the Oakland clubhouse in 2016. That may even include assumed regulars like designated hitter Billy Butler, shortstop Marcus Semien and third baseman Danny Valencia.
“Starters for us are relative,” Melvin said. “We’ll have two different lineups with what we feel are all potential starters. There will be five different guys in the lineup (Friday night) who we feel are all starters, too. It’s going to be about the collective 25 and these guys need to know that. We need to put egos aside for the team and know if we’re going to succeed, it’s going to take all 25 guys.”
It just wasn’t Sonny Gray’s day Saturday, both on and off the field.
The A’s ace starter was up in the wee hours of the morning to tend to his 1-year-old son Gunnar, and the youngster was still so cranky after his latest spring outing, he had to bolt Hohokam Park without speaking to the media.
Earlier, on the mound, things didn’t go so well, either. Gray pitched 5-plus innings and gave up six runs – five of them earned – on eight hits and a walk. He also committed an uncharacteristic error and threw two wild pitches in the A’s 7-6 split-squad victory over Cincinnati. He didn’t strike out a batter.
Gray did say via text message that – little wonder — he just got a little tired during his third spring outing and that there wasn’t anything to worry about. Manager Bob Melvin wasn’t worried, either.
As A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker grapples with whether to continue his baseball career after a fourth major arm injury, he really owes it to himself to stop by new teammate Ryan Madson’s locker for a chat before he makes a decision.
Parker doesn’t necessarily have to ask Madson for advice. He simply needs to hear his story, both for his psychological and physical well-being, and perhaps to develop a proper framework to make that decision.
Madson only endured one significant arm injury, not four. But he did spent two fruitless seasons trying to come back from an elbow injury first suffered during spring training in 2012, and frustrated by his efforts to complete a comeback with two different clubs for which he never threw a single pitch, he retired altogether in 2014, bitter and full of self pity.
“I wasn’t on a content path when I was finished in 2012 and 2013 and basically in 2014 when I actually quit,” Madson said. “I was happy at home, but I wasn’t content with the way my career ended and I think that would have haunted me for a long time, not being to overcome my injury.”
Jarrod Parker and his agents are looking for answer in the wake of his latest injury.
Jarrod Parker is taking the weekend away from the A’s spring training camp to digest the implications of his latest injury, a re-fracture of his right elbow that has put his immediate athletic future in doubt.
Parker will rejoin the A’s on Monday, executive vice president Billy Beane said Saturday morning. Between now and then, Parker will have plenty to think about. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2013, during which time he’s had one Tommy John surgery, a couple of elbow fractures and two years filled with almost nothing but injury rehabilitation.
The A’s tried it the Ben Zobrist way 12 months ago. Now they’re trying it the Chris Coghlan way.
Zobrist is the dean of baseball’s utility players, as at home in right field as at shortstop or second base. As Coghlan, who looks up to Zobrist, says, “there were others before Zo, but he was the one who made it look sexy and cool.’’
Oakland traded Zobrist to Kansas City at the trade deadline last July, and he wound up with the Chicago Cubs in free agency, meaning he and Coghlan, another jack-of-all-trades, were teammates this week for the first time. Then the A’s traded for Coghlan Thursday so `it was cool to play with him … for two days,’’ he said
A’S ROSTER BREAKDOWN
ROTATION: RHP Sonny Gray, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Kendall Graveman, RHP Chris Bassitt, RHP Jesse Hahn, RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Jarrod Parker. The A’s have a deep pool of starters, but beyond the ace, Gray, there resides a deep pool of questions. Hill had a tremendous final month with the Red Sox in 2015 but has to prove he can replicate it for more than four starts and 29 innings.
Alvarez won’t be ready to pitch until May. Parker is healthy but hasn’t pitched in two years thanks to two elbow surgeries. Hahn, Bassitt and Graveman had injury troubles down the stretch in 2015, but they are supposed to be OK. Of particular interest is Hahn, who missed most of the second half of the season and only recently began throwing again. Gray can pitch deep into games. None of the rest have proved they can do the same.
BULLPEN: LHP Sean Doolittle, RHP Ryan Madson, RHP Liam Hendriks, RHP John Axford, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, RHP Fernando Rodriguez, RHP Ryan Dull, LHP Felix Doubront, RHP R.J. Alvarez. The A’s thought their bullpen would be deep and strong last year, but it was neither. So a complete remodel was in order, and the pitchers they brought in have both good recent history and velocity.
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.’’