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World Series or not, 2014 A’s creation represents Beane’s finest, boldest work

Hollywood probably isn’t paying any attention anymore, but what Billy Beane has wrought with this 2014 A’s team would make a far better movie than “Moneyball.” It shouldn’t just blow your mind how good and how complete this club is, but how many machinations Beane and his cohorts have made to make to create what Oakland has today — a team that looks like it can finally break that postseason first-round spell and at least get to the World Series, if not win it.

Let’s just start with the rotation. Somehow, a club that lost Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin on Day 1 to season-ending injuries, AND lost Bartolo Colon to free agency, AND lost Brett Anderson in trade, AND wound up sending Dan Straily to the minors early on somehow comes out better on the other end by Beane beating the competition to Scott Kazmir, and now Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammels, to go along with Sonny Gray and 3-4 guys who can ably fill the fifth spot (Jesse Chavez, Tommy Milone, Drew Pomeranz and Brad Mills). Really, that’s a shell game success story unlike I’ve seen in years with any baseball rotation reclamation.
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O’Flaherty added to roster, Francis designated for assignment

The A’s reinstated left-handed pitcher Eric O’Flaherty to the active roster Thursday after a lengthy stint on the disabled list.

O’Flaherty was signed this offseason, while he was in the midst of recovering from surgery on his left elbow. To that end, the A’s placed him on the 60-day disabled list at the end of spring training.

He last pitched in a game May 17, 2013, as a member of the Atlanta Braves. He said he is eager to make his A’s debut.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” O’Flaherty said before Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “It’s a big day. It feels like opening day.”

The A’s designated left-handed reliever Jeff Francis for assignment to make room for O’Flaherty on the roster. Francis had a 6.08 ERA in nine games for Oakland this season. He posted an 0-1 record and pitched 13 1/3 innings overall.

O’Flaherty, 29, is expected to replace Francis as a late-inning reliever and set-up man for closer Sean Doolittle. He is in his ninth season in the majors but first with the A’s.

For now, though, manager Bob Melvin said he intends to ease O’Flaherty back into the flow of things after such a long layoff.

“I’d like to get him in some games before we get him pitching in the seventh or eighth inning with two on,” Melvin said. “Having said that, you never know how the game’s going to play out. He’s ready for just about anything.”

O’Flaherty enjoyed sustained success for the Braves the past five seasons, and he gained a reputation as a pitcher that could get out right-handed and left-handed hitters on a consistent basis.

Adding a pitcher of O’Flaherty’s caliber to the bullpen midseason gives the A’s a nice little jolt, Melvin said. O’Flaherty said he’s just looking to carve out a niche.

“It’s cool to join a team this good and a bullpen this deep, where there’s not going to be too much pressure on me to really shoulder too much of a load,” O’Flaherty said. “I can just kind of get in where I fit in and help any way I can.”

 

 

 

– Melvin said third Josh Donaldson is out of the starting lineup for a second straight day because of back stiffness.

Donaldson’s availability off the bench depends upon how well he feels after taking batting practice, Melvin said.

 

– Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring) is back in left field tonight after being the designated hitter Wednesday.

 

– Right fielder Josh Reddick (right knee) was scheduled to get in some cardio work Thursday for the first time since he was placed on the disabled list, Melvin said. Reddick still hasn’t been cleared for baseball-specific drills.

 

– The A’s are in the midst of a daunting stretch in which they play teams leading their respective divisions.

They just finished playing the Detroit Tigers, who lead the American League Central. Tonight begins a four-game series against the Blue Jays, who sit atop the AL East. Next up are the Giants, who entered play Thursday in first in the National League West.

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A’s: Giancarlo Stanton puts on a BP show like no one else

Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton has fans all over the place, including the A's clubhouse.

Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton has fans all over the place, including the A’s clubhouse.

Brandon Moss, John Jaso and some of their A’s teammates bolted out of the visitors’ clubhouse early in the afternoon Saturday on a mission.

They wanted to see Marlins’ right fielder Giancarlo Stanton take his swings in batting practice. Jaso was laughing when he came back. Moss was simply in awe.

“I feel like a child,’’ Moss said. He rarely goes out to watch another team’s player hit, but Stanton is the exception. “No one can do what he can do.’’

His teammates flung names at him – Jose Abreu, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera. Moss wasn’t buying. Good hitters all, but none has the batting practice power that Stanton showed Saturday.

Moss later pointed to a screen in dead center about 35 feet off the ground and behind the 502-foot sign.

“He hit it, and it was still moving,’’ Moss said reverentially. “Nobody could hit the ball out there like that. And he takes such easy swings.’’

It was suggested that, back in the day opponents used to come out to watch Jose Canseco and, particularly, Mark McGwire put on shows like that. Moss was just a kid living an entire continent away, so he never saw those. And he doesn’t think they measure up.

“To be fair, there was some juice in those arms,’’ Moss said, referring to performance enhancing drugs linked to both me. “There’s none here. He can just crush it.’’

A’s manager Bob Melvin said back when he played with the Giants he would upon occasion make it a point to come out and watch Canseco and McGwire. Now, however, he won’t.

“There are times you are on the field and you can’t help but see it,’’ Melvin said. “I don’t want to watch that. I don’t want that to factor in. I’ve seen the numbers.’

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A’s: Reddick’s arm, glove will continue to keep him in lineup

Josh Reddick's defensive contributions continue to mount.

Josh Reddick’s defensive contributions continue to mount.

Periodically A’s watchers will wonder out loud why Josh Reddick is in the Oakland lineup when he’s healthy, almost without exception.

It usually happens when Reddick is the middle of a cold offensive spell. That’s not the case right now, because he’s played just two games in the last three weeks after coming off the disabled list. There hasn’t been enough time to be hot or cold.

Wednesday night was a case in point of why he plays so much. Reddick’s arm, always a weapon, saved at least one run and kept Oakland starter Brad Mills in control of the game. More than that, Reddick made a couple of stellar catches.

He opened the third inning making manager Bob Melvin’s heart race a little by going into the stands in foul territory to make a highlight-reel scoop behind a fan. Melvin saw Reddick’s 2013 season impacted by a play against the wall in Houston, and he just got the right fielder off the disabled list Tuesday. He’d like to keep him around for a while.

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Doolittle’s at-bat is a “let down,” Norris says he feels fine but will adjust his positioning behind the plate

A's closer Sean Doolittle didn't pitch Sunday, but did get his first big league at bat. (Staff photo/Jane Tyska).

A’s closer Sean Doolittle didn’t pitch Sunday, but did get his first big league at bat. (Staff photo/Jane Tyska).

OK, that game was just plain weird. It had all the looks of a ho-hum loss most of the day. Tommy Milone’s struggles against the Boston Red Sox continues and Jon Lester was pitching a gem. The Red Sox were going to avoid the four-game sweep and the A’s would still be satisfied with taking three of four.

Then…all of a sudden the game is tied. The eighth-inning rally started so harmlessly with an HBP and then a walk. Then back-to-back-to-back singles suddenly made it a game. You can read the game story here, but this had so much more that I had to cut.

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Gray gets pushed back, Melvin wants to see Colon run and Coco sits on gnome day

Jimmy Durkin in for John Hickey on getaway day as the A’s try to complete the sweep of the Red Sox before heading to New York.

Sonny Gray will get pushed back four days and make his next start Saturday against the Miami Marlins.  (Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

Sonny Gray will get pushed back four days and make his next start Saturday against the Miami Marlins. (Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

The biggest news today is that the A’s will push Sonny Gray’s next start back four days to give their young ace some extra rest. Instead of starting Tuesday against the New York Mets, Gray will go Saturday against the Miami Marlins.

“Just giving Sonny a little bit of a break,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said in explaining the decision.

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Bullpen finally rounding into shape, which is going to make A’s that much tougher to beat

Thursday night at the Coliseum was pretty much another chapter in the Scott Kazmir first-half roll (9-2), and the lefthander’s latest gem is detailed in full in the game story here.

But the real development of the A's in recent weeks has been the stabilization of the bullpen after a shaky first two months. Suddenly, the roles are rounding into shape and Oakland is making it even tougher on opponents as they start to close down on leads in the late innings.

Sean Doolittle settling into the closer's role was the first step. The A's really needed that ninth-inning stopper, and Doolittle has so far been up to the task and then some. But now the A's are also building an effective bridge to the ninth.

Luke Gregerson got off to a slow start with the A's but of late he's become a lockdown eighth inning guy. Adding another 1-2-3 eighth Thursday night in which he struck out pinch-hitters Daniel Nava and David Ortiz in succession and then got a routine grounder to second by Boston leadoff man Brock Holt, Gregerson now has 12 consecutive scoreless appearances during which he has thrown 13 2/3 innings, allowed just six hits and three walks and struck out 17. Opposing hitters are just 6 for 45 (.133) over that span.
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Quite an achievement for the A’s to have baseball’s best record near halfway point

The A’s are not likely to stop to applaud themselves after just 72 games, but by all rights, they should. Who would have expected a team that lost two-fifths of its starting rotation at the outset of the season to have the best record in baseball nine games shy of the midway point?

Think of all the other things that haven’t gone so swimmingly. Jim Johnson, for instance, and the bullpen as a whole early on. Dan Straily, a rotation mainstay last year, has spent most of the season in the minors. Remember how horribly Josh Reddick started the year, and then came the Josh Donaldson slump. Jed Lowrie still hasn’t hit a hot streak all year and he’s currently hitting just .222. Ryan Cook still hasn’t found his old self yet, and we have yet to see Kevin O’Flaherty. Eric Sogard, despite playing consistently on defense, is hitting .199.
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