Hector Olivera, at the plate in 2010 for Team Cuba, could be a good fit for A’s, but money may get in the way (Getty Images).
A month ago, the A’s had high hopes of being able to sign Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera with the idea that he could slip into the Oakland starting lineup at second base, freeing Ben Zobrist to move to left field.
But as time as gone on and Major League Baseball has not moved to make Olivera eligible as a free agent, more competition has come on the market. Olivera has had group workouts for scouts, and he’s had individual workouts, but for the moment, that’s all he can do.
The workouts have given rise to the belief that the Dodgers, the Padres, the Red Sox and the Yankees all have interest. More than that, they all have money.
“It seems like the A’s are going to get priced out of the competition,’’ a source said. “There are teams out there that can simply outbid Oakland.’’
The Dodgers are in particular a concern. First-year Los Angeles general manager Farhan Zaidi went south from Oakland this winter with a history of thinking about the game the same way A’s general manager Billy Beane does. And he has money to spend that Beane and the A’s don’t.
Matt Olson (Getty Images)
Much has been made about the A’s offense needing to find ways other than home runs to score because the power that has marked Oakland teams of the recent past isn’t in evidence this time around.
That may be true, although Josh Reddick (32 in 2012), Ike Davis (32 in 2012 for the Mets), Billy Butler (29 for the Royals, also in 2012) and Josh Phegley (26 last year, 23 of those in the minor leagues with the White Sox) have at least the promise of the long ball.
What seems clear is that the A’s power shortage may be a short-term thing. Last year at Class-A Stockton, first baseman Matt Olson hit 37 homers and third baseman Renato Nunez hit 29.
R.J. Alvarez brings explosive fastball and dreams of being in A’s bullpen in 2015.
When you hear that a baseball player was just born to play the game, metaphor is in play.
In the case of A’s relief pitcher R.J. Alvarez, it’s true.
Roy and Susie Alvarez both are baseball fanatics. When their son R.J. (Roy Jr., of course) was born on June 8, 1991 in West Palm Beach, Fla., Roy Sr. met him for the first time with a gift – a baseball glove.
“I think Susie kind of expected it,’’ he said. “We dated in high school, and it was always about baseball.’’
Left-hander Sean Nolin’s first spring with the A’s isn’t beginning the way he’d hoped.
While the rest of the pitchers are moving into their third round of bullpen sessions and will begin throwing to batters Wednesday during the club’s first full-squad workout, Nolin is sidelined while recovering from sports hernia surgery.
It’s not like he’s doing nothing – he made throw of 180 feet Monday and will repeat that until he can get back on a mound again – but he’s not in a position to do what he wants most, to compete for a spot in the starting rotation. Every day that he’s not pitching is a day that Jesse Hahn or Chriss Bassitt or Kendall Graveman take another stride toward being the new young arm in the Oakland rotation.
“The last thing I wanted to do was be the guy in the training room,’’ Nolin said Tuesday. “I’m coming off surgery that took place three months ago. The recovery time is supposed to be 6-8 weeks, but I guess that’s not for athletes.’’
Nolin said he can only go by what his body tells him and not by any timetable. He just would like to have his body pick up the pace a little, is all.
“There’s an opportunity here,’’ he said. “But I can’t throw off a mound yet. It’s not like I’m doing nothing. I’m still doing all the other workouts and I’m throwing my 180 feet, so I’m keeping my arm strong. Once I’m ready to go, things should be fine.’’
A’s bullpen candidate R.J. Alvarez won’t be borrowing Pat Venditte’s ambidextrous glove any time soon.
It’s well-reported by now that they have the only ambidextrous pitcher in a big league camp in Pat Venditte.
Less well known is that they almost have two. R.J. Alvarez is a candidate to come out of the bullpen who throws touches 99 mph on the radar gun and who routinely pitches at 95 mph. He does it all from the right side.
He’s a natural left-hander, however. His father, Roy, a collegian at North Florida with an abiding passion for the game, thought R.J. was going to be an infielder, so he taught him to throw right-handed. When Alvarez turned to pitching instead midway through high school, he continued to throw right-handed.
The lefty leanings have not left him entirely, however.
“Even now when I pick up a baseball, I’ll pick it up with my left hand,’’ Alvarez said. “A lot of the time I’ll be shagging in the outfield, and I’ll do it as a left-hander.’’
No one came calling when the A’s put reliever Fernando Rodriguez on the designated for assignment list on Dec. 18.
The A’s put him up for grabs one year into his recovery from Tommy John surgery. They had the choice to trade him, release him or sign him to a minor league deal if no one put in a claim on him.
No club did.
While it’s true that the A’s as a whole did not have a long or prosperous post-season, there are exceptions, including Arnold Leon.
The 26-year-old right-hander pitched at home in winter league baseball, in part in an effort to make sure the A’s were paying attention after a 10-7 season at Triple-A.
The A’s eyes were opened. Leon, pitching for Culiacan, went 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 10 starts, holding batters to a .179 average while helping the Tomateros to the Caribbean series. Leon pitched the first half of the playoffs going 3-1 in five starts with a 2.61 ERA before heading to Arizona to be ready for the start of spring training.
“It was a busy winter,’’ Leon said through a big smile. “There was a lot going on. I was coming off my first full season at Triple-A, then I was able to go play at home and pitch in the post-season.’’
While he did well, there is a question if Leon actually pitched too much. He threw 145 innings at Sacramento, then 57 in the Mexican winter league and finally 31 innings in the Caribbean series. That’s a total of 233 innings, which is a whopping amount for someone who has never pitched in the big leagues. (Leon did get called up briefly last May by the A’s but did not pitch).
Leon says his arm “feels fresh, ready to go.’’
It’s not clear that the A’s agree. There is some organizational concern over the number of innings he pitched, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the club is careful with him this spring. He’s not a candidate for the rotation at this point, so any game experience he gets in the Cactus League will come from bullpen work.
The A’s will not get a look at left-handed starting pitching candidate Sean Nolin for a while.
Oakland had hoped a flat ground throwing session Saturday would indicate Nolin was ready to throw off a mound following off-season sports hernia surgery.
Manager Bob Melvin said that the throwing did not go well.
A’s lefty Fernando Abad, Green Card in hand, has big plans for A’s this season.
2015 figures to be a monumental year in the life of A’s reliever Fernando Abad.
Less than a month ago, the Dominican left-hander got his Green Card from the U.S. Government. In June, he’s due to get braces off his teeth, braces he’s worn for most of the last seven years.
And he’s a key member of an Oakland bullpen that helped the A’s make it to the playoffs last year, one that has hopes of doing the same in 2015.
“It’s been a big year already,’’ Abad said of getting his Green Card. It meant he had to spend almost all of the off-season in the U.S. rather than going to his native Dominican Republic, but he’s more than cool with that.
His goal for the next off-season is to get his kids, 23-month-old Fernando Jr. and 3-year-old Camilla Fernanda and their mom, Bettania, all green cards.
Jesse Chavez starts this year as he did last year, feeling he has something to prove to the A’s.
Here’s what A’s manager Bob Melvin said about Jesse Chavez’s first session throwing off a mound in camp Friday:
“He looks in mid-season form every time I ever see him,’’ Melvin said, “whether he’s throwing bullpen, or in a game early. Impressive. He’s a very focused kid who comes here with the mindset he has something to prove. That’s always what you like to see.’’
Twelve months ago he said virtually the same thing and Chavez went out and won a job in the starting rotation after beginning the spring with 12.2 scoreless innings in the Cactus League.
Chavez will have something to prove again. Last year he got an unexpected chance to start when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin went down with season-ending Tommy John surgeries. Chavez lost his job in the rotation after 21 starts in which he posted a 3.44 ERA as the A’s traded for veteran starter Jon Lester at the trade deadline.