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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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A’s talking about business side of baseball after wave of trades

Brett Lawrie was one of many A's to talk about the business side of the game Tuesday after three trades in five days.

Brett Lawrie was one of many A’s to talk about the business side of the game Tuesday after three trades in five days.

There’s nothing like an unpopular trade to get players to talk about how “baseball is a business.’’

When that phrase is uttered, it’s a good bet the player is going for the easiest justification.

And when there have been three trades in five days as has been the case with the A’s, with three proven and popular big leaguers shipped off to make pennant race runs elsewhere, that baseball-as-business is the handiest crutch around.

The way to have prevented the trades of Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard and now Ben Zobrist would have been to win more. And not all that much more, either, If the A’s, a Major League-worst 10-24 in one-run games, had won say six more of those, games they had a legit chance to win,  they be a .500 team and they’d have been close enough that general manager Billy Beane might have gone in another direction.

That would mean turning one-in-three of their one-run losses into wins. I you’ve been watching the A’s, you know it wouldn’t have taken that much. A few big hits and a few clutch pitches would have gotten the job done.

That didn’t happen.

“At the end of the day, baseball is a business,’’ third baseman Brett Lawrie said. “This is what happens. You hate to lose the guys we lost, guys we’d built relationships with, but this is what’s happened, and there’s nothing we can do about it now.’’

DH Billy Butler signed a three-year contract with the A’s last winter, and the team he is playing with now doesn’t look anything like the one he thought he’d be playing with. Yet he has taken it in stride.

“I’ve been through this a few times in Kansas City,’’ he said. “If you’re not in contention, then players who are in the last years of their contracts are going to be traded. There’s a lot of frustration because we didn’t play better.

“We lost a lot of those one-run games that we should have won.’’

Catcher Stephen Vogt said he’d spotted Zobrist Tuesday morning in the hotel with his family, well before the trade went down.

“I was thinking I should say goodbye, just in case,’’ Vogt said. “I’m sorry I didn’t.

“The frustrating thing is we put ourselves in this position. But we still have 60-some games to play, and I think I speak for everyone in this clubhouse that we will be trying to win each one.’’

Right fielder Josh Reddick echoed that.

“We still have a lot of games to play, and we’re going to go out every day like we have,’’ Reddick said. “We haven’t had our best year, and that’s one of the reasons we’re here now.’’

If it was up to Reddick, he would have held off on making the trades, although he says he realizes the July 31 trade deadline waits for no one.

“I would have liked to us see have more time,’’ he said.

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Burns is sore, but feeling better; Doolittle throws off flat ground, bullpen scheduled for Thursday

Billy Burns is feeling better Saturday morning after fouling a ball off himself Friday night.  (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

Billy Burns is feeling better Saturday morning after fouling a ball off himself Friday night. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

SAN FRANCISCO — A’s outfielder Billy Burns said he feels better Saturday than he did the night before but he’s out of the starting lineup for the second game of this series with the Giants.

“I told the trainer I think I can play today, but he thinks it’s best if I rest,” Burns said. “I can still feel a little soreness but it’s a lot less pain than last night, so I think I’m good to go.”

Burns’ cringe-worthy injury was termed a testicular contusion and the rookie said it won’t cause to him to change his mind and begin wearing a cup.

A’s manager Bob Melvin won’t force him or any of his players to do so either. Continue Reading

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As strange as season has been, Billy Burns offers great hope for long-range future

I Believe In Billy Burns. And so does Stephen Vogt.

“He’s been a consistent, solid baseball player all season,” Vogt said Saturday night. “He’s the Rookie of the Year, in my opinion.”

Burns should be the Rookie of the Year in a lot of people’s opinions by now. If he’s not, they’re not paying close enough attention, and that’s entirely possible considering Oakland’s standing in the American League. But the campaign needs to start now, because there is not a better candidate out there, and he may need some public relations to drive home the obvious.

Burns scored the game-winning run in the A’s 3-2 10-inning victory on Vogt’s first-pitch single, and if Rickey Henderson was watching at home, you know he was saying, “Yeah, kid.”

Vogt got the Gatorade shower and the shaving cream pie, but Burns was the true hero of the winning rally. He not only opened the bottom of the 10th with a double in the right-center gap, he boldly bolted for third with nobody out and stole the base. Maybe not the proper play with the meat of the A’s order coming up, but no question, once he made it, the odds increased significantly that Oakland would get him home.

“I tried to time it up to get a good jump and I feel like I did get a good jump, so I just carried through with it,” Burns said. “Sometimes I’ll shut it down but I felt with the timing I had I thought I had a good shot at it, so I just took a chance.”
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Ken Korach back as the A’s radio voice, but for how long?

Ken Korach, the radio voice of the A’s for 20 seasons, was scheduled to move back behind the microphone on 95.7 The Game, the A’s flagship station for the first time Friday night for Oakland-Minnesota second-half opener.

Korach has been hobbled by pain in his left knee, which he has been rehabbing since suffering an off-season injury. He isn’t pain free, but with the A’s schedule keeping the team in the Bay Area for most of the next three weeks, he, his doctors and the A’s decided to see how it goes.

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Kazmir lifted after three innings with triceps tightness

A’s left-handed starter Scott Kazmir left Wednesday night’s start against the Yankees after three innings with what the team described as left triceps tightness.

Kazmir, who came into the start holding down the sixth-best ERA in the American League at 2.56, is the focus of not just the A’s but of many contending Major League clubs. Although the last-place A’s haven’t said he’s available, with the trade deadline coming up July 31 and Kazmir’s contract with Oakland up at the end of the year, the assumption is that he’s available for the right deal.

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Graveman making Donaldson trade look better and better

News flash: Kendall Graveman is good. Very, very good. His latest seven-inning shutout stint extended his scoreless streak to 16 innings, and he outdueled the bane of Oakland, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, for his latest feat of fine mound work.

This is the Graveman who dazzled in spring training. He ran up against the rocks when the regular season started, but the general consensus among the A’s is that he started rushing when the regular season began. He needed a short stint in the minors to calm himself down and start again. Ever since his recall on May 23, he has been just short of brilliant — nine starts, none in which he’s allowed no more than three runs and the last six in which he’s allowed no more than two. His ERA is 1.78 over those nine starts (12 earned runs in 60 2/3 innings pitched).

A lot of folks didn’t understand the Donaldson trade considering the A’s still had control of his services for another three seasons. But now, they have a 24-year-old starter who could be a mainstay for the next five years. He’s a bona fide candidate for American League Rookie of the Year (along with teammate Biily Burns), and while Donaldson is having an All-Star first half in Toronto, the A’s aren’t so bad off for making the deal. We haven’t even seen Sean Nolin yet, the other starter obtained in the deal (he’s 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA at Triple-A Nashville) or still-teenage shortstop Franklin Barreto, who’s hitting .281 with seven homers at Class A Stockton.
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The halfway point sell-off looms as A’s stumble once again on crucial homestand

We’re still a couple of weeks from the All-Star break but the A’s will actually reach the 81-game midway point with Wednesday afternoon’s interleague series finale against the Colorado Rockies. Gosh, how time flies when you’re having fun.

At 35-45 through the first 80, the writing is pretty much on the wall for the 2015 A’s and it reads, “Not entirely hopeless, but …” They looked like they had something going when they won five in a row on the road coming into a 10-game homestand. But with four losses in five games at the Coliseum confines, Oakland is on the precipice. A bad weekend against Seattle could set the course of the club’s second half long before anyone anticipated it.

If Billy Beane could get such a strong read on last year’s club at the midway point — the A’s were 51-30 through 81 games in 2014, in case you were wondering — it doesn’t take a mind reader to know what Beane must be thinking right now.

Sell, and sell fast. He has marketable commodities with which he can reap long-term gains and the sooner he can move impending free agents like Scott Kazmir, Ben Zobrist, Tyler Clippard and possibly even Eric O’Flaherty, the more he will likely get in return from clubs in need for the second-half playoff push.

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Top pick Martin agrees to terms, works out with club; Gray in hospital with flu-like symptoms

The A’s agreed to terms with first-round draft pick Richie Martin Tuesday and the 20-year-old shortstop out of the University of Florida worked out and took batting practice with the team before heading out on his summer minor-league assignment.

Martin, the 20th overall pick, will depart Wednesday and begin play with Oakland’s short-season Class A team in Vermont. Before he left, he got the grand tour of the major league clubhouse and met most of the players and staff. His biggest thrill, he said, was the shoes he received from equipment manager Steve Vucinich.

“I actually heard about the white shoes about a week ago and I was pretty pumped about that,” Martin said. “I’ve never worn white shoes in my baseball career.”

Martin said while growing up in Valrico, Fla., he watched A’s players Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist when they played with the Tampa Bay Rays. He’d only been to California once before this week, when he was 9, so he doesn’t know a whole lot about Oakland or the A’s organization.

“The only thing I really knew was seeing the movie `Moneyball,’ ” Martin said.

Asked to give a comparison with general manager Billy Beane and actor Brad Pitt, who played Beane in the film, Martin said, “The hair was spot on, and the glasses. But I’d only been around him for an hour, and in the movie, they kind of made him more aggressive and everything was about business. But he was making jokes, and the whole time I was around him, he was smiling. So maybe he’s not like Brad Pitt in that sense.”

Martin, who hit .291 as junior with the Gators with a .399 on-base percentage, said he has drawn comparisons with Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond as a good blend of offensive and defensive skills. He added that he grew up idolizing the great Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

Martin, who was accompanied by his parents to his signing, also noted that his maternal grandfather, Walter Thomas, played in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs. Thomas actually played parts of four seasons with the Monarchs and in 1945, batted second ahead of future Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. Satchel Paige also was on that Monarchs team.

Martin isn’t sure how long it will take him to get to Oakland for real.

“Hopefully it will be quick,” he said. “It depends on how I play and nothing but that.”

The A’s have now signed or agree to terms with 31 of their 40 selections from the draft, including each of the first 13 and 19 of the first 21.

Scheduled starter Sonny Gray had to be admitted to the hospital Monday night with flu-like symptoms, and as far as manager Bob Melvin knew, Gray was still there Tuesday afternoon.

“It hit him pretty hard,” Melvin said. “He’s actually been dealing with it for the last couple of days, but last night, it actually got worse. I talked to him this morning and he still sounded pretty weak, but he said he felt a lot better than last night.”

Melvin wasn’t sure how Gray would be slotted back into the rotation, noting that it would depend on how quickly he recovers.

Chris Bassitt was called up from Triple-A Nashville to take Gray’s start, and infielder Max Muncy was optioned.

Elsewhere, just an off day for outfielder Josh Reddick against a left-handed starter. He’s available, and will start on Wednesday.

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Lawrie expects weekend series with Royals to be “just a baseball series”

This slide by Brett Lawrie fueled a heated series in April between the A's and Kansas City Royals, but Lawrie expects the series that resumes Friday to Oakland to be "just a baseball series."  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

This slide by Brett Lawrie fueled a heated series in April between the A’s and Kansas City Royals, but Lawrie expects the series that resumes Friday to Oakland to be “just a baseball series.” (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Everybody remembers the last time the A’s took on the Kansas City Royals.

Rather than a fine rematch of the American League Wild Card game, the series deteriorated into a string of bean balls and hot tensions. Royals pitcher Kelvin Herrera earned a five-game suspension for throwing at A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie, who was the target of the Royals’ ire after his slide into second base injured the Royals’ Alcides Escobar. Here’s some old reading if you want to rehash a little of it.  Continue Reading