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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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Henderson’s passing reminds us of baseball’s mortality

Dave Henderson is all smiles while signing for A's fans in 2000.

Dave Henderson is all smiles while signing for A’s fans in 2000.

I got a chance to connect with some of the guys I grew up with Sunday.

At the other end of the phone were Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Sandy Alderson, Terry Steinbach and Tony La Russa.

This isn’t a case of dropping names here. These are some of the guys I talked to after the news came out that Dave Henderson, center fielder par excellence for the A’s from 1988-93 had died in Seattle at 57 of a massive heart attack.

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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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A’s ship Pomeranz to Padres, get 1B Alonso, LHP Rzepczynski

Drew Pomeran was traded to the Padres Wednesday for first baseman Yonder Alonso and lefty reliever Mark Rzepczynski.

Drew Pomeran was traded to the Padres Wednesday for first baseman Yonder Alonso and lefty reliever Mark Rzepczynski.

OAKLAND – In their traditional let’s-not-wait-for-the-winter-meetings mode, the A’s locked down a trade with the San Diego Padres that netted first baseman Yonder Alonso and left-handed pitcher Mark Rzepczynski.

The A’s sent veteran lefty reliever Drew Pomeranz from the big league roster and left-handed minor leaguer Jose Torres, a left-handed reliever who spent the 2015 season at the Class-A level. Oakland also will send a player to be named later to the Padres.

The key to the deal for the A’s is Alonso, a left-handed contact hitter who hit .282 in 2015 with a good on-base percentage (.361) in his fourth season with the Padres as a platoon player. He had five homers and 31 RBIs in 103 games.

He would likely be in a platoon in Oakland as well, sharing time with Mark Canha, a right-hander who went from Rule 5 pickup to middle-of-the-order hitter in 2015 with the A’s.

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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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Disappointed Venditte will use 2015 as building block

Pat Venditte will not be coming out of the A's bullpen again after the Blue Jays claimed him on waivers Monday.

Pat Venditte will not be coming out of the A’s bullpen again after the Blue Jays claimed him on waivers Monday.

Regardless where the rest of his big league travels take him, Pat Venditte said he will always have a soft spot for the A’s and Oakland.

After a seven-year minor league sojourn, Venditte hooked on with the A’s last winter, got a long look in spring training, throwing from both the left and right sides, then made it to the big leagues for 26 games in which he was 2-2 with a 4.40 ERA and a decent 1.186 ERA.

Now he’s off to Toronto, the Blue Jays having claimed Venditte on waivers from the A’s Monday.

“I am disappointed; I really liked it there,’’ Venditte told this newspaper Monday afternoon. “It means the world to me that the A’s gave me a chance. For them to have run me out there as much as they did in spring training, and then after I’d done well at Triple-A; they gave me a shot at the big-league level.’’

Venditte was called up for a stretch in June in which he pitched four times, then was a regular out of the bullpen, mostly against left-handed hitters, after being recalled in mid-August.

“In the minor leagues, you don’t know how your stuff is going to translate in the big leagues,’’ Venditte said. “I was able to get some of the best hitters in the world out. Obviously sometimes they got me. I like the way I stacked up against them.

“I would have liked to have performed better at certain times, and obviously there were some rough ones, but they allowed me to bounce back. Getting that chance to pitch after getting hit around showed what I can do and it probably led to this other opportunity now.’’

Venditte said the Jays are thinking of using him as the A’s did, mostly against left-handed hitters, but added “it’s up to me to pitch better right-handed to get to the same level from that side.’’

“I’ll use this as a building block,’’ he said. “I have confidence now that I didn’t have 12 months ago. Confidence is the big difference now.’’