0

Crisp back in lineup atop batting order

– Lead-off hitter Coco Crisp returned to the starting lineup Friday after he was limited to pinch-hit appearances the past two games because of wrist and hamstring injuries.

 

– The recently completed nine-game road trip did nothing to change manager Bob Melvin’s opinion about his team, he said.

He watched his troops win seven of nine games, surge into first place and show that they are every bit as focused as last year’s team.

“A team that’s not afraid to play on the road, is not afraid to play in close games and, as far as our offense goes, it seems like our at-bats get better and better as the game goes along and they are fierce, competitive at-bats,” Melvin said. “And we’ve got a deep pitching staff. So, really, nothing has surprised me to this point.”

 

– Even though the A’s signed Doolittle to a long-term contract extension Friday, that doesn’t change Melvin’s approach to how he uses his bullpen.

Melvin said things are “status quo” for now, which means that Doolittle or Luke Gregerson is going to be summoned for save situations, with erstwhile closer Jim Johnson the “wild card” in the equation.

“Right now, we’re fine with this, but there’s the potential for anything,” Melvin said.

 

– There isn’t much new to report about the recovery by top prospect Addison Russell from his most recent right hamstring injury.

“It was probably a little more significant this time, a little higher up,” Melvin said. “It may take him a little bit longer than when he came back during spring training.”

Russell first hurt his hamstring in early March. He damaged the same hamstring in early April while playing in a game for Double-A Midland. He is expected to be sidelined at least until May.

 

– The A’s get familiar with most of their American League West counterparts during spring training in Arizona. However, the Astros prepare for the season in Florida, which means the A’s got their first look at the 2014 Astros on Friday.

The teams will have had their fill of each other before long, though. Friday marked the first of a three-game series and the first of seven meetings within a 10-game span.

 

– Here’s the A’s batting order for Friday night’s game against the Astros, the first of a three-game set at the Coliseum:

CF Coco Crisp

SS Jed Lowrie

3B Josh Donaldson

1B Brandon Moss

LF Yoenis Cespedes

DH Alberto Callaspo

C John Jaso

RF Josh Reddick

2B Eric Sogard

P Sonny Gray

2

Doolittle takes blame for ninth inning, but isn’t bummed

Sean Doolittle loves A's ability to win as a team

Sean Doolittle loves A’s ability to win as a team

Sean Doolittle has never had great success in closing games, although the sample size (11 games) is so small as to be irrelevant.

He had a chance to lock down his fifth career Tuesday night when he was handed a 9-7 lead, but he was taken down by a Kole Calhoun double and a Mike Trout homer.

Doolittle blamed no one but himself.

“That was a thigh-high fastball over the middle of the plate,’’ Doolittle said, indicating that Trout could not have asked for a better location. And when you put the leadoff guy on, you’re just asking for it.’’

Continue Reading

0

Don’t worry, Fuld isn’t going anywhere … at least he’d better not be

The A’s waded through the opening homestand to a 3-3 upside finish. The final game, which looked like it was going south badly over the first three innings, picked up with a Brandon Moss three-run homer, three hits from Eric Sogard, a long opposite field homer from Yoenis Cespedes, a gutty turnaround from Sonny Gray and a save by Jim Johnson. They sent a crowd of over 32,000 home happy, which is always a good thing.

Oh yes, and they also got two electric plays from 32-year-old utility outfielder Sam Fuld, playing in place of struggling Josh Reddick in right field. Fuld gunned down Seattle’s Abraham Almonte with a throw that even Reddick would have been proud of, an on-target seed that beat Almonte to the bag by at least 10 feet. Then later in the game, he robbed Logan Morrison with a full layout catch that is sure to make all the highlight reels.

Even though he also got thrown out taking too wide of a turn on a single, Fuld had a pretty good week offensively, too, for a player who hit .199 last year. He had a couple of triples, hit .308 and also posted a .357 on-base percentage. The A’s couldn’t have asked for much more from their backup outfielder. Bob Melvin loves the guy.
Continue Reading

0

As long as you’re a little off, it might as well be to a frighteningly good Felix Hernandez

John Jaso knows all about Felix Hernandez. He’s had the best seat in the house — right behind home plate — for many of his most dominating performances, including King Felix’s perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012. But as good as that game was, Jaso said Hernandez might have been even better against the A’s on Saturday, particularly over the first seven innings.

Jaso said he and Hernandez gave each other a head nod before the former’s first at-bat, but afterward, the pitcher showed him no mercy. The two converged at first base when the pitcher covered first base on a slow roller.

“I ran down the line and he was like, `What are you doing over here?’ ” Jaso recounted. “I just told him he was nasty today.”

Hernandez, who was my pick to win the Cy Young this year, doesn’t get as much recognition as Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw, but when he’s on, he can be as overwhelming as any pitcher in baseball. Early in the game, he had thrown 27 pitches, 24 for strikes. I honestly thought in the third inning we might be seeing a no-hitter on this day. So did manager Bob Melvin, who managed Hernandez at a very young age.

“For seven innings, that may the best we’ve ever seen him,” Melvin said.
Continue Reading

0

Doubleheader wrap: Johnson should get it figured out, but it needs to happen in a hurry

After a very long 13-hour day at the ballpark, a very short blog post.

You can give Jim Johnson credit for one thing after his disastrous opening series with the A’s. The new closer isn’t afraid to face the music for a bad effort, whether it be a torrent of boos or a probing media horde wanting to know how a guy who saved 50 games last year suddenly looks like he’s lucky when he gets an out.

Johnson, who didn’t have a great spring, is off to an even worse start in the regular season. As he admitted himself after Wednesday night’s three-run blow-up when he was entrusted with a 4-3 lead in the ninth, the A’s should be 3-0 and they’re 1-2 primarily because of him. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but the fact is Oakland has been exceedingly fortunate with closers over the last several years, so to see Johnson blow games in his first two appearances is a bit shocking.

And the fans, what few of them showed for this latest disaster, don’t like it one bit. They started booing after Johnson gave up a leadoff hit to start the inning, and it only got louder as the inning progressed. It’s tough enough to blow a couple of games, but Johnson’s predecessor, Grant Balfour, was an extremely popular guy and his rage act won over the fans.
Continue Reading

2

PREGAME NOTES: Michael Taylor likely on the trade block for A’s

A’s outfielder Michael Taylor has enjoyed a productive spring training, but time appears to be running out on his tenure in Oakland. The 28-year-old Stanford product is out of options and there’s not a spot on the A’s Opening Day roster for him.

Manager Bob Melvin indicated a trade could be likely for Taylor.

“You never know how it plays out here but he’s created this situation for him,” Melvin said of Taylor. “I know other teams are looking at him and watching him pretty hard. It’s a credit to him that he played so relaxed this spring and put up the numbers that he did. Regardless what happens, I feel that he’ll end up in a good situation for him.”

Continue Reading

0

Gimenez one of those waiting for opportunity to strike

This is the week that will determine Chris Gimenez’s season.

Claimed on waivers by Oakland as the fourth man to add to what was a three-man catching rotation, Gimenez is a 31-year-old veteran who has logged creditable time with the Indians, the Mariners and the Rays.

He’s not going to make the A’s roster, which may not have room for three catchers, much less four. He’s out of options, so he can be a free agent once the A’s set up their roster and he’s not on it.

Continue Reading

0

Analyzing Parker’s chances of a good Tommy John outcome

I spent some time talking with an orthopedic surgeon and came out of feeling a little less confident about the chances of a full recovery for Jarrod Parker when he undergoes Tommy John surgery next week.

At first it seemed to me that the chances for Parker to come back as good as new after what would be his second Tommy John surgery were a little more than 50-50.

But after my conversation with the surgeon, who has worked on pro, college and recreational athletes for years and who asked not to be named, it seems that maybe the chances are a little less than 50-50.

Continue Reading

0

A five-day assessment of the A’s — don’t see many chinks in the armor

It went by way too quickly. I’ve filled in for John Hickey for five days and it’s already over. Now I head crosstown to the Giants to fill in there for five days before heading home.

Even in this short time, however, I saw enough to build a pretty strong assessment. The A’s are going to be very tough to beat again. They have the deepest rotation in the division. And they may have the ridiculous bullpen in baseball, even with Ryan Cook still working his way back from a shoulder issue and Eric O’Flaherty, recovering from Tommy John surgery, not likely to join the team until July.

I got to see all five starters throw and they all looked sharp. I’m quickly over my concerns about Scott Kazmir after watching him throw Wednesday. He throws strikes, works quickly, has a very good pitch arsenal, and beyond all that, it’s just nice to have a lefty back in the A’s rotation. He looks like the guy who pitched for Tampa Bay when he was at his best. He may not be able to match Bartolo Colon’s incredible year in 2013, but he shouldn’t have to. You can see all five of the starters winning anywhere from 12 to 15 games this year, backed by a bullpen I can’t wait to see terrorize the American League. Sonny Gray could be better than that if he shows the kind of stuff he did in the playoffs, both in terms of his stuff and his mental approach. So could Jarrod Parker, who is a breakout year waiting to happen. Even if someone falters, you’ve got Tommy Milone, who pitched four sterling shutout innings a few days ago. When Milone is your starter safety net, you are filthy deep.

I don’t see many issues with the position players, either. Josh Donaldson looks like he’s primed to back up his monster year of 2013 and become a bona fide star. I equate him a bit to Stephen Curry of the Warriors. Curry was shafted out of an All-Star spot two years ago when people didn’t recognize his total game until this year. Same thing happened to Donaldson last year, but now they know who he is. He’s not just a tremendous hitter with amazing power to all fields for a man his size, he’s a superb defensive third baseman and a good runner. Bottom line, he’s already a star. The rest of the world just doesn’t know it yet.
Continue Reading

1

Facing long odds, Nakajima will nonetheless give A’s another try and be well paid for it

Hiroyuki Nakajima made his arrival with the A’s Tuesday in a far less “Hiro-ic” atmosphere than he did a year ago, when he was showered with attention from the U.S. media and hordes of reporters from his native country of Japan.

In fact, using the word Nakajima tossed out regarding general manager Billy Beane at his memorable first press conference, there was absolutely nothing “sexy” about it. After reporting in at the A’s minor league spring training camp Tuesday at Papago Park, Nakajima was probably fortunate to even be playing in a spring game his first day due to an injury to prospect Addison Russell. And there was nothing too dramatic about his interview sessions, either.

Nakajima, who signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract last year but wound up never playing a day in the major leagues, is not on the 40-man roster and his chances of getting back onto it at this point are probably slim. Face it, the A’s made a mistake in signing the Japanese infield star last year, but at least they didn’t compound it by forcing him into the lineup. They quickly covered their error by acquiring Jed Lowrie, who had a terrific year. As for the money lost, that’s back pocket pain for John Fisher and Lew Wolff, not A’s fans.

A year from now, it will be just another what-if story to tell, with Russell likely moving into the shortstop spot for the next several years and nobody giving Nakajima a second thought. Even if he does show well in Sacramento and winds up in the majors, it’ll be as a bit player trying to help, and he’ll likely be gone from the organization at season’s end.

Manager Bob Melvin was frank about the 31-year-old Nakajima’s chances of playing in the majors with Oakland this year.

“There would probably have to be some injuries to guys we have here,” Melvin said. “But who knows? Anything could happen in baseball, and I think he realizes that, and I think that’s why he’s here working as hard as he is and trying to get back to the big leagues.”
Continue Reading