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Melvin’s new reality: win now and develop for the future

Bob Melvin is trying to balance winning with developing for the future.

Bob Melvin is trying to balance winning with developing for the future.

It’s a balancing act these days for A’s manager Bob Melvin.

On the one hand, every day he is driven to put a lineup together that gives his team the best chance to win.

The flip side says that the A’s are not contenders this year, that the last two months of the season might best be given over to seeing what players of the future might do.

Melvin made it clear Wednesday that he’s not ready to simply have his team play out the string as a spoiler.

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Ailing Crisp, Reddick held out of A’s Wednesday lineup; Valencia gets the start at third, Lawrie going to second

Coco Crisp was in the original starting lineup Wednesday, but was scratched because of neck stiffness.

Coco Crisp was in the original starting lineup Wednesday, but was scratched because of neck stiffness.

The A’s outfield took a couple of hits when manager Bob Melvin put together the lineup for Wednesday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.

Coco Crisp was in the original starting lineup, but he had to be scratched because of a bout of neck stiffness. Melvin said the club was always going to err on the side of caution when Crisp is having neck problems.

“Coco had a little neck stiffness last night, but he got it treated,’’ Melvin said. “Today it was a little stiff again. If there’s any stiffness we’re going to give him some time off.’’

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Orioles won’t pitch to Sogard and Semien makes them pay; Crisp shows he can’t keep from trying for diving catches

Marcus Semien celebrates the three-run homer he hit with Brett Lawrie and Eric Sogard after Sogard had been intentionally walked.

Marcus Semien celebrates the three-run homer he hit with Brett Lawrie and Eric Sogard after Sogard had been intentionally walked.

Eric Sogard had been walked intentional before Tuesday, twice in fact.

The turnover of the A’s roster has been such, however, that almost none of his current teammates had seen it happen.

The A’s were holding a 2-0 lead over the White Sox in the sixth inning after a Brett Lawrie triple. Reliever Chaz Roe, taking over for Miguel Gonzalez, struck out Mark Canha, then saw Sogard step to the plate.

He’s not a particularly imposing hitter, not at 5-10 and wearing glasses, and he doesn’t have big numbers, just a .246 average to start the night with no homers. Sogard does have a knack of the occasional big hit, however, and he is left-handed. So the order came from manager Buck Showalter. Roe was to walk Sogard intentionally and pitch instead to the right-handed Marcus Semien.

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A’s send O’Flaherty to Mets for player to be named later

The A’s packed left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty and cash and sent him to the Mets Tuesday in a deal announced in the third inning of the A’s-Orioles game at the Coliseum.

The Mets had been looking for someone to serve as a specialist to get left-handed hitters out, and the A’s, who were not going to resign him at the end of the season, had been looking to get rid of what was left of O’Flaherty’s two-year, $7 million contract.

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A’s picture says it all in this season of turnover and angst

From the picture’s-worth-a-thousand-words file:

The A’s took their team photo before Tuesday’s game, and the final picture was a green, gold and white encapsulation of the season.

Who was there:

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Physically sound Chavez looks for mechanical problem

Jesse Chavez hasn't figured out the problem with his pitches, but they're being hit hard now.

Jesse Chavez hasn’t figured out the problem with his pitches, but they’re being hit hard now.

Jesse Chavez feels great. Which is why Jesse Chavez feels terrible.

He’s made three consecutive starts for the A’s in which he says his body feels fine, but the results have been miserable, both for him and for the A’s.

The last of those came Monday when he pitched just 3.2 innings, giving up six runs in a 9-2 loss to Baltimore.

Manager Bob Melvin is willing to think back to the first two months of the season when he had a 2.11 ERA and was for a time ranked with teammates Sonny Gray and then-teammate Scott Kazmir in the top 10 among American Leaguers in ERA.

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Valencia and Lawrie become options at second base for A’s; How Rickey Henderson briefly got stood up at Cooperstown

Will Brett Lawrie see more time at second base with arrival of Danny Valencia?

Will Brett Lawrie see more time at second base with arrival of Danny Valencia?

The A’s are looking for a platoon at second base to get a little more punch in the lineup, and in Danny Valencia they have a right-handed candidate to balance lefty Eric Sogard.

Oakland claimed Valencia, an infielder/outfielder with experience at both second and third base, on waivers from Toronto Monday. He’ll arrive in Oakland Tuesday and could be in the A’s starting lineup Wednesday when the Orioles throw lefty Wei-Yin Chen in the finale of a three-game Coliseum series.

Sogard has mostly held his own against left-handers this year, averaging .239 while hitting .246 against right-handers. For his career, he hits just .215 against lefties, but the A’s like his defense, so he gets plenty of opportunity to play.

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Gray off his game, but somehow manages to find a way; Reddick hopes his back injury won’t cost more than a day

Sonny Gray didn't feel great, but his numbers were terrific, one run in seven innings Sunday.

Sonny Gray didn’t feel great, but his numbers were terrific, one run in seven innings Sunday.

Sonny Gray wasn’t at his best, not even close. He walked two of the first three Cleveland Indians he faced Sunday and the A’s were down a run before they ever got to the plate.

Given the trouble with his control – almost 45 percent of his pitches missed the strike zone – it would have been an easy day to give up a half dozen runs.

What Gray did was to stop the bleeding at one. He didn’t feel in command the way he did five days earlier when he’d thrown a truly dominating three-hit shutout against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

What he lacked in dominance he made up for in persistence. Cleveland would not get another runner past first base while he was pitching, and they’d only get five base runners total in the final six innings Gray threw.

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A’s go all right-handed in rotation with Doubront in bullpen

Right-hander Aaron Brooks's first start for A's was good enough to keep him in the rotation.

Right-hander Aaron Brooks’s first start for A’s was good enough to keep him in the rotation.

Felix Doubront joined the A’s Sunday, a couple of days after the A’s picked him up from Toronto in a cash deal and was immediately put into  the Oakland bullpen.

There had been thought of putting the left-handed Doubront into the rotation, with 77 of his 107 career games over the last six years for the Red Sox, Cubs and Blue Jays have been as a starter.

The A’s have traded one left-handed starter, Scott Kazmir, and have moved another into the bullpen, Drew Pomeranz. With Doubront moving into relief duty, the A’s will have an all-right-handed rotation for the first time this season.

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Ryan Cook trade was quietly made, but he was just one of the big reasons A’s have failed this year

In for John Hickey …

People forget just how good Ryan Cook was in 2012. Really good, and really nasty. He was 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 14 saves, only allowed 42 hits in 73 1/3 innings and struck out 80 with a 0.914 WHIP. He made the All-Star Game, where he pitched a 1-2-3 inning and struck out Bryce Harper and David Wright looking. He was a mainstay in the A’s power bullpen along with Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour and one of the big reasons the A’s wound up winning the American League West.

“He was paramount to the success we’ve had here the last three years,” said manager Bob Melvin. “We don’t accomplish what we did, certainly in ’12.”

But Friday, just before the trade deadline, Cook was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later, who is not likely going to be anyone you’ve ever heard of. It was done swiftly, quietly, and without much emotional reflection.

But really now, what the heck happened to Cookie?

He still had the stuff, as he showed in spring training. He just didn’t know where it was going. He pitched in just four games for the A’s this season, and gave up runs in three of them. He was dispatched to Triple-A Nashville, where he was on-again, off-again, and never returned to Oakland. He was 4-1 with eight saves but had a 4.05 ERA and his hits-to-innings pitched ratio was almost dead even. His strikeouts were down, and his WHIP was a less than imposing 1.380.

It’s easy to dismiss Cook as a non-factor in 2015, but he should have been. He’s only 28, should be in the prime of his career, and had he even been close to his form in 2012 and 2013, he really would have helped this ’15 club. With Doolittle out, he conceivably could have stepped in as the closer as hard as he threw. It never came close to materializing, which makes you wonder why the A’s could never get him straightened out.

“Sometimes when you sent down, you can get a little bogged down with your confidence and your motivation,” Melvin said. “Sometimes a change of scenery in a new organization can really invigorate you. I think that will be the case with him. I know he’s excited about the opportunity.”

But what happened?

“Baseball’s about making adjustments and being consistent, and this year, he was not as consistent as we’d seen in the past,” Melvin said. “Maybe a little at the end of last year, too, the command issues ended up biting him a little bit. I think more than anything, it was the command issues, because the stuff was pretty close to the same.”


Coco Crisp played nine innings at Class A Stockton Thursday night, was scheduled to play another nine Friday night and may play another game over the weekend, then he’ll return to Oakland on Sunday and possibly play on Monday.

Melvin said the A’s don’t yet have a plan for left-hander Felix Doubront, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations just before the trade deadline, but he’s inclined to think Doubront will get some starting opportunities, if for no other reason that the A’s have no left-handed starters at the moment. A 25-man move will be made once Doubront arrives in Oakland.