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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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Bullpen showing signs of a resurgence at long last

Dan Otero made his return to A's Friday a success with three strikeouts in one scoreless inning.

Dan Otero made his return to A’s Friday a success with three strikeouts in one scoreless inning.

Bright spots were as hard to find in the Coliseum Friday as rain in Northern California, but Oakland did get three innings of shutout pitching from the bullpen, one more sign that the pen finally may be getting its act together.

Dan Otero pitched the seventh, Fernando Abad the eighth and Fernando Rodriguez the ninth after starter Sonny Gray gave up five runs in six innings to the Minnesota Twins.

The last four weeks or so have been good for the Oakland pen. In 21 games, the relievers have allowed one or zero runs 17 times. Since the A’s bottomed out at 16 games under .500 with a loss on May 22 at which the bullpen ERA was 4.82, the relief corps has a 3.36 ERA while Oakland has a 27-21 record.

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Hahn grateful he stopped throwing while UCL was still intact; A’s starter not likely to return before September

Jesse Hahn likely will not pitch for #Athletics until September after diagnosis, but it could be worse.

Jesse Hahn likely will not pitch for #Athletics until September after diagnosis, but it could be worse.

A’s starter Jesse Hahn said he used the All-Star break to decompress and get himself together after learning Monday that he’d be unable to throw a baseball for another month.

The right-hander, 6-6 overall and 4-1 in his last six starts, hasn’t thrown in a game since July 1, so that timetable means he will go about six weeks without throwing.

And that’s if all goes well.

After regrouping mentally, Hahn said the up side is that his UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in his right elbow is intact, and that if he hadn’t been shut down, it might have been at risk. And as the UCL is the ligament that needs reconstruction in Tommy John surgery, Hahn is delighted not to go there.

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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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A’s to be without starter Jesse Hahn for an extended time

The A’s will not have Jesse Hahn back in the starting rotation anytime soon.

A’s general manager Billy Beane said Thursday the club was looking at a “somewhat extended stay’’ on the disabled list for the right-handed starter, who was skipped in his last start Saturday because of a flexor tendon problem.

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Should the A’s move players? Next two weeks will tell

A's GM Billy Beane has about two weeks to decide if the A's have a chance to contend this year.

A’s GM Billy Beane has about two weeks to decide if the A’s have a chance to contend this year.

The A’s finished the pre-All-Star Game portion of their schedule Sunday with a 2-0 win over Cleveland. That puts Oakland nine games under .500, 41-50, with 71 games left in the schedule.

There will be 15 days left before the trade deadline when the A’s reconvene in Oakland Friday for a workout and a game against the Minnesota Twins.

The question that will dominate conversations about the Oakland crew in that two-week stretch to July 31 is whether A’s general manager Billy Beane should more or less stand pat with the roster he has or if a white flag has to be raised over the 2015 season.

Right now, it’s too soon to tell.

Houston is in a complete freefall, having lost six straight heading into the break and, if the Angels beat the Mariners later Sunday, the Astros will have lost their grip on first place.

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A’s to go with 4-man starting rotation to begin second half; Bassitt sent down, Otero up; Gray to start vs. Twins Friday

Sonny Gray will get the ball when the A's come back from the A;;-Star break Friday in Oakland against Minnesota.

Sonny Gray will get the ball when the A’s come back from the A;;-Star break Friday in Oakland against Minnesota.

The A’s will go with a four-man starting rotation to begin the second half of the season.

Thanks to having a day off Monday, July 20, the A’s are set to go with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and Kendall Graveman twice around before needing a fifth man to enter the picture.

When it does on July 25, the name you’ll see will almost certainly be that of Chris Bassitt, even though he was sent down Sunday to Triple-A Nashville. Bassitt is scheduled to pitch July 19 for Nashville and would be fully rested should the A’s call his name.

There remains a remote chance that Jesse Hahn, on the disabled list with right forearm tightness, could be ready, but Oakland isn’t counting on that. He’s in the middle of taking two weeks off from throwing to rest his right arm before moving back onto the field.

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Holy Toledo! A’s Bassitt king for a day in Cleveland

Chris Bassitt, from Toledo, was basically pitching at home in Cleveland Saturday. He didn't get the win, but it was a good night.

Chris Bassitt, from Toledo, was basically pitching at home in Cleveland Saturday. He didn’t get the win, but it was a good night.

The second-largest crowd of the season was in Progressive Field Saturday to watch the A’s and the Indians and some post-game fireworks.

Through it all, one voice stood out for Oakland starting pitcher Chris Bassitt. He estimated that he had 50-75 family and friends from Toledo in the crowd.

“I could hear my mom (Dawn),’’ Bassitt said. “I don’t know why. Everyone else was just noise.’’

Bassitt is making some noise of his own. He’s made three starts in the last two weeks as a fill-in for injured pitchers, subbing for Jesse Hahn Saturday night after back-to-back starts when Sonny Gray wasn’t able to pitch.

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The left side of A’s bullpen may be rounding into form

Eric O'Flaherty is pitching his best baseball of the season right now, according to A's manager Bob Melvin.

Eric O’Flaherty is pitching his best baseball of the season right now, according to A’s manager Bob Melvin.

There are indications that the left side of the A’s bullpen may be getting it together just a little.

In his last six games, Eric O’Flaherty has a 1.93 ERA. In his last six games, Fernando Abad has a 1.69 ERA. And despite the two walks and two-run single he has allowed Friday, in his last nine games, Drew Pomeranz has an ERA of 0.69.

The teams the A’s have faced on this trip, the Yankees and the Indians, are two of the teams in the American League with particular left-handed offensive depth.

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Graveman’s competitive side sits well with A’s

Kendall Graveman has impressed A's with his competitive nature.

Kendall Graveman has impressed A’s with his competitive nature.

Kendall Graveman doesn’t bring a 98-mph fastball to the pitching mound, but the A’s starter seems to have something just about as valuable – the desire never to back down.

That showed in the fourth inning Friday when he walked Michael Bourn, the Indians’ No. 9 hitter, rather than throw a pitch over the middle of the plate.

The next man up for Cleveland was the Tribe’s only All-Star, Jason Kipnis, but that didn’t seem to faze Graveman.

“I knew I had a base open. I’m not going to give in,’’ Graveman said. “I’d been throwing the ball well against Kipnis. “And at 3-2, if we throw something down and he doesn’t swing, so what?

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