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Cook still feeling good and strong despite Monday’s troubles

Ryan Cook has been rocked his last two times out, but he says that's ``just baseball'' and adds he's feeling good.

Ryan Cook has been rocked his last two times out, but he says that’s “just baseball” and adds he’s feeling good.

Monday was a tough day for Ryan Cook.

He faced seven hitters and got one of them out. Trying to protect a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning in Glendale against the Dodgers, he gave up four hits, walked one and hit a batter. One of the hits was a grand slam from Los Angeles’s Darnell Sweeney.

All in all, not a great day.

Spring training can be forgiving however. Much more so than the regular season.

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Graveman continuing to win over A’s with his pitching

Craig Gentry has seen more than his share of promising young pitching in his half decade in the big leagues. What he sees in A’s rookie Kendall Graveman is at a higher level.

“I’ve been so impressed with what he’s been able to do this spring,’’ Gentry said after Graveman pitched 4.2 scoreless innings Monday in the A’s 10-5 loss to the Dodgers. “I’m so fortunate to be in center field where I can see him spot all of his pitches. He’s that good.’’

Graveman was fortunate to have Gentry in center field Monday, particularly in the fourth inning when the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez hit a bomb to dead center. It seemed like a sure double, but Gentry ran it down.

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New Commissioner Manfred sees Coliseum as local issue

New Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he didn’t get a question from the A’s players or staff about the state of the Oakland Coliseum when he met with them Monday morning in Hohokam Stadium.

The question was brought up by the media subsequently, however, and Manfred said it was an important issue but didn’t have much of substance to say about it.

Manfred did say that he would not go the route of former commissioner Bud Selig with his infamous “blue ribbon committee,’’ approach to dealing with the problems of the half-century old facility on the Nimitz Freeway.

And he said that after labor issues and time of game issues, getting the A’s settled long term in a new facility was at the top of his list, “in the top five,’’ he said.

He declined to talk about San Jose as a possibility for the club, saying the issue is “under ongoing litigation,’’ and seemed unlikely to use the best interests of baseball powers with comes with his office to deal with the problems of the aging, rickety Coliseum.

“I’ve talked with Lew (A’s owner Lew Wolff). I’ve met with Lew and the Fishers (John Fisher holds about an 80 percent stake in the club),’’ Manfred said. “I’ve talked with the new mayor (Oakland’s Libby Schaaf).

“Stadium issues are fundamentally local issues. The owner has the feel of the pulse there. MLB’s job is to be supportive.’’

Asked about the tensions between the A’s and the Coliseum’s other tenant, the Raiders, he said “the two issues are separate.’’

There are plans that would have one team or the other develop the existing Coliseum land for a new facility, although nothing is firm.

Manfred went on to say that it’s “important for the A’s to get a resolution.’’

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Nolin finally healthy, but he’s not in rotation picture now

Lefty Sean Nolin is healthy again, but not in time to be a contender in A's starting rotation derby.

Lefty Sean Nolin is healthy again, but not in time to be a contender in A’s starting rotation derby.

Sean Nolin knew coming in that he probably wouldn’t be a strong competitor for the A’s rotation in April.

He had the numbers, including a 27-7 minor league record with a 3.06 ERA, but he didn’t have his health.

The left-hander said Monday that he knew he hadn’t fully recovered from a sports hernia surgery in the off-season.

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No surprise here: Gray to start opener against Rangers

Sonny Gray will start opener for the A's April 6, his second consecutive opening day start.

Sonny Gray will start opener for the A’s April 6, his second consecutive opening day start.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Sonny Gray will be the A’s opening day starting pitcher.

Gray will be the first man to start consecutive opening days for Oakland in a decade, and it says something strong about the 25-year-old that he’s being according the honor.

“He’s made for this,’’ manager bob Melvin said in making the announcement Monday morning, shortly after making it official with Gray. “He’s talented and a real competitor. He loves the spotlight.’’

The A’s first-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2011, Gray made it to the big leagues in the middle of the 2012 season, going 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA. More significantly, the A’s saw enough from him that he was given the start in Game 5 of the American League Division Series over 18-game winner Bartolo Colon.

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Burns tearing up Cactus League in bid to make A’s roster

Billy Burns is hitting .441 this spring as the switch-hitter bids to buck the odds and make the A's roster.

Billy Burns is hitting .441 this spring as the switch-hitter bids to buck the odds and make the A’s roster.

One way to beat the odds is to beat up opposing pitchers, and A’s outfielder Billy Burns is doing just that.

He had two more hits and a sacrifice fly Sunday in the A’s 5-2 win over the Brewers in Maryvale Park. That leaves him with a .441 batting average and a team-best 10 runs scored.

The starting outfield is filled with Coco Crisp in left, Josh Reddick, assuming he’s healthy by opening day, in right and Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry splitting time in center field.

Should the A’s need a fifth outfielder, they’d likely go to Mark Canha, who is a Rule 5 player who will have to be offered back to the Marlin if Oakland doesn’t keep him on the 25-man roster all season.

Against that Burns has just been at ease. The switch-hitter lead the club in games played, at-bats, hits (15) and batting average. And Burns, who converted to switch-hitting only after turning pro four years ago, is being noticed.

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Early exit from roster for Leon a tough one for Melvin

The need for a slew of arms behind them with back-to-back split-squad games Friday and Saturday over, the A’s made their first roster cuts of the spring Sunday morning, sending out five players, all pitchers.

Right-hander Arnold Leon, who was up briefly with the A’s in 2014 but didn’t pitch, was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Right-hander Raul Alcantara, recovering from Tommy John surgery, was optioned to Double-A Midland. And right-hander Angel Castro and lefties Jim Fuller and Rudy Owens were reassigned to minor league camp.

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Looking forward, Reddick points toward Bay Bridge Series

His swing will last test of Josh Reddick's injured right oblique; Bay Bridge Series may be the testing grounds.

His swing will last test of Josh Reddick’s injured right oblique; Bay Bridge Series may be the testing grounds.

No one is looking forward more to Oakland and San Francisco returning to Northern California than Josh Reddick.

When the A’s and Giants, who met Saturday in Mesa in a Cactus League game, head north for the Bay Bridge Series April 2-4 that signals the imminent start of the regular season, Reddick could be playing for a spot on the A’s opening night roster.

Reddick came down with a right oblique strain after his first spring game, and with it came the prognosis of 4-to-6 weeks needed to return to health. Reddick did stretching with the A’s early in the day and then made some throws from 60 feet, his first throwing since being sidelined.

He hasn’t been given a time to start to swing a bat yet, and that will determine if he can make it back. If not, he likely starts the season on the disabled list.

“It felt good today, but being able to swing will be the real test,’’ Reddick said. “I know the timetable, but I’m hoping to be back in there for the opener (which will come about the 4½-week mark).

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Parker being cautious, but his arm continues to feel strong

Jarrod Parker is feeling good, even as he makes sure not to rush his comeback from a second Tommy John surgery.

Jarrod Parker is feeling good, even as he makes sure not to rush his comeback from a second Tommy John surgery.

This is the second time around Tommy John surgery for Jarrod Parker, so he knows enough to be cautious.

Even so, the A’s right-hander can’t help but feel optimistic about the way his spring has gone. He threw to live hitters Friday for the first time and his arm continues to be pain-free.

Parker isn’t down to join the A’s rotation until mid-season.

“It went really well,’’ Parker said. “Everything is good.’’

Having been down this road before with coming back from Tommy John surgery, however, he’s not prone to rush things, no matter how good his arm feels. He threw just 20 pitches against hitters. None of his live bullpens have seen him throw more than about 45 pitches.

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Billy Butler has a grand time with his ex-Royals mates, then makes them pay

Billy Butler mashes a two-run double against his old team, the Royals.

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Billy Butler admits he still feels the tug of the Kansas City blue, and the pull was particularly strong Friday when the A’s met the Royals for the first time in Cactus League play.

“I’ve got a lot of friends over there, and it doesn’t matter if you’re playing on the other side,” Butler said. “This game brings you together and bonds you, and what we accomplished last year, that stuff stays with you for life.”

Butler received a huge ovation from Royals fans when he came to bat with runners on first and third and one out in the first inning. He then gave A’s fans in attendance something to cheer about when he pulverized the second pitch he saw past fleet center fielder Lorenzo Cain for a two-run double.

“I told Cain I was going to burn him,” said Butler, who also had a fielding highlight at first base when he alertly tagged out Brett Eibner stepping inside the baseline toward second base following a single.

Butler spent time in the Kansas City clubhouse once the A’s arrived at the ballpark, even sitting on his old locker stool. The Royals also poked some fun at their former DH. Someone posted a bogus notice on an information board denoting “Billy Butler Tribute at 12:20.” Talkative outfielder Jarrod Dyson asked Butler if he’d like to step on a scale for old times’ sake.

“I think they would have mad if I didn’t go over to see them,” said Butler, who was lifted after two solid at-bats. “I had to let Dyson have his way with me for a little while.”

The A’s will visit Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City during the second week of the regular season and Butler believes that will be a lot more emotional.

“Spring training’s one thing, but in April when we go there, that’ll be the tough one,” he said. “I spent my whole career there. I did a lot of stuff in the community. Just being in the organization for so long, I have a lot of friends in the city that I’ve met. And it’ll just be weird going over to the other dugout.”
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