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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.

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Bassitt hasn’t won a game, but he’s won a job with A’s

Chris Bassitt has kept the A's in start after start, but A's have yet to reward him with a win.

Chris Bassitt has kept the A’s in start after start, but A’s have yet to reward him with a win.

There will be a time when Chris Bassitt gets his first win while wearing an A’s uniform.

It should have happened already, as well as Bassitt has pitched. But Thursday night was another game when Bassitt couldn’t make any mistakes because his offense wasn’t going to help him out.

Carlos Santana crushed him for a two-run homer in the first, a ball that Bassitt and catcher Stephen Vogt wanted on the inner half of the plate. It drifted over the middle “and Santana made me pay,’’ Bassitt said.

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Doolittle feeling strongest yet after BP session Thursday; getting into a game before 2015 is over at top of his list

Sean Doolittle is feeling at the top of his game and hopes to show it before the year is out.

Sean Doolittle is feeling at the top of his game and hopes to show it before the year is out.

Sean Doolittle hasn’t enjoyed anything baseball-wise in the last few months as throwing a 26-pitch bullpen before Thursday’s game with the Indians.

The A’s left-handed closer, who has been limited to one game this season between dueling bouts of shoulder pain, took to the bullpen mound down the left field line in the Coliseum.

“I threw everything I have,’’ Doolittle said. “Fastball, slider, changeup. And it felt good. For the majority of it I was throwing about 90 percent, but for the last handful I threw as hard as I possibly could, just to see how my body would feel tomorrow.’’

Manager Bob Melvin said this was the best he’d seen Doolittle throw, better even than when he’d been activated briefly in May.

“The ball had a lot more whip,’’ Melvin said. “His arm was further way from his body. Before I think he was cautious about letting the ball go.

There’s not much that can save Doolittle’s season, but if he could get back on a mound for a game or two, or even more, that would mean he would be able to head into the off-season knowing that he’d been in a game and had competed.

“That’s the goal,’’ Doolittle said. “It would be great to get out there again.’’

Bob Melvin isn’t going to get Doolittle for all that much time, so what the left-hander does statistically isn’t all that important. But the manager said getting past that mental hump of just competing will be important heading to next year.

“`Pitching some this year is psychologically important for him,’’ Melvin said. “It’s one thing to throw in the bullpen. It’s another to get out there and compete.’’

 

–As currently constituted, the A’s don’t really have backups for shortstop Marcus Semien and second baseman Eric Sogard, but that could change in the near future.

Tyler Ladendorf began the season in Oakland, got sent down to Triple-A Nashville and almost immediately suffered a left ankle injury. He needed surgery and only recently has been getting some at-bats in Arizona on a rehab assignment.

Ladendorf is a shortstop/second baseman by trade, and he would give the A’s some depth at the position. He made an impression in spring training and likely would have been with the A’s for a sizable chunk of the season had he not suffered the ankle injury.

 

–Outfielder Jake Smolinski was an infielder in high school and got in some games at second base and third base early in his minor league career, but he’s always been seen as an outfielder.

That perception changed a little Thursday. Coach Ron Washington suggested it was time for Smolinski to take some grounders at first base. Smolinski agreed and went through a grueling 40-minute workout before the A’s came out for batting practice.

“Like everybody, I played infield in high school,’’ Smolinski said. “After I got drafted they moved me to the outfield and I’ve been mostly playing there ever since.

“When Wash came to ask me about first base, I was all for it. Being more versatile will help the team, and it will help me.’’

 

NOTES:

–Thursday was supposed to be Brandon Moss’s return to the Coliseum, but the Indians traded the former A’s first baseman/outfielder to the St. Louis Cardinals early in the day and he never made it to Oakland.

–Coco Crisp was due to play a full nine-inning game Thursday with Class-A Stockton as part of his injury rehab assignment. He’s scheduled for two more games testing his neck, after which he may be ready to be activated for the first time since May.

–Pat Venditte flew Thursday to join the Nashville Sounds. He’ll pitch for them Friday and Saturday, and could be activated if his right shoulder continues to be sound.

–The three runs Chris Bassitt allowed in the first inning Thursday was more than he’d allowed in any of his previous four starts.

 

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For one night, anyway, A’s bullpen up to its old tricks

Fernando Rodriguez was one strike away from preserving a 6-3 lead, but he never got it Wednesday.

Fernando Rodriguez was one strike away from preserving a 6-3 lead, but he never got it Wednesday.

Any thoughts that the A’s had put their bullpen troubles behind them were erased Wednesday night in Dodger Stadium.

Needing to get nine outs to secure a 6-3 win and get out of Dodger Stadium with a two-game series sweep, Oakland’s bullpen instead gave up seven runs in the last two innings. Manager Bob Melvin went through four of his relievers in those two innings and they combined to be scorched for seven hits and two walks.

The two walks both came from the first reliever, Fernando Rodriguez, and they turned the tide for Los Angeles.

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Even when closing, Mujica can’t get to bullpen fast enough

Edward Mujica plans on changing nothing now that he's been tasked with being the A's closer.

Edward Mujica plans on changing nothing now that he’s been tasked with being the A’s closer.

The closer is a heralded position on any baseball club.

While most relievers are in the bullpen to begin the game, there are relievers who don’t like to jump the gun. When he was closing for the A’s, Dennis Eckersley would spend the first six innings in the dugout or clubhouse.

The A’s new closer, Edward Mujica, will have none of that. He’s the man now that Tyler Clippard has been traded, but he is not about to change the way he approaches the game.

“I’ll get to the pen right away to start the game,’’ Mujica said. “I know some guys go out there late, but this is how I’ve always done it, whether I was closing or not.’’

Mujica has just one full season as a closer, but it was a season to write home about. He had 37 saves as the main man for the Cardinals in 2013, helping take St. Louis to the World Series. Before that he’d been a setup man, and he’d had success by not changing his game.

So it’s his plan to do the same now. He’ll do the same pregame work, and he’s still go fastball, slider and curve, with more than a little help from his catcher.

“When I’m in the bullpen, the catcher is in there for every pitch, he knows what all their hitters are doing,’’ Mujica said. “I’ll always follow the catcher’s lead when they’ve been out there for the full game.’’

 

NOTES

–Coco Crisp got the night of Wednesday with Class-A Stockton after having a 3-for-4 night with two homers and three RBIs as a DH for the Ports Tuesday. A’s manager Bob Melvin has long marveled at how once Crisp gets close to being ready, his game revs up, and there’s hope that’s what’s happening now. Crisp, out for all but 13 games with elbow and neck injuries, could be back with Oakland sometime late this week, or early next.

–Closer Sean Doolittle, limited to one game this year by shoulder issues, has been playing catch without any pain, so he’s going to step it up some Thursday, throwing from a mound for the first time before the A’s-Indians game.

–Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (right shoulder) has cleared all hurdles on his rehab assignment but for pitching in back-to-back games. He’s down to do that Friday and Saturday with Triple-A Nashville, after which he’s hoping he’ll be cleared to be activated from the disabled list.

–Josh Reddick had five hits in his first six at-bats in the Dodgers series, including a couple of doubles and a solo homer.

–Billy Burns’ opened the game with an infield single, his 26th of the season. That ranks second in the big leagues.

 

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Reddick never felt in his heart that he would be traded

Josh Reddick never believed he would be traded, and he's been right about that to this point.

Josh Reddick never believed he would be traded, and he’s been right about that to this point.

The biggest of the A’s names not to get traded and not named Sonny Gray didn’t think there was much of chance he would be dealt.

Josh Reddick celebrated remaining with the A’s Tuesday with a double, single and homer in his first three at-bats against Brett Anderson. A former teammate, Anderson is a left-hander against whom Reddick might not have started if Ben Zobrist hadn’t been traded earlier in the day.

“It was special for me,’’ Reddick said of getting a chance to face Anderson. “I haven’t really had that opportunity. And it seems like it’s going to be that way with the trades that have happened.’’

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