Beane has choices to make to get A’s back on track

Billy Beane's 2015 team is headed for the worst finish under his direction, so changes will have to be made.

Billy Beane’s 2015 team is headed for the worst finish under his direction, so changes will have to be made.

For the first time under Billy Beane’s watch, an A’s team is 20 games under .500.

No Oakland team has won fewer than 74 games during Beane’s tenure as the A’s general manager, which began after the 1997 season. The A’s are 58-78 with 26 games left in the season.

For the A’s to get to 74 wins from where they are now, they’d have to go 16-10 the rest of the way. It’s not impossible, but the A’s haven’t had a stretch that good all season.

This isn’t the way Beane and his lieutenants mapped things out last winter. He couldn’t have known all the injuries that would come Oakland’s way, but he takes pride in the depth his teams tend to have.

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Nolin to step in for A’s after time spent learning from Zito

Lefty Sean Nolin has waited a long time, but he gets his first start with A's Sunday vs. Mariners.

Lefty Sean Nolin has waited a long time, but he gets his first start with A’s Sunday vs. Mariners.

Sean Nolin never thought his debut with the A’s would take this long, but finally the left-hander is due to start against Seattle Sunday.

He missed most of spring training while recovering from sports hernia surgery, didn’t get off the disabled list until mid-May, and has slowly been building up strength and stamina to the point where the A’s are hopeful they will see 90 pitches out of him in his debut.

“It’s definitely been a struggle,’’ Nolin said. “I had the surgery so late. It’s definitely been a long year getting everything corrected. But it’s been better in the last month. If I’m not 100 percent, I’m 95 percent. I’m right there.

Nolin, acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade with Toronto, had some mid-season shoulder tightness that landed him on the disabled list a second time, but he said his shoulder was just sore for a bit, and that the time off gave him time to get his leg strength back.

Along the way he had the time to watch fellow lefty Barry Zito pitch at Nashville. When he wasn’t doing that, Nolin sat and picked Zito’s brain, gleaning all that he could from the mind of the 2002 Cy Young Award winner.

Nolin’s curve and changeup are better, in large part because of the time he’s spent with Zito. He’s said he’s always had a slow curve, but now it’s picked up break and velocity.

“Awesome to have him around,’’ he said. “All through middle school I’d watch him on ESPN every morning before school, so that was a treat. He’s a down-to-earth guy for his status. He’s helped with the baseball life, how to act, too, stuff like that.’’


–Catcher Stephen Vogt was scratched just before the start of Friday’s game, but he delivered a pinch-hit single in the seventh and caught the last two innings, throwing out a runner trying to steal second.

Not bad for someone with an aching elbow.

“BP didn’t go well,’’ Vogt said for being scratched. He was willing to play, but manager Bob Melvin decided that it was better to give him a start off with the A’s down to face right-handed pitching the next three days.

Vogt said Saturday he’s feeling good to go, and the A’s can use him. He comes into Saturday with nine hits in his last 15 at-bats, a .600 average.



–Sean Doolittle has pitched hitless, scoreless baseball his last two outings, and manager Bob Melvin says the left-hander could be back in the mix for closer, a job that has belonged of late to lefty Drew Pomeranz. The manager said he’d be willing to use Doolittle, on the DL for all but one game until two weeks ago, on back-to-back days, but doesn’t think he’s ready for three games in succession.

–Rookie Ryan Dull is working his way into consideration for the ninth inning, too, Melvin said. Dull went through the Angels’ Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on Wednesday, then the Mariners’ Robinson Cano, Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo Friday. “He’s got a nice mix of pitches, he spots the ball well and he looks like he belongs out there,’’ Melvin said. “He’s making a name for himself.’’

–The A’s say first baseman Ike Davis won’t be back in the A’s clubhouse this season. He’s at home in Arizona doing rehab work after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.

–Manager Bob Melvin said Sam Fuld (back) is getting closer to playing and could be back on the field sometime during the Astros’ series that starts Monday.



Valencia says he’s not out to prove anything with A’s

Third baseman Danny Valencia is finding a home in the middle of the A's lineup.

Third baseman Danny Valencia is finding a home in the middle of the A’s lineup.

Danny Valencia has been in the middle of the A’s lineup for a month now, and he’s never really stopped hitting.

The third baseman put together a six-game hitting streak in his first six games, went hitless for a day, then hit in another four games in succession. He went without for a couple of games, but he’s hit safely in his last nine games.

More than that, he’s been a run producer. With his first-inning grand slam Friday, Valencia has driven in 22 runs in his first 22 games in green-and-gold.

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Semien survives one of hardest-hit balls seen this year

Marcus Semien caught a break when Albert Pujols' 109-mph liner deflected off his glove Wednesday.

Marcus Semien caught a break when Albert Pujols’ 109-mph liner deflected off his glove Wednesday.

Albert Pujols won’t soon forget one of his hits from Wednesday’s game with the A’s, and it’s not the Angels’ slugger’s two-run homer off Sonny Gray in the second inning.

Instead it’s the first-inning single Pujols lined directly at the face of A’s shortstop Marcus Semien. The ball came off Pujols’ bat at 109.61 mph according to Statcast, harder than any baseball ever thrown by Nolan Ryan … or anybody else.

It was headed directly at Semien’s head, and it was part quick reaction time and part luck that Semien wasn’t hit in the face.

“I swear I closed my eyes, because I thought that ball hit him in the head,’’ Pujols said after the game, recalling the scary moment. “When I saw that ball bounce, I closed my eyes. I didn’t think it got his glove. That’s probably one of the hardest balls I’ve hit.’’

It was about as hard a ball as Semien, the A’s first-year shortstop, has ever seen.

“(Yoenis) Cespedes hit one about as hard as that right at me,’’ Semien said. “But this one was right at my face.’’

Semien’s reactions were such that he got his glove up to catch the ball only to find that the ball had some sideways movement on it.

“That ball was coming in straight, and then it broke to his right,’’ infield coach Ron Washington said. “That ball was just crushed. I’m only glad that Marcus had the reactions to get his glove there.’’

Semien himself came out of it unharmed but disappointed that he hadn’t made the play. It would have been the first out of what turned out to be a four-run Angels’ inning.

“The thing about Pujols is that his ball is hard to read because his swing is so flat,’’ Semien said. “The ball can move like that one did. But I’ve got to learn to make that play, because we really needed that out, no matter how hard it was hit.’’


–Left-hander Sean Nolin, one of the arms picked up in the Josh Donaldson trade with Toronto over the winter, was promoted from Triple-A Nashville Friday and will start Sunday’s series finale with the Mariners.

Nolin will fill the rotation spot of the recently demoted Cody Martin, who started and lost against the Angels Tuesday.  The A’s have hopes that Chris Bassitt will return to the rotation, but he’s recovering from some right lat discomfort and isn’t ready to throw.

Because Nolin missed all of spring training after recovering from sports hernia surgery, A’s manager Bob Melvin hasn’t seen him enough to know exactly what to expect. Nolin made 12 starts and a pair of relief appearances with Triple-A Nashville, going 2-2 with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

He throws in the low 90-mph range and isn’t a pure power pitcher, relying on command of the strike zone to attack hitters.

“He was a big part of that trade,’’ the manager said, indicating health was the only reason Nolin hasn’t made it to Oakland until now.

With Nolin pitching Sunday, left Felix Doubront has been pushed back to Monday, when he will face the Astros.



–Stephen Vogt was in the original starting lineup, but had to be scratched because of a sore right elbow. Instead, Tyler Ladendorf went into left field and Mark Canha moved from left to first base.

–Outfielders Sam Fuld and Coco Crisp were on the bench again Friday. Melvin said Fuld (back) is still not ready to play but Crisp (neck) was available for late-inning duty, although not quite ready for a full nine-inning game.

–Bassitt hasn’t resumed throwing yet, Melvin said. The club says his shoulder is structurally sound, but they are “going to be pretty careful with it,’’ he said.

–Disabled starting pitcher Jarrod Parker, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2013’s Tommy John surgery, hasn’t started throwing yet, but Melvin said he is getting close to doing so.

–When Nolin starts Sunday, he will be the 28th man to pitch for the A’s this season. That will be a new Oakland record and will tie the franchise record set in Philadelphia (1915) and matched in Kansas City (1955).



Scribner gets the bad news that he’s done for the season

Evan Scribner's hopes to finish season strong for the A's have been dashed by news that he has a torn lat muscle and won't pitch again in 2015

Evan Scribner’s hopes to finish season strong for the A’s have been dashed by news that he has a torn lat muscle and won’t pitch again in 2015

Evan Scribner’s confidence that he’d gotten out of Monday’s game before doing serious injury to his lat muscle turned out to be misplaced.

The A’s announced Wednesday the right-handed reliever had torn the lat, technically known as a latissimus dorsi, and won’t pitch again this season.

Scribner, who lost three months to a similar injury while with the Padres in 2011, took the news hard.

“I really wanted to finish the season strong,’’ he said. “I’ve never had a full season in the big leagues, and I was hoping this would be the one.’’

Instead, he gets to rest and rehabilitate his right shoulder and prepare for the 2016 season. Manager Bob Melvin said it was his understanding that Scribner will be good to go come spring training.

“The good thing is that if it is three months, I should be able to go through my regular winter routine,’’ Scribner said.

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Semien’s dive and glove flip shows the progress he’s making

Marcus Semien's ever-improving defense is a bright spot for the A's in the second half of 2015.

Marcus Semien’s ever-improving defense is a bright spot for the A’s in the second half of 2015.

For the night, it wound up not meaning much.

But Marcus Semien’s ability to start a double play in the fourth inning suggested that whatever else is happening with the A’s, he is continuing to make progress on his defense.

The Angels had a 4-1 lead with no one out in the fourth and runners at the corner. Reliever Arnold Leon, just up from Triple-A Nashville, had just entered the game. He immediately induced a grounder up the middle from second baseman Taylor Featherston.

The grounder could have been an RBI single. Instead, Semien did an all-out dive to his left, snaring the ball. There was no time to get the ball into his throwing hand, so he flipped his left wrist up, opened his glove and floated the ball to Eric Sogard.

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Diminutive Dull most unlikely of promoted A’s to be here; Pridie and Ladendorf could give lineup some options

Tyler Ladendorf missed most of the season with an ankle injury, but he's up with A's now as rosters expand from 25 to 40

Tyler Ladendorf missed most of the season with an ankle injury, but he’s up with A’s now as rosters expand from 25 to 40

Outfielder Jason Pridie remembers the first time he met right-handed reliever Ryan Dull in the clubhouse of the Nashville Sounds just over a month ago.

“I looked at him and thought he was the batboy,’’ Pridie said. Pridie and Dull were among eight players called up by the A’s Tuesday. Pridie was in the starting lineup and another callup, Cody Martin, was the starting pitcher. Dull was in the bullpen, waiting for a chance to throw.

Dull, the A’s 32nd-round pick in the 2012 draft, is in the big league despite look at least half a dozen years younger than his given age of 25. Manager Bob Melvin said one look at his minor league stats (a 3-2 record, 12 saves and an 074 ERA in 47 games split between Double-A and Triple-A) and “you’d think is 6-3 and 230. But he’s not.’’

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A’s use roster expansion to bolster an overworked bullpen

Dan Otero is one of four relievers called up by the A's, who promoted eight players in all with rosters expanded.

Dan Otero is one of four relievers called up by the A’s, who promoted eight players in all with rosters expanded.

The A’s used the Sept. 1 expansion of roster limits mostly to augment the bullpen, four of the eight players promoted being right-handed relievers – R.J. Alvarez, Arnold Leon, Dan Otero and Ryan Dull.

Also called up one other right-handed pitcher, Cody Martin, who will be Tuesday’s starting pitcher against the Angels.

The A’s added one catcher, Carson Blair, one infielder, Tyler Ladendorf, and one outfielder, Jason Pridie.

To clear space on the 40-man roster for Blair and Dull, who weren’t on the 40, the A’s moved pitchers A.J. Griffin and Jesse Hahn on the 60-day disabled list, which doesn’t count against the 40-man roster, and Angel Castro was outrighted to Nashville.

Alvarez, Leon, Otero and Ladendorf have been with the A’s earlier this year and Martin was in the big leagues with the Braves before being acquired by the A’s. Pridie has been in the big leagues with five different organizations. Dull and Blair are in the big leagues for the first time.

Blair began the season at Double-A Midland, spent the last two months at Nashville and has a combined .252 average with nine homers.

Dull, who also began the year at Midland, has raced through the minor leagues this year, combining for a 3-2 record, 12 saves and a 0.74 ERA.

Pridie, a 31-year-old lefty, was hitting .310 with 20 home runs and 89 RBI, owning a .380 on-base percentage and 20 steals. He has been in the big leagues with the Twins, Mets, Phillies, Orioles and Rockies.



Canha has evolved from role player to mainstay for A’s

Mark Canha, being congratulated after Monday's three=run sixth inning homer, has become key figure in A's offense.

Mark Canha, being congratulated after Monday’s three-run sixth inning homer, has become key figure in A’s offense.

Coming into August, Mark Canha was an outfielder who could play some first base, a rookie who was playing about two-thirds of the time and having a decent first season in the big leagues.

Coming into September, Canha is the A’s first baseman. Period. He’s started there for 18 consecutive games, including Monday, when he hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning and added a sacrifice fly in the eighth for some insurance as the A’s beat the Angels 11-5.

That’s lots of progress for a Rule 5 pickup who had to fight just to make the roster and who, under the provisions of Rule 5, would have had to go back to Miami if the A’s couldn’t find a way to keep him on the big league roster all year.

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Martin steps in for Bassitt, who has shoulder issues

Chris Bassitt has been scratched from Tuesday start because of shoulder pain. Cody Martin starts instead.

Chris Bassitt has been scratched from Tuesday start because of shoulder pain. Cody Martin starts instead.

The A’s long season of starting pitchers succumbing to injury continued unabated Monday when the A’s said that scheduled Tuesday starter Chris Bassitt would be replaced by Cody Martin.

The A’s acquired Martin on July 2, sending cash and an international draft slot to the Atlanta Braves for him. The Northern California (Dos Palos) right-hander was 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA while pitching out of the Braves bullpen. He’s 4-7 with a 4.08 ERA at Triple-A this year in 17 games, 16 of them starts.

Bassitt was scheduled to have an MRI Monday night to deal with some shoulder soreness. It’s not clear how long the injury will keep Bassitt sidelined.

The A’s have had two starting pitchers, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, on the disabled list all season. In addition, Oakland starters Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Sean Nolin and Taylor Thompson all have spent significant chunks of time on the disabled list this season.

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