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Clippard favored to close for A’s, but nothing is settled

Tyler Clippard remains likeliest candidate to start season as A's closer

Tyler Clippard remains likeliest candidate to start season as A’s closer

Tyler Clippard thought he’d dodged a bullet when he started talking contract with the Washington Nationals last month, so it came as a bit of a shock for him to learn he’d been traded to the A’s on Jan. 14

`I kind of thought I was out of the woods,’’ Clippard said after reporting to the A’s with the rest of the pitchers and catchers at the extensively remodeled Hohokam Stadium Thursday morning. “Our arbitration date was three days away and we were talking about contracts.’’

The surprise came in the form or Yunel Escobar. Oakland had picked up the shortstop along with Ben Zobrist four days earlier from Tampa Bay in a deal that sent John Jaso to the Rays.

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It’s time to tour the new Mesa facilities: the weight room

The countdown to the start of pitchers and catchers reporting to the A’s new spring training camp can be measured in hours now instead of days.

So we thought you might like to see what the new Hohokam Stadium looks like from the inside – from places you’d never likely see without signing a contract.

Along the way, there’s some audio narration, more proof that I should stick to the keyboard rather than the microphone. Bear with me on that.

Next up: The weight room

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It’s time to tour the new Mesa facilities: Hokokam clubhouse

The countdown to the start of pitchers and catchers reporting to the A’s new spring training camp can be measured in hours now instead of days.

So we thought you might like to see what the new Hohokam Stadium looks like from the inside – from places you’d never likely see without signing a contract.

Along the way, there’s some audio narration, more proof that I should stick to the keyboard rather than the microphone. Bear with me on that.

Before we start, though, how about a few words from those who will be working there?

“It’s first class all the way,’’ catcher Stephen Vogt said. “They’ve done a great job there.’’

Equipment manager Steve Vucinich and his staff have spent weeks figuring out what goes where. It’s just about all in place, although workmen are still putting the finishing touches on the outside of the stadium.

“It’s a huge step up,’’ Vucinich said.

First: The clubhouse.

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Pitching guru has great expectations for Zito’s return to A’s

Barry Zito's winter spent with pitching guru Ron Wolforth has resulted in an invitation to A's spring training camp.

Barry Zito’s winter spent with pitching guru Ron Wolforth has resulted in an invitation to A’s spring training camp.

Ron Wolforth won’t throw an inning in the big leagues this year, but he could have a huge impact on the A’s starting rotation.

It was Wolforth, something of a pitching guru working out of Houston, who resuscitated Scott Kazmir’s career a couple of years back. Kazmir, a 15-game winner and an All-Star last year, is the No. 2 man in the Oakland rotation behind Sonny Gray.

And Monday came the news that another Wolforth reclamation case, Barry Zito, has signed with the A’s. Zito will be on a minor league contract, but if the left-hander does as well as Wolforth seems to believe he will, the one-time Cy Young Award winner could easily fit into the A’s rotation.

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Parker loses in arbitration; Clippard only unsettled case

Jarrod Parker lost in salary arbitration Saturday and will earn $850,000 this season.

Jarrod Parker lost in salary arbitration Saturday and will earn $850,000 this season.

The A’s have just one salary arbitration case remaining in front of them after Oakland won its case with right-handed starter Jarrod Parker Saturday.

Tyler Clippard, acquired from the Washington Nationals in exchange for shortstop Yunel Escobar on Jan 14, is seeking $8.85 million while the A’s are offering $7.775 million.

Parker will earn $850,000 instead of his requested $1.7 million after having missed all of 2014 following a second Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in his right arm.

Parker, 26, is expected to be healthy enough to rejoin the A’s deep into the season as he comes back from surgery. He was 12-8 with a 3.97 ERA in 2013 and came to camp in 2014 as one of Oakland’s five starters, but he needed mid-March surgery.

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Crisp’s goal is to stay in the A’s lineup more in 2015

Coco Crisp will try and rein in his aggressive tendency this season in an effort to stay healthy.

Coco Crisp will try and rein in his aggressive tendency this season in an effort to stay healthy.

Coco Crisp is going to try to take it a little bit easier in 2015 as the A’s center fielder and leadoff hitter.

Crisp can’t imagine not playing hard. His all-out style of play is what defines him.

After a year in which collisions with outfield walls led to neck pain and a dropoff in productivity, Crisp tells me it’s important to be on the field more this season, and if that means easing off the accelerator a little, so be it.

“I’m going to try and rein in my aggressive game,’’ Crisp said. The outfielder, who will be with his new (and some of his old) teammates at the Coliseum and Arena Sunday for the A’s annual FanFest, doesn’t like to talk about health issues. After a long off-season of rehab to get his neck problems under control, however, he waived that prerogative and opened up on the subject.

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Vogt still sore after foot surgery but feeling good once again

A's catcher Stephen Vogt has been cleared to run after spending 9.5 weeks in a surgical boot following foot surgery.

A’s catcher Stephen Vogt has been cleared to run after spending 9.5 weeks in a surgical boot following foot surgery.

Stephen Vogt has sore feet, but the A’s catcher isn’t complaining.

He spent 9½ weeks in a boot following surgery on his right foot Oct. 14, and the soreness is just a matter of getting acclimated to not having his foot encased in a boot for all that time.

His surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Jung, cleared him to start running last week and Vogt says he expects to be good to go when spring training starts in Mesa, Ariz. in a month’s time.

“There is soreness, but there is no pain, so that’s a huge improvement for me,’’ Vogt said. “I played in pain for the last three months of the year, and that’s gone. So even with the soreness, I’m feeling good physically.

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Cuba’s Olivera could be a solid fit for new-look A’s infield

Hector Olivera, at the plate in 2010 for Team Cuba, could be a good fit for A's.

Hector Olivera, at the plate in 2010 for Team Cuba, could be a good fit for A’s.

In the aftermath of the A’s season-ending loss to the Royals in Kansas City, I mentioned that in looking forward, Oakland might want to take a close look at Cuban free agent second baseman Hector Olivera.

A dozen weeks later, with the calendar ready to morph from 2014 to 2015, it’s time to revisit that hypothesis and expand on it.

The A’s have made wholesale changes and will have an almost entirely different infield going forward than the one that served them the last three seasons or so. The exception is at second base, where Eric Sogard, a good defender coming off a miserable offensive season, returns.

That’s if the roster doesn’t have any more turnover. However, the A’s have both a history of post-Christmas trades and money to address deficiencies thanks to their three-month spree in which the Oakland roster has gotten both younger and less expensive.

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A’s likely not done dealing after Norris exits for two arms

The trade of Derek Norris brings two good arms into the A's camp and leaves open more possible moves.

The trade of Derek Norris brings two good arms into the A’s camp and leaves open more possible moves.

You have to wonder what’s next for the A’s.

Billy Beane & Co. have spent the last six weeks stocking up on young talent, most of it pitching, including right-handed starter Jesse Hahn and right-handed reliever J.R. Alvarez who are the newest additions with Derek Norris having been traded to the Padres Thursday night.

Already five of the seven players the A’s had at the All-Star Game this season are off the roster, and as Norris told me Thursday night, it seems like the A’s “are looking to rebuild’’ heading into 2015.

Norris may be right about that, but it seems more than a little possible that Beane is loading up for one big swing between now and the start of spring training. With Matt Kemp off the block now, the biggest bats known to be available are outfielder Justin Upton of the Braves and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies.

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De La Rosa gives A’s added bullpen depth from the left side

It was a small move the A’s made Thursday, if only because the newest left-hander in the bullpen is Eury De La Rosa, all 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds of him.

The Dominican product isn’t overpowering with a low- to mid-90-mph fastball, but he has a nasty slider that right-handed hitters find particularly difficult. And despite his mid-range velocity and small stature, he has 48 strikeouts in 51.1 innings in parts of the last two seasons pitching with Arizona.

The 24-year-old has shown decent control (19 walks) in those 51 big league innings, but as a minor leaguer his control was above average (17 walks in 63.1 innings) at Double-A in 2012.

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