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Kazmir fights off moisture, calf cramps en route to 2nd win

Scott Kazmir survive a moist, sometimes slick mound at Minute Maid Park to beat the Astros 8-1 Monday.

Scott Kazmir survive a moist, sometimes slick mound at Minute Maid Park to beat the Astros 8-1 Monday.

Talk about a slippery slope.

Scott Kazmir was born in Houston, still lives in the area and yet was completely baffled by the pitching mounds at Minute Maid Park Monday night, likely a product of the mega-humid Houston weather.

“It started in the bullpen and was the same on the field,’’ Kazmir said. “The mounds felt wet. I don’t know why. But I had real trouble in the pen and in the first inning.’’

Bullpens generally are groomed and groomed and groomed again to get the right feel, a feel that includes no moisture. That made Monday more than a tad odd for the lefty starter.

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Astros’ Lowrie not particularly surprised not to be with A’s, but he loved his two `awesome’ years playing with Oakland

Shortstop Jed Lowrie has traded green-and-gold for Astros orange in 2015.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie has traded green-and-gold for Astros orange in 2015.

Jed Lowrie made no secret last October of his hope that the A’s would keep the core from the 2013-14 A’s together in Oakland.

Coming off three consecutive post-season appearances, the A’s did no such thing. Proof lies in Lawrie’s new job as the Astros shortstop. He got Monday night off after Houston played a 14-inning game Sunday, his sixth game in the season’s opening week.

“It’s not like I ever sat down with Billy Beane to talk about it,’’ Lawrie said. “So it’s not for me to say about what the A’s did. But it’s more than a little strange to look at them now, because they’ve had so much turnover.

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Trouble signs from the bullpen for a second straight day could portend a longer-term problem

I’d have to go back and check, but I don’t know that the A’s bullpen gave up two three-run homers all year in 2014. Maybe, probably, but back-to-back days like we saw Saturday and Sunday? Doubtful. And of the six home runs allowed by the pitching staff over the first seven games, five of them have been hit off the relief corps. That’s not good.

Of all the trouble signs that emerged over the weekend in two dispiriting extra-inning losses to the Seattle Mariners, the performance of the bullpen is perhaps the most disturbing.

“We’re better than that,” said manager Bob Melvin.

But are they? Think about it. The A’s are without their closer, Sean Doolittle, whose return from a shoulder injury is still sketchy. Before Sunday’s game, Melvin said he didn’t know when Doolittle would get on a mound, and he offered up late May as a guess-timate regarding his return, but he wasn’t really basing it on any hard and fast evidence. If there’s still a shoulder tear in there, even a small one, the A’s have to brace for the possibility that even if Doolittle does return on the late-May timetable, there will be a question if that shoulder can hold up.

Last year’s two primary set-up men, Luke Gregerson and Ryan Cook, aren’t here. Gregerson left via free agency and Cook is in the minors trying to figure out some serious mechanical issues.

Hence, everyone else is being pushed back into roles where they may not be quite as comfortable. Tyler Clippard, a very good setup man in Washington, is closing. Eric O’Flaherty and Dan Otero are pitching later in the game than they normally do, and in O’Flaherty’s case, even though he is in his second season following Tommy John surgery, he still isn’t showing the kind of explosive stuff he possessed that he had in Atlanta before the injury.

Fernando Abad, a situational lefty, is being asked to pitch to lefties and righties. Evan Scribner couldn’t make this bullpen a year ago, and R.J. Alvarez is a hard-throwing young guy who is just getting his feet wet as a major-leaguer. Jesse Chavez is the long guy, probably more suited to starting than relieving, but he may be pressed into seventh- and eighth-inning service if the problems continue.

So right now, it’s tough to say they’re “better than that.” Maybe better than what we’ve seen so far, but perhaps not good enough without Doolittle and an effective Cook.

The A’s had bullpen issues out of the gate last season, mostly with Jim Johnson, but Melvin and Co. were able to work around Johnson because of the depth of the pen. That depth isn’t there this year, nor is the experience or the quality. After a week, you have to give this group the benefit of the doubt that they can, as Clippard said, “clean some things up.”

We’ll learn more on this upcoming road trip, for sure.

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M’s break hitless streak against Abad to pull this one out

A's lefty Fernando Abad had a rare spot of trouble against lefty hitters in Saturday's 5-1, 11-inning loss.

A’s lefty Fernando Abad had a rare spot of trouble against lefty hitters in Saturday’s 5-1, 11-inning loss.

The A’s don’t often take Fernando Abad out of what they see as his comfort zone.

The left-handed reliever is the club’s situational lefty, as often as not brought into a game to face the opponent’s best left-handed hitter(s). As such, he doesn’t get extended much.

In 2014, he only pitched more than one inning in six of his 69 games.

The A’s were willing to throw away the book on Abad Saturday and have him pitch the 11th inning after he’d already thrown a scoreless 10th.

It made sense at the time. There were three left-handed hitters due up, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller. Not only did the A’s not have another lefty available to face those three, Abad had never allowed a hit to any of them.

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Gray not at the top of his game, but still competitive

Sonny Gray was a little under the weather Saturday, but still gave the A's a chance to win by pitching into eighth inning.

Sonny Gray was a little under the weather Saturday, but still gave the A’s a chance to win by pitching into eighth inning.

Sonny Gray wasn’t close to being at the top of his game Saturday against the Seattle Mariners.

Certainly the A’s starter wasn’t able to summon the pitches that saw him throw a one-hitter for eight innings against Texas.

There seems to be some kind of bug going through the A’s clubhouse, and Gray is the latest to come down with it. He could feel warming up “that this one was going to be a grind,’’ he said.

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It’s all about socks appeal for A’s starter Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray is all about stripes with his socks so far this season.

Sonny Gray is all about stripes with his socks so far this season.

For the second time in as many starts Saturday. A’s starting pitcher Sonny Gray began Saturday pitching with his pants rolled up to the knees and green socks with gold stripes showing.

For that you can blame Eric Sogard. Sort of.

The Oakland second baseman came to spring training in Arizona with several different styles of green socks with gold stripes.

“Sonny saw them at my locker and said he’d like some,’’ Sogard said, “So I let him pick some out.’’

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Reddick will get one more day; Canha batting second again

A's welcome Mark Canha back into the lineup for a fourth consecutive day.

A’s welcome Mark Canha back into the lineup for a fourth consecutive day.

The A’s lineup Saturday included Mark Canha but did not include Josh Reddick.

Reddick, still on the disabled list after suffering a right oblique strain five weeks ago, played in games with Class-A Stockton Thursday and Friday, had Saturday off to travel back to the Bay Area and should be in the Oakland lineup Sunday for the finale of a three-game weekend set with the Mariners.

He went hitless in his Friday start and is 1-for-7 in the two games he’s played. He’s expected to be in the starting lineup Sunday against Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, the pitcher he’s face most in the big leagues, 39 plate trips, 38 at-bats, a .158 average with two doubles among his six hits.

Canha, meanwhile, made his third consecutive start and was batting second. In the first five games of the season, Oakland had five different players batting in the No. 2 slot.

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Pomeranz is the first daily recipient of a Jim Harbaugh Michigan helmet

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was in spring training with the A's and Oakland now has a Michigan helmet that will serve as a player of the game award. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was in spring training with the A’s and Oakland now has a Michigan helmet that will serve as a player of the game award. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

It merely hung from a hook in his locker by the time A’s left-hander Drew Pomeranz met with the media Friday night, but earlier Pomeranz admitted he was wearing the Michigan Wolverines helmet nestled behind him.

No, Pomeranz doesn’t have any affinity for the maize and blue. He’s an Ole Miss product. But he didn’t mind slipping it on after pitching seven inning of two-hit ball in the A’s 12-0 blasting of the Seattle Mariners.

Pomeranz said the helmet was a gift to the team from Jim Harbaugh, the former 49ers coach who is now at Michigan. You may recall that Harbaugh came to visit the A’s during spring training and served as a first base coach for them. Continue Reading

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Reddick will return this weekend; A’s sign Oakland Tech product

Josh Reddick is likely ticketed for a Sunday return to the A's lineup.

Josh Reddick is likely ticketed for a Sunday return to the A’s lineup.

Josh Reddick remains scheduled to return from the disabled list this weekend, but it might not come Saturday when he first becomes eligible.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Reddick will be back at “some point at time in this series.” Sunday seems like the liklier timeframe for Reddick’s season debut, with Melvin going as far as joking “it would be like a normal Opening Day” for Reddick.

That’s because it’ll be Felix Hernandez on the mound Sunday for the Mariners. Hernandez started against the A’s on Opening Day for four straight years from 2010-13, including Reddick’s first two seasons with the A’s.

The A’s will have to make a roster move when Reddick comes back, so delaying it a day makes all the sense in the world. Seattle is throwing left-hander J.A. Happ on Saturday, so Reddick might sit anyway. This probably gives Cody Ross a chance to get another start. Continue Reading

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HBP explosion has mostly to do with Rangers crowding plate

Catcher Stephen Vogt says Rangers lefties were crowding the plate, that some of six HBPs were "borderline strikes."

Catcher Stephen Vogt says Rangers lefties were crowding the plate, that some of six HBPs were “borderline strikes.”

For the second time in three days, A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said the Rangers batters, particularly the left-handers, are crowding the plate.

A’s pitchers hit six Rangers batters, all lefties, in the just-completed four-game series. Oakland pitchers don’t generally have those kinds of issues.“They are on top of the plate, and there is no rule that says they have to move,’’ Vogt said. “There were a couple of pitches I thought were borderline strikes that hit them, but that’s part of the game.’’

In Tuesday’s game, Vogt and manager Bob Melvin took exception to catcher Carlos Corporan getting hit by a pitch, the A’s contending that Corporan all be leaned into the pitch.

Corporan was hit by a pitch again Thursday, but it was a relatively insignificant part of a 10-1 loss, and the A’s didn’t say if Corporan was moving in on the pitch this time.

“They have guys are willing to crowd the plate and not move,’’ Vogt said. “That’s worth a couple of hit by pitches.’’

Oakland pitching had one stretch where the A’s didn’t hit anyone over the course of 19 games last season. And the A’s didn’t hit six batters in any four-game stretch a year ago, although they did hit five in four games once, in two road games each against the Mets and Marlins July 24-28.