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Daniel Mengden will make MLB debut Saturday vs. Reds

Daniel Mengden makes MLB debut Saturday

Daniel Mengden makes MLB debut Saturday

Daniel Mengden, the right-handed starter the A’s picked up in the deal that sent Scott Kazmir to the Astros last July, will make his Major League debut Saturday.

Mengden has been riding a rocket up all season, beginning at Double-A Midland, where he was 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 23 innings over four starts. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Nashville, where he’s lit up the Pacific Coast League with a 3-1 record, 1.39 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP that includes just 28 hits allowed in 45.1 innings.

Thursday night he got the word that he was joining the A’s, which was part of a busy off day for Oakland. Chris Coghlan was traded to the Cubs and Rich Hill went on the disabled list. Friday saw infielder/outfielder Max Muncy and right-handed pitcher Zach Neal recalled and Jesse Hahn sent back to Nashville.

That means the A’s will have a 24-man roster Friday before Mengden (pronounced Ming-den) is activated for his start against the Reds.

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A’s go heavy with college arms, following Florida’s A.J. Puk with Golden Bears’ Daulton Jefferies and Gators’ Logan Shore

 

The A’s used the sixth pick in the draft Thursday to draft a player many thought might go first in the draft, left-handed starting pitcher A.J. Puk out of Florida.

“I think I danced a little jig,’’ A’s scouting director Eric Kubota said when asked how he reacted to Puk falling from a potential No. 1 to land in the A’s lap. “At no time this spring did we think we’d have a chance to talk about him at six.’’

Oakland then went local, picking Cal right-hander Daulton Jefferies before going back to Florida to take Logan Shore, who was 11-0 for Puk’s Gators. Jefferies dropped, too, by missing eight weeks with calf and shoulder problems.

“If he’d pitched healthy all year, Daulton might have gotten to us at No. 6,’ Kubota said. “At one time or another we had all three of these guys as potential first-round picks.’’

The 6-foot-7 Puk said he’d heard he might go first or second, but was delighted to land with the A’s, who took his teammate, shortstop Richie Martin, with their first pick last year.

“He texted me right away,’’ Puk said in a conference call Thursday night. “I can’t wait to get there and play with him again.’’

Even so, the A’s aren’t his first priority. The Gators have a series this weekend against Florida State with the winner moving a step closer to the College World Series.

“We have a chance to win a national championship,’’ the 21-year-old Iowan said. “That’s what we are focusing on. The season’s been going pretty well.’’

After the season, then he’ll learn what he needs to know about Oakland.

What he knows now isn’t much.

“I’ve seen the movie `Moneyball,’ that’s about it,’’ he said when asked about his knowledge of Oakland.

The A’s know plenty about him. They have long liked the electricity in his left arm and harbored some dim hopes of taking him. But with the Phillies, drafting first, linked with Puk all along, the A’s thought they’d be going elsewhere for their first pick.

Perhaps the biggest mark against Puk was his 2015 arrest along with Gators teammate Kirby Snead for criminal trespass. The two were charged with a third-degree felony for climbing a fenced-off crane without permission.

“We saw the crane one night, and it was an immature idea to try and climb it to see the view,’’ Puk said. “Someone called the cops and I got arrested.’’

It didn’t seem to slow his Florida career, despite a brief suspension.

Scouts say that Puk will have his fastball generally sitting at between 93-96 mph, and when he pumps it up, he can hit 97 or 98. His slider has the potential to be a killer pitch for him, breaking away as it does to lefties and hammering inside against right-handers.

Puk hasn’t quite mastered making his changeup look like his fastball, but even so, it’s a pitch he said “is still developing. It will be big for me.’’

A Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, Puk said he grew up wanting to follow in the footsteps of C.C. Sabathia, another big lefty with a Cy Young Award to his name. Sabathia would be proud of the numbers Puk put us this year, including a .195 opponents’ batting average and 95 strikeouts in 70 innings.

“He’s just a big physical lefty,’’ Puk said. “He’s a big left-hander. I’ve always just watched him pitch and thought I could be him someday.’’

Puk is first pitcher taken by the A’s in the first round since they tabbed Sonny Gray with their first choice back in 2011. Scouts mostly say they’d like to see Puk continue to work on a changeup that would make him a three-pitch pitcher and a candidate to be a top-of-the-rotation guy.

The 240-pound Puk comes from a football-centric family. His father, Dr. David Puk, was an academic All-American football player at Minnesota from 1982-85. Uncle Stephen Puk lettered for the Gophers in 1984. Another uncle, J.J. Puk, was an all-Big 10 linebacker at Iowa from 1986-87. And a third uncle, Kevin Puk, played at Stanford from 1989-91.

For all of that, A.J. was sold on baseball from the time he was 9. He was a starting quarterback as a sophomore at Cedar Rapids’ Washington High, but skipped out on football after that, preferring to hit and pitch for the Virginia-based Canes Baseball travelling team.

Always a tall kid, he developed a style where he throws from the third base side of the mound, getting impressive extension when he releases the ball. How impressive?

This is what his Florida teammate, center fielder Buddy Reed summed it up earlier this season then talking to CSNPhilly.com:

“On the mound he’s probably 8-foot, he has a 97-100 mph fastball that moves; he’s got a sweeping slider and a really good changeup. As a hitter, you might want to bunt. If you can’t do that, good luck.’’

Jefferies, a member of the U.S. collegiate national team, was 6-0 in his first six starts this season for Cal, but was scratched from a start on April 1 and wound up missing eight weeks with various injuries, including calf and shoulder woes.

“He can really pitch, he’s very athletics,’’ Kubota said of Jefferies. “We felt there was no chance he would get to us at 37. He has a 90-95 mph fastball to go with a plus slider and a plus changeup.’’

While most players will immediately go to rookie league teams, Jefferies, assuming he signs, probably would head to Arizona for some injury rehab work on his shoulder. Kubota said nothing has been decided, but the organization seems confident Jefferies’ is mostly healthy and just needs a little therapy to get back in to prime shape.

For the season he was 7-0 with a 1.08 and an opponents’ batting average of .185. He struck out 53 and walked only 8 in 50 innings as a junior after being an All-Pac-12 first team pick as a sophomore.

He made two late-May starts and threw well enough to convince scouts he was worthy of being a first-day draftee.

While Puk generally pitched in the second game of weekend series on Saturdays, Shore pitched the Friday night series openers for the Gators. He was a Baseball America first team All-America and was the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year and goes into the post-season with an 11-0 record and 2.44 ERA. He owns a school record winning streak of 16 consecutive games.

“Shore is very competitive, very advanced,’’ Kubota said. “To be honest, it’s not a sexy look, pitching at 88-92 (mph). We’ve seen him throw up to 94. We’ve seen him get outs for three years. He’s really advanced as a pitcher.’’

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Power left-handed starter A.J. Puk A’s first draft pick

The A’s used the sixth pick in the draft Thursday to draft a player that many thought might go first in the draft, left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk out of Florida.

Puk, whose fastball touches 99 mph and who has a nasty slider, is the first pitcher taken by the A’s in the first round since they tabbed Sonny Gray in the first round of the 2011 draft. Scouts mostly say they’d like to see him work on a changeup that would make him a three-pitch pitcher and a candidate to be a top-of-the-rotation guy.

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A’s trade Chris Coghlan back to Cubs; Rich Hill on DL

 

Chris Coghlan never quite got his swing together, one reason he was traded back to the Cubs Thursday.

Chris Coghlan never quite got his swing together, one reason he was traded back to the Cubs Thursday.

Thursday’s off day for the A’s turned out to be anything but.

The A’s traded Chris Coghlan back to the Cubs in exchange for a minor league outfielder Arismenda Alcantara. That came after Oakland put left-handed starting pitcher Rich Hill on the disabled list retroactive to May 30 with his ailing left groin keeping him from pitching.

Those moves create two holes on the Oakland roster, spots that will have to be filled by Friday when Oakland opens a three-game weekend series with the Cincinnati Reds.

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With middle of lineup absent, A’s offense goes nowhere; former A’s Spanish announcer Mendoza passes away

The absence of Josh Reddick has been difficult for the A's to cover.

The absence of Josh Reddick has been difficult for the A’s to cover.

The A’s haven’t hit much all year, and the last two nights in Milwaukee, they barely hit at all.

Tuesday they went 6.2 innings before getting their first hit off Zach Davies. Wednesday it was 5.1 innings before getting a hit against Chase Anderson.

It’s not good, not at all, but there are reasons. Josh Reddick is on the disabled list for a month. Danny Valencia has a particularly nasty case of stomach bug that he equates to food poisoning. Khris Davis took a pitch off his left elbow, and only gradually has subsequent numbness in his left hand diminished.

So that’s the 3-4-5 slots in the A’s lineup gone, leaving Oakland to scramble to put together an offense. So far, not so great. Reddick is still weeks from returning, but Valencia should be in the lineup Friday in Cincinnati and Davis probably could be.

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Rich Hill’s groin injury acts up again; he won’t start vs. Reds

Rich Hill felt his left goin act up and will not make his scheduled start Saturday in Cincinnati.

Rich Hill felt his left goin act up and will not make his scheduled start Saturday in Cincinnati.

The A’s pitching rotation took another blow Wednesday when left-hander Rich Hill, the A’s prime candidate for the All-Star Game, felt a reoccurrence of a groin pull in his left leg.

Hill, 8-3 with a 2.25 ERA, hasn’t pitched since initially feeling his groin act up on May 29. The Wednesday throwing session was supposed to set the veteran lefty up for a return to the rotation on Saturday, but now the A’s will move up Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea up one day each to get the team through the weekend series in Cincinnati.

The veteran will leave the team Thursday to fly back to the Bay Area and he’ll have an MRI to see if the A’s medical team can determine the cause of the problem and what must be done to get Hill healthy again. Oakland hasn’t put Hill on the disabled list yet, but it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the 15th member of the roster to land on the DL.

The A’s can backdate a move to the 15-day DL for 10 days, so for the moment at least, the A’s are just talking about Hill missing one more start.

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A’s have a chance to strike it big in the week’s draft

The good news for the A’s is that they have three picks on Day One of the three-day player draft that starts Thursday night in New York.

Better news is that the top end of the draft is believed to be deep, so the A’s have a chance to tap good talent with draft picks No. 6, No. 37 and No. 47. The club has four picks in the top 100, including No. 76, and also the 106th pick.

The somewhat dicey news is that there is no consensus, not just on who the A’s should take, but on who anybody should take. A quick take of draft projections Wednesday had the A’s tying the knot with  Tennessee third/second baseman Nick Senzel, New Jersey high school left-handed pitcher Jason Groome, Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, Southern California high school outfielder Mickey Moniak and Louisville outfielder Corey Ray.

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A’s lineup has an odd look with Davis and Valencia out

The A’s put forward one of their oddest lineups of the season Tuesday as a way to compensate for injury and illness.

Left fielder/DH Khris Davis (numbness in his left hand) and third baseman Danny Valencia (stomach illness) out for the moment and Josh Reddick (fractured left thumb) not due back from the disabled list for a few weeks yet, the A’s had backups at first base, third base and right field.

Yonder Alonso switched from first base to third, Billy Butler stepped in at third and Chris Coghlan was again in right with Oakland opening a two-game series against the Brewers.

Only the fact that the A’s are playing in Milwaukee, a National League city, and don’t need a DH kept a fourth backup from starting this one. As a consequence, manager Bob Melvin is working with a three-man bench “which you don’t want to do in a National League game’’ he says.

Despite going 3-for-10 in Houston over the weekend, Valencia was a little under the weather with what Melvin called a “stomach bug.’’ Valencia wasn’t at the game for most of the pregame, although he was expected to show close to game time. Even so, Melvin said he wasn’t sure how long the ailing third baseman would stay.

Davis said the pain in his left elbow where he was hit by a pitch Saturday was mostly gone, but there was “tingling and numbness’’ in his left hand. He had been very much looking forward to playing in Milwaukee, because this had been home for him for most of the last three seasons.

“I hated to call the skipper this morning that it just wasn’t feeling good,’’ Davis said. “I love playing here. But I knew Sunday when I was playing the game and it got worse that it was a little bit more serious.’’

Davis was holding out hope that he might be able to pinch-hit, and Melvin, his team playing with a short bench in a NL city, would like to hope he’d be available.

“I love playing here. I love it,’’ Davis said. “Especially these guys. There’s nobody I want to beat more right now.’’

Davis, who had a chance to check in with some of his old teammates early in the afternoon, will see a doctor before the game starts.

“There’s a little concern, because I’ve never felt this before with nerve damage,’’ Davis said. “It’s hard for me to gauge if it’s the same, but I know with activity it gets worse.’’

 

NOTES

–The A’s have settled on Saturday for Rich Hill to return to the starting rotation for the first time since May 29. That is, Melvin said, contingent on Hill, the A’s most effective starter with an 8-3 record and 2.25 ERA, being able to throw without any pain in his left groin when he throws a bullpen session before Wednesday’s game. Hill said he’s not experiencing any pain now.

–Liam Hendriks (right triceps strain) was down to throw an inning for the Stockton Ports as part of an injury rehabilitation assignment Tuesday.

–The A’s had Henderson Alvarez, still working his way back from last July’s shoulder surgery, threw a two-inning simulated game Tuesday. “We’re not sure when Henderson comes back at this point,’’ Melvin said.

–Davis has hit 34 homers dating back to Aug. 6, 2015, a number that is tied for the lead in the Major Leagues over that span with Nolan Arenado of the Rockies.

–Yonder Alonso got his third start of the season at third base with Valencia out. Melvin said Alonso “is a good glove guy wherever he is. He’s just so good at first base, but he does a nice job at third.’’

–Melvin and Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell had a long chat before the game behind the batting cage. The two are longtime friends and Counsell, in his first year with the Brewers says Melvin, managing the Diamondbacks in 2006 when Counsell played there, “opened the door’’ for him by showing him behind-the-scenes baseball. Melvin said “I don’t know if I opened the door. He just came in.’’

–The A’s are the next-to-last team to play an interleague series this year. The other now is Baltimore. A’s pitchers come into interleague play with an .083 batting average since interleague play began in 1997. No A’s pitcher has homered in a game since Blue Moon Odom in 1972.

 

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June could be the month in which A’s get healthy again

Josh Reddick hopes to be back in A's lineup and in right field by the end of the month.

Josh Reddick hopes to be back in A’s lineup and in right field by the end of the month.

When Sonny Gray came off the disabled list Sunday, it was the continuation of an encouraging trend for the A’s.

May 25 saw second baseman Jed Lowrie come off the disabled list. Two days later, backup catcher Josh Phegley came off the DL. A couple of weeks earlier, third baseman Danny Valencia was activated.

No one can tell what the future will bring in terms of baseball injuries, but the way things are setting up, June could be a month in which the A’s get much of their karma back. And with that could be a chance to be competitive in the American League West.

Two relievers, R.J. Alvarez and Liam Hendriks are healthy now and working their way back.

Alvarez threw in a minor league game on a rehab assignment on Friday, could get another one or two games and could be ready to be activated by the end of this road trip this weekend in Cincinnati. Hendriks threw a simulated game Saturday with Class-A Stockton and may well be less than a week behind Alvarez.

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Rich Hill likely to return to mound for A’s Friday

Rich Hill is confident he'll be healthy enough to start in Cincinnati this coming weekend

Rich Hill is confident he’ll be healthy enough to start in Cincinnati this coming weekend

Rich Hill didn’t do much Sunday. Not much except prove to himself that he’ll be back in the A’s rotation come Friday in Cincinnati.

Hill took some time pregame in Minute Maid Park to play catch with bullpen catcher Phil Pohl. It was no big deal, except that Hill didn’t feel any discomfort in his left groin.

He had been feeling it as recently as Sunday morning. But the physical therapy work he’s been doing with the A’s training staff had him ready all smiles.

He and Pohl played catch at about 90 feet

“I did throw, and it went great,’’ Hill said. “With a day off tomorrow to rest it, the idea is I’ll throw a bullpen on Wednesday. I’m pretty optimistic for Cincinnati.

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