The trade of McGwire in 1997 has lessons for A’s now

The trade of Mark McGwire in 1997 still has lessons for the 2015 A's

The trade of Mark McGwire in 1997 still has lessons for the 2015 A’s

(NOTE: This version of the story was written before the trade of  Tyler Clippard this afternoon)

The A’s will spend the next couple of nights in Chavez Ravine playing the Dodgers, for whom longtime A’s slugger Mark McGwire is the hitting coach.

When the cameras pan to McGwire, as they surely will, it would be well to think of former Oakland pitcher Scott Kazmir and the situation the 44-56 A’s have themselves in as the clock winds toward the July 31 trade deadline.

Eighteen years ago this week, the A’s traded McGwire to St. Louis for much the same reason Oakland traded Kazmir to Houston five days ago. The team was buried in the standings, McGwire was a free agent-to-be who wasn’t going to be coming back and Oakland wanted to try to rebuild for the future.

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With Clippard to Mets, Zobrist likely the next departure

Tyler Clippard and his 17 saves were dealt to the Mets Monday.

Tyler Clippard and his 17 saves were dealt to the Mets Monday.

Tyler Clippard became the second of the A’s veteran dominoes to fall Monday afternoon when Oakland traded their closer to the New York Mets.

In getting the deal done, the A’s sent $1 million along with Clippard to cover a portion of the approximate $3 million left on Clippard’s $8.3 million deal. In exchange, the A’s landed the Mets’ third-round pick in the 2013 draft, right-handed starting pitcher Casey Meisner.

A high school draftee out of suburban Houston, Meisner has been pitching at Class-A this season, first going 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA in a dozen starts with Savannah, then moving on to St. Lucie where he has made six starts, going 3-2 with a 2.84 ERA.

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If Zito is going to help A’s, it could happen this weekend

Barry Zito's best chance to join the A's starting rotation could come in the next week.

Barry Zito’s best chance to join the A’s starting rotation could come in the next week.

If, as seems likely, Drew Pomeranz is out of the Oakland rotation once again, it may be the club sending a message about Pomeranz’s future.

The A’s have liked the left-hander in the rotation, but save for one stretch last year, he’s been inconsistent in that role.

In the bullpen, on the other hand, he had a 1.62 ERA in 2014, and with two scoreless innings in Sunday, he has a 1.40 ERA pitching in relief this season. For a team that has seen most of its relievers struggle, that’s a number not to be overlooked.

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Crisp headed out for a long-awaited injury rehab start; Melvin one of the few who had Randy Johnson’s number

Coco Crispheads out on an injury rehabilitation assignment Monday with Class-A Stockton.

Coco Crispheads out on an injury rehabilitation assignment Monday with Class-A Stockton.

For the better part of a week, Coco Crisp has been saying “I really want to get out and start playing.’’

That happens Monday when the A’s left fielder, limited to 13 games this season by elbow, then neck, problems, begins an injury rehabilitation assignment with Class-A Stockton.

Crisp has never been a huge fan of lengthy rehab assignments; this one could be short enough to see him back and active by next weekend. He’s down for at least four games, although manager Bob Melvin has said Crisp has a history of healing quickly, suggesting there could be some adjustment to the schedule.

“Coco is feeling good,’’ Melvin said of the rehab work Crisp has done since suffering a neck injury reminiscent of that of 2014. “He’ll go out and see how he feels.’’

Crisp came back from his spring elbow surgery the first week of May perhaps too soon He went hitless in his first seven games (five starts) before ending an 0-for-26 start with an infield single. He went 2-for-45, .044 in his return before diving for a ball in the outfield and suffering a neck injury similar to the one that put him on the disabled list twice last year.

He’s rehabbed the neck to the point “where I don’t feel any pain,’’ Crisp said.

What will happen when Crisp is back is a little unclear. Ben Zobrist and Mark Canha have gotten most of the starts in left field to this point. Zobrist is on the trade block with the trade deadline coming up Friday, and if he is dealt, finding playing time for Crisp will be no problem, Canha going back to being the team’s fourth outfielder.

If Zobrist isn’t traded, he could move to second base, where he’s made about half of his starts. That move would push Eric Sogard into a backup/utility role, one which was envisioned for him by the club heading into the season.


–With Randy Johnson going into the Hall of Fame Sunday, his career numbers will be forever immortalized in a Cooperstown plaque.

Among the 3346 hits he gave up in a 21-year career were 14 to A’s manager Bob Melvin. Only Melvin thinks the numbers are wrong. He says he remembers 18 hits off Johnson.

“Every time I see him I tell him he kept me in the big leagues for 10 years,’’ Melvin said of his career .452 average against the Big Unit. “I did get my share of hits off him. I actually think they shorted me some.

“I think I had a few more hits and a few more at-bats off him. But as to why I hit him well, I really have no idea. He probably felt sorry for me. He probably wasn’t too worried about me.’’

Melvin’s history with Johnson includes time when Johnson was starting for the Diamondbacks while Melvin was the bench coach in 2001-02, then later as the Arizona manager from 2005-09.

“His first World Series game they were doing a special on him,’’ Melvin said, looking back to the 2001 post-season. “And they did a rundown of the top guys off Randy all-time. Randy is notorious for you-don’t-talk-to-Randy on the day he pitches, let alone his first World Series game. He comes in the coaches’ office and he looked at me and he said `Do you know you hit me like that?

“I said `Yeah, you kept me in the big leagues for 10 years.’ And I thought I saw a smile. He turned around, walked out, then threw a shutout.

“This is a big day for him. And deservedly so. He’s one of the greats of all-time. He’s arguably the best left-hander of all time. He’s certainly the most dominant as far striking people out and scowling.’’


–Lefty closer Sean Doolittle threw on flat ground Saturday and again Sunday, making it the first time he’s played catch on back-to-back days since coming down with a left shoulder injury while pitching on May 27.

He’s down to have another flat ground session Tuesday, then will get back on a mound for the first time Thursday. The A’s are looking at a return for him sometime in late August or early September.

Doolittle has appeared in just one game this season, a left rotator cuff injury wiping out his spring training and keeping him on the DL until May 25.

The lefty said Sunday that he’s not sure when he’d be ready to return because “until this year, I’d never had shoulder problems before. So I don’t really know what to expect.’’



–Disabled switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (right shoulder strain) threw one inning Saturday for Stockton, throwing only from the left side, and came out of it reporting no problems. He’s due to pitch again Tuesday for an inning, at which point he will be free to match up left-handed or right-handed, as the situation demands.

–Lefty reliever Fernando Abad has not allowed a run in 14 of his last 16 games, a 1.17 ERA over that stretch to bring his ERA down from 7.36 to 3.76. The only runs he’s allowed since May 22 have been a couple of solo homers.

–Billy Butler has a .500 batting average in interleague play (15.for-30), which is the best mark in the big leagues. Despite that, the A’s regular DH got Sunday’s start off, Ike Davis getting the start at first base and there being no DH with the game in a National League park.



Burns is sore, but feeling better; Doolittle throws off flat ground, bullpen scheduled for Thursday

Billy Burns is feeling better Saturday morning after fouling a ball off himself Friday night.  (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

Billy Burns is feeling better Saturday morning after fouling a ball off himself Friday night. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

SAN FRANCISCO — A’s outfielder Billy Burns said he feels better Saturday than he did the night before but he’s out of the starting lineup for the second game of this series with the Giants.

“I told the trainer I think I can play today, but he thinks it’s best if I rest,” Burns said. “I can still feel a little soreness but it’s a lot less pain than last night, so I think I’m good to go.”

Burns’ cringe-worthy injury was termed a testicular contusion and the rookie said it won’t cause to him to change his mind and begin wearing a cup.

A’s manager Bob Melvin won’t force him or any of his players to do so either. Continue Reading


Bassitt goes from fill-in to having a chance to win a job

Chris Bassitt is getting a chance as a regular in the A's rotation.

Chris Bassitt is getting a chance as a regular in the A’s rotation.

Chris Bassitt has gone from a stopgap to the next big thing.

At least that’s what the A’s are hoping to see from the 26-year-old right-hander, who will start against the Giants in the second game of the weekend series at AT&T Park Saturday.

Oakland turned to Bassitt on June 30 and July 5 when Sonny gray was taken ill by a battle with salmonella. When Jesse Hahn’s forearm was pain first developed, Bassitt was called on for a July 11 start.

At the time, Bassitt knew he was just filling in. That’s changed now, however, with Hahn on the disabled list until at least September and Scott Kazmir having been traded to Houston Thursday.

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A’s who might be traded say they don’t want to leave

Josh Reddick and his teammates don't relish the thought of being traded, even with the A's still in last place.

Josh Reddick and his teammates don’t relish the thought of being traded, even with the A’s still in last place.

It didn’t talk long for the players in the A’s clubhouse to start talking among themselves after news broke that their teammate, Scott Kazmir, had been traded to Houston.

They’d read the speculation, they’d heard the questions and they’d seen their spot in the American League West standings.

More than that, they know how general manager Billy Beane works. They knew that Beane stripped the club down in 2012 when it seemed the club was out of contention. They knew, too, that Beane had made a parcel of moves to bring in top talent last year when the A’s had a leg up on the rest of the West.

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Kazmir to Astros likely just the first step in retooling for A’s

Scott Kazmir is probably just the first domino to fall as A's face reality of being 11 games out in AL West.

Scott Kazmir is probably just the first domino to fall as A’s face reality of being 11 games out in AL West.

The dismantling of the 2015 A’s began Thursday morning when the club traded left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros.

Unable to overcome the hole they dug for themselves when they lost 14 of 16 in May, the A’s looked at their less-than-loft position, 11 games out of first place in the American League West, and bowed to the inevitable.

The A’s got two Class-A players in exchange, including catcher Jacob Nottingham, without whose inclusion general manager Billy Beane said the deal would not have happened. Nottingham, who is hitting .324 with 24 doubles, 14 homers and 60 RBIs in 76 games, and right-handed pitcher Daniel Mengden (6-2, 3.46 at Class-A) will report to the A’s Stockton franchise.

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Crisp wants to play now; A’s not willing to rush him

Coco Crisp is taking batting practice and can't wait to get back into games for A's.

Coco Crisp is taking batting practice and can’t wait to get back into games for A’s.

Coco Crisp said it felt good to get back on the field and take batting practice Tuesday.

How good? Well, he didn’t feel his neck a bit when he was batting from the left side. Didn’t feel it when hitting from the right side, either.

“I feel fine,’’ Crisp said. “I’m just getting back to it.’’

Crisp has spent the better part of two years battling neck pain. He could get surgery, but doctors say that if he was to take that route, he’d have to retire, and Crisp isn’t ready to do that.

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Donaldson says Beane doesn’t need forgiveness for trade; Zobrist continues to wait, watch as trade deadline nears

Josh Donaldson is in a different uniform as he returns to Coliseum for the first time since last September.

Josh Donaldson is in a different uniform as he returns to Coliseum for the first time since last September.

When he got the news in early November that Oakland had traded him to Toronto, Josh Donaldson said he needed “two or three weeks before it really registered.’’

While the third baseman was getting used to life north of the border, he said it never crossed his mind to blame Billy Beane for his changed circumstances, the A’s general manager being the man who had engineered the trade.

“It was never a matter of having to forgive Billy for that.’’ Donaldson said. “I loved playing here and I thought we had the core of a competitive team for a long time. But I never thought in terms of needing to forgive him.

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