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Unhappy Butler expresses displeasure about role following winning homer that saves Hahn effort

For a guy who hit the game-winning home run and averted the anguish of a ruined Jesse Hahn pitching performance, Billy Butler didn’t sound like a very happy man following Sunday’s 3-2 A’s victory over Tampa Bay.

Butler is laboring through his worst major-league season by far. He’s been so unproductive –- two home runs and 22 RBIs as he entered Game No. 99 — the A’s have ignored the fact he is their third highest-paid player and made him a part-time employee who is only generally in the lineup against left-handed pitching.

The veteran designated hitter thinks that’s wrong, and hitting an eighth-inning center field blast off right-handed reliever, Erasmo Ramirez, to preserve Oakland’s seventh win in 10 games since the All-Star break finally gave him the platform to say so.
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Fireworks start early as Graveman, Smolinki, Healy deliver one of the most satisfying wins of 2016

It hasn’t been much more pulsating for the A’s all year than it was Saturday night at the Coliseum. Maybe it wasn’t just a thrilling aberration, either.

All within about 10 minutes, Kendall Graveman finished off the A’s first complete game of the year, Jake Smolinski smacked a tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning and rookie Ryon Healy followed with a game-winning solo blast to give Oakland a 4-3 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Best of all, a crowd of 30,436 was on hand to see the A’s third walk-off win this week, and their sixth win in nine games since the All-Star break. Most of the fans came to see a post-game fireworks show, but the pyrotechnics started early thanks to a couple of players who could be major figures in Oakland’s long-range future.

“Two really loud sounds by a couple of young players who are getting a chance to play every day,” said manager Bob Melvin. “It’s exciting to watch.”
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Ryon Healy quickly becoming an A’s clubhouse favorite

Ryon Healy (48) has a new fan in A's catcher Stephen Vogt (21)

Ryon Healy (48) has a new fan in A’s catcher Stephen Vogt (21)

Ryon Healy has been with the A’s for a week now, and already the rookie third baseman is making an impact.

He homered in his second start, a three-run shot that went a long way to producing a 5-4 win over Toronto. He doubled as part of a five-run inning in his fourth start, driving in a run. Game 5 saw him drive in two runs with a double in a game the A’s won in 10 innings.

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Marcus Semien’s starting streak clipped at 96 games

When the phone rang at about 11 a.m. and A’s shortstop Marcus Semien could see who was on the other end, he said he had a pretty good idea of what was going down, even before the conversation began.

Semien had started all 96 games for Oakland this year, playing all but three innings at shortstop. But the at-bats in his last couple of games hadn’t been good – 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. And his defense had slipped – five errors in his last eight games.

“When the manager calls at that time, you’ve got an idea you’re getting a day off,’’ Semien said before Friday’s game against Tampa Bay. “And my last two games haven’t been great. I played myself into a day off.’’

It’s not that Semien wanted a day off. Bob Melvin said that his shortstop “campaigned a little’’ to stay in the lineup. No worries, the manager said. “A day off might be in order,’’ but there was always the chance that Semien could get into the game as a pinch-hitter or on defense later in the game.

“It’s a grind playing shortstop every single day,’’ Melvin said. “He’s been out there every single day, and it’s looked recently like it might be time for a day.’’

Hence the late-morning telephone call.

“I take pride in playing every day, yeah,’’ Semien said. “I’ve been fortunate to be healthy enough and ready to go so far. But there have been a lot of ups and downs this year, so I guess a day off might be good.’’

What’s the difficulty level of playing every day, particularly at shortstop, where much of the infield action is centered?

“It can be taxing mentally to play every day,’’ Semien “And you have to know how to play hurt. You have to know the difference between playing hurt and being injured.’’

But not all was lost. Semien’s games-played streak continued when he entered Friday’s 13-inning 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays and played the final four innings in his 97th game of the year.

 

–Right fielder Josh Reddick, who had batted only in the third slot during the club’s first 96 games, was in the batting order as the No. 2 hitter Friday.

Khris Davis, who had never started a game in the Major Leagues batting third, was the No. 3 man for Oakland against the Rays.

Part of the reason for that was Semien’s absence from the lineup, but most of it has to do with generating some offense. The A’s averaged 5.4 runs per game the first five games after the All-Star break, but they came into Friday with just three runs scored in the last two games, which is closer to their July norm.

The A’s came into Friday with an MLB-worst .230 batting average for the month, while their 4.12 runs per games was 23rd in the majors.

“Since the break we’ve actually been pretty good at scoring runs,’’ Melvin said. “You’re always trying to tweak things and make it better. Offensively this year we’ve been a little inconsistent.

“It does look a little different. This is the first time Red hasn’t been in the three hole. But the two spot is the new three spot, from what I understand, whether it’s (Josh) Donaldson or (Mike) Trout. I feel comfortable with him in that spot.’’

 

NOTES

–Starter Rich Hill played catch again Friday with a protective covering on his blistered left middle finger, but there is still no date set for him to get on a mound. Melvin said the trainers say they are seeing some progress in the left-hander. There is a sense that the blister is cutting into the A’s chances of trading him before the Aug. 1 dateline, although it’s by no means disqualifying.

–Liam Hendriks hasn’t allowed a run in his last five games, covering 6.2 innings and has a 1.62 ERA and a .222 opponents’ batting average in his last 13 games. “He’s just feeling more comfortable and getting on a roll,’’ Melvin said. “He’s throwing his fastball for strikes more and his breaking ball is getting better.’’

–Reliever Zach Neal threw three scoreless innings Thursday allowing one hit and no walks. The rookie has thrown 18.2 innings this year without allowing a walk, which the A’s stats crew says is the most innings pitched to start a career without walking a batter since at least 1913.

 

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Sonny Gray can’t fight his way out of the wilderness

 

Sonny Gray, a Cy Young candidate last year, continues to have his troubles for A's in 2016.

Sonny Gray, a Cy Young candidate last year, continues to have his troubles for A’s in 2016.

The A’s starting pitching has been in a funk all year, and the man at the head of the class, Sonny Gray, continues to struggle in ways he’s never struggled before.

Gray was hammered for seven runs in five innings Thursday and other than one swing from center fielder Jake Smolinski the A’s offense was nowhere to be found in a series-opening 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

From the time he came up midway through 2013 through the end of the 2015 seasons, Gray had started 74 times for the A’s and had allowed seven runs just twice. He’s made 18 starts this year, and Thursday was the fourth time he’s allowed seven runs in a game.

His confidence, he says remains good. But this season has taken a toll.

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Despite everyday role, Marcus Semien says he’s good to go

Shortstop Marcus Semien has started all 96 of the A's games this season, and isn't looking for rest.

Shortstop Marcus Semien has started all 96 of the A’s games this season, and isn’t looking for rest.

Marcus Semien walked into the A’s clubhouse Thursday afternoon and followed the same protocol he does every day. He looked to see if his name was in the starting lineup.

Well, he needn’t have bothered. He’s a perfect 96-for-96 as the A’s starting shortstop this season.

“I always look,’’ Semien said.

Ron Washington, the third base coach who works with the infielders, has been doing some looking of his own. With Semien having played virtually every inning of every game at short this year, Washington thought he was seeing a little fatigue in Semien.

So he called off the infield workout Semien and Washington do every day, which on Thursday had been scheduled for about five hours before the first pitch.

“He fought me on it,’’ Washington said. “He wants to be out there, working.’’

Semien has made errors in his last three games, one reason Washington thought fatigue was entering into the equation. The coach is hoping one day without early workouts will do the trick.

As for Semien himself, he’s ready to work just about 24/7.

“It’s part of what I do,’’ he said. “If you want to play shortstop every day, it’s part of what you need to do.’’

Manager Bob Melvin said Semien has proven to be “a durable guy.”

“He wants to play, he keeps himself in shape, gets his rest, does all the things that guys who play every day do,” Melvin said. “It doesn’t mean he’s going to play in 162, but he thinks he is.”

 

NOTES

–The A’s will turn to right-hander Jesse Hahn, as was suggested here yesterday, to start Sunday’s series finale against the Rays. Hahn, who has had a couple of shots at the A’s rotation this year without success after a nice debut season in 2015, threw just one inning Wednesday for Nashville, then shut it down because he’ll be throwing on three days’ rest. He is 2-4 with a 6.49 ERA in seven starts for Oakland and 1-5 with a 3.63 ERA with Nashville. He’d had back-to-back six-inning quality starts against New Orleans and El Paso before Wednesday’s tune-up. Manager Bob Melvin said reports indicate Hahn has been better lately at getting the ball down in the strike zone. “He’d be a nice addition for us,’’ the manager said, harking back to Hahn’s 2015 form when he was 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA.

–Lefty starter Rich Hill said he played catch Wednesday and Thursday with a padded covering over the blister on his left middle finger. Theoretically he could use the padding in a game, but then he wouldn’t be able to sue his fingers to execute his curve, and as that’s his best pitch, he wants to have the blister healed so he can pick up a ball and throw it unimpeded. Melvin said the hope is that Hill will be ready to pitch by the end of the month, negating any use of the disabled list. Of course, there is the chance Hill, 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA, will be traded by then, blister or no blister.

–Semien was the A’s leadoff hitter Thursday for the first time this year. Previously, only Billy Burns, Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie had done it. Melvin said he liked Semien’s power (10 homers) and on-base percentage (.330) against left-handed pitching as a reason to lead him off, letting Lowrie bat second, where the A’s think the second baseman is a good fit. Semien said he likes the challenge of leading off and “setting the table for the guys.’’

–The A’s bolstered their bullpen by calling up right-hander Zach Neal so they’d have someone who could pitch a lot of innings for them, if needed. He took the spot of lefty Patrick Schuster, who threw two innings Wednesday, giving up four runs. “To have a guy who can give you true length four or five innings, like Zach is nice,’’ Melvin said.

–The A’s are hoping that disabled reliever Sean Doolittle will be able to throw sometime next week, but he hasn’t been deemed ready to do sock throws – which are exactly what they sound like – and so there’s no guarantee that will happen as soon as Oakland would like.

–Melvin hinted there is a chance that Henderson Alvarez, who has yet to pitch for the A’s this season one year removed from shoulder surgery, might return this year out of the bullpen. That wouldn’t be the A’s preference, but “maybe we’re past the point where maybe we just use him in relief a little bit. I’m not sure that’s the case. I’d hate to think you’d spend that long trying to get him ready for a month’s worth of starts, four starts or whatever.’’ In any event, while Alvarez says he feels good, Melvin said “the medical staff isn’t comfortable with him playing catch yet.’’

 

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Josh Reddick sad extension with A’s hasn’t worked out

Josh Reddick disappointed the A's and he haven't come to terms on a contract extension.

Josh Reddick disappointed the A’s and he haven’t come to terms on a contract extension.

Josh Reddick does what he can to not pay much attention to trade rumors like the ones hitting the internet Thursday suggesting the Cubs are interesting in picking up the right fielder from the A’s before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

There one thing that has caught his attention, however. There has been no progress between his agents and the A’s front office, apparently deadlocked between the A’s offer of a three-year contract extension and Reddick’s desire for a four-year package.

He calls he situation “disheartening.”

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With Overton down, A’s are going to need a Sunday starter; they say Rich Hill won’t be ready to go by then

With lefty Dillon Overton having been sent down, A's will need someone else to start Sunday vs. Rays.

With lefty Dillon Overton having been sent down, A’s will need someone else to start Sunday vs. Rays.

The A’s sent down Tuesday’s starter, Dillon Overton, to get infielder Arismendy Alcantara back, and immediately gave him Wednesday’s start at second base.

The A’s needed the depth in the infield with Tyler Ladendorf having been sent down Tuesday, but the move complicates the A’s rotation near-term.

Oakland will need to fill Overton’s slot on Sunday against Tampa Bay, and the only thing they A’s are sure of is that Rich Hill, the man Overton was subbing for, won’t be ready to pitch come Sunday.

“I don’t see that happening at this point,’’ manager Bob Melvin said of getting Hill back for the Rays. “We’ll have to do something different.’’

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A’s playing waiting game with Rich Hill; pickle juice to the rescue?

The A's are still waiting for a more firm timeline on Rich Hill, who left Sunday's start with a blister.

The A’s are still waiting for a more firm timeline on Rich Hill, who left Sunday’s start with a blister.

The A’s are continuing to play the waiting game with Rich Hill and the blister on his finger that caused him to exit Sunday’s start after just five pitches.

“It’s too early to tell,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday about his left-hander. “We thought he didn’t have an issue obviously when he went out to pitch and then, it was the fifth pitch that it actually came open. Probably a little more careful with it right now. It’s probably going to be a few days before we have any kind of inclination of when he’s going to play catch and then potentially start again.”

The A’s remain hopeful that Hill can avoid the disabled list, but are uncertain. At this point, the hope is to get the skin to dry up enough to possibly shave down some of the blister and then strengthen the skin. Continue Reading

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A’s recall Overton and Coulombe, Triggs to DL, Ladendorf to minors

The A’s officially recalled pitcher Dillon Overton on Tuesday, making the move as he prepares to start against the Houston Astros.

But they also did some other roster shifting, recalling left-handed reliever Daniel Coulombe. To make room, Andrew Triggs was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left shin contusion and infielder Tyler Ladendorf was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Continue Reading