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Moss not bitter about breakup of 2014 A’s, believes they would have made World Series by beating K.C.

MESA, Ariz. – Brandon Moss’ first two at-bats against his former A’s teammates went pretty much like the last couple he had with Oakland — a pair of crush jobs most mortal men aren’t capable of delivering.

The first traveled well above the 410-foot marker in center field at Hokokam Stadium, and without the high hitters’ backdrop that knocked the ball back into play, Moss would have been an epic homer. He had to settle for an epic triple, but then he did homer in his next at-bat — against tough lefty Fernando Abad, no less.

In short, Moss delivered a pretty loud message – the A’s just might miss this guy who slammed 76 home runs for them over the past three seasons. That total doesn’t count the two he launched in last year’s American League wild-card game against Kansas City that should have pushed Oakland deeper into the playoffs but didn’t.

That sobering fact still burns a bit in Moss’ belly, even though he is plenty happy to be a new member of the Cleveland Indians this spring.

“I honestly felt if we’d gotten through that game, we were going to the World Series,” said Moss. “I honestly believed that. The way we were going to match up against all the teams that were there, I just felt like we were better. It was just a matter of getting through that game. But we didn’t.”

When the A’s lost 9-8 to the Royals in 12 innings, it also represented the end of an era for a team in which Moss not only established himself as a major league slugger but played on a team that went to the postseason three straight seasons. But with the A’s never really getting very far once they got there, he thought a breakup might happen.

“I didn’t make much of it, but I could kind of see it coming,” he said. “We were losing some guys (to free agency), guys were getting more expensive, and some of us were hurt. So there were questions on the production and what it was going to be like the next year even though we were going to be more expensive. So I don’t think I really ever questioned it. I just took it for what it was and ran with it. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Moss was traded to Cleveland on Dec. 8, 2014, for minor league infielder Joey Wendle. Arbitration eligible, he settled for $6.1 with the Indians, and he expects to fulfill the same role he did in Oakland — a little first base, a little outfield, a little DH, and a lot of long-ball hitting.

The Moss trade, just part of a bigger Oakland overhaul, was a quiet end to an impressive run. He was an All-Star last year but a hip condition that troubled him all season and resulted in a horrific second half – a .173 average and just four homers and 15 RBIs after hitting 21 homers with 66 RBIs before the break. And when Moss’ offensive numbers plummeted, particularly following the Yoenis Cespedes trade, so did Oakland’s.

“It started to be where I couldn’t hit on the front side anymore and I tried to figure out ways to combat that and I started hitting away from the front side,” Moss said. “That’s why even when I hit a ball and barrel it, it didn’t go anywhere. I get my power driving through my front side. I was one of those situations where what do you do? Do you play through it because you’d been playing so well? Or do you end the season right there?”

Moss elected to play even though he struggled, and just before the playoff game, received a cortisone shot he thought would get him through a deep playoff run. When he hit the two homers against Kansas City, it seemed like a sound strategy.

“I couldn’t even feel my hip, and I should have gotten that earlier,” he said. “But I was afraid to get that sooner because it’d wear off as we were progressing through the playoffs.”

Moss had offseason surgery to repair the problem and says he now feels great. And despite the bitter outcome in the playoffs, Moss definitely wasn’t bitter about his departure from Oakland, even though he called the Coliseum a hitter’s “graveyard” he won’t miss.

“Obviously, I’m more than appreciative of my time in Oakland,” he said. “I wouldn’t be standing here without it. But I understand that it’s part of it, and I’m happy I got traded to a place that there’s a great group of guys and a good team and the opportunity to be in a similar situation as I was the past three years. Anytime you get traded, you can wind up in some places that aren’t the best situation. but I don’t think I could have ended up in a better one than over here.”

Moss said he will always reflect on Oakland’s three-year run fondly, even with the short-circuited ending in Kansas City.

“Win or lose, that was the most exciting baseball game I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I’ve never played in a baseball game that was that much fun, that there was that emotion. And I’ve never been that un-disappointed after we lost the game. We literally gave it everything they had. Guys were playing hurt. D-No (Derek Norris) was hurt, J.D. (Josh Donaldson) was hurt, Redd (Josh Reddick) was hurt. Coco (Crisp) had a broken neck, basically. Jed (Lowrie) had a broken finger. (Stephen) Vogt was playing with a broken foot.

“So to accomplish what we did as a team when we were on balance, I was proud of us. We were all proud of each other.”

–Carl Steward

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Gray over-amped in spring debut but stuff is there, Zito keeps teasing for a spot somewhere

In a numerical quirk, both Sonny Gray and Barry Zito emerged from their spring training outings in Mesa on Tuesday with 7.71 ERAs. Beyond that, their respective future paths couldn’t be more different to predict.

For Gray, an inconsistent first outing means nothing. He’s the A’s ace and will surely be starting on Opening Night against Texas on April 6. Already held out a week and with his infant son Gunnar in the park attending his first baseball game, the 25-year-old A’s ace admitted he was simply emotionally over-heated while allowing five hits and two runs in 2 1/3 innings.

As for Zito, the latest chapter of his comeback bid to make the A’s rotation was harder to project going forward. Following up Gray to start the fourth inning, Zito opened with two dazzling shutout innings in which he allowed just one scratch single. But in his third frame of work, the veteran left-hander allowed two runs on a walk and two hits, including a long home run to Arizona’s Jake Lamb and a ringing Cody Ross double in a 6-5 Oakland victory.

If nothing else, Zito sustained the intrigue that if he can’t make it with the A’s, he’s very likely going to make it with somebody. At 36, he clearly can still pitch, and at least for his first two innings against the Diamondbacks, his command looked better than it did before he took the entire 2014 season off.

“I felt pretty good today, I just lost a little focus on a couple of hitters in that third inning,” Zito said. “I don’t know about velocity, but my location felt pretty good. I was down, riding it in on their hands, missing barrels. That’s what you want – weak contact, whether it’s in the air or on the ground.”

Leading off his third inning, however, Zito hung a big looping curve to Lamb, who pummeled it over the right field fence. After walking Cuban rookie Yasmany Tomas, he then got a pitch up in the zone to Ross, who drilled it into the right-center gap. Zito recovered, however, to retire Danny Dorn on a short fly to left and then got Oscar Hernandez on a slow bouncer to second to end his 45-pitch outing on a positive note.

So what now for Zito? Manager Bob Melvin has so many rotation candidates to look at, he wasn’t sure when he will take the mound again. But there’s little question the A’s will continue to take more looks after Tuesday. And perhaps other clubs in search of pitching will be paying close attention, too.
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Crisp scheduled for MRI today on throwing elbow; Gray, Zito pitch today

Outfielder Coco Crisp will have an MRI today on his strained right lower triceps injury near his right elbow after X-rays proved inconclusive. Results are expected on Wednesday, and while this doesn’t seem to be a serious injury, manager Bob Melvin said, “Anything’s possible.”

Crisp, who came out of Monday’s game complaining of elbow soreness, seemed to be in good spirits when he came to the ballpark Tuesday morning and wasn’t wearing any kind of protective wrap for the injury. So stay tuned on the latest Crisp malady.

Elsewhere, Sonny Gray makes his first game appearance of the spring today and will approximately 40 pitches. Barry Zito will follow up with roughly 45 pitches. With all of the starter candidates pitching so well, it remains to be seen what Zito’s odds will be of making the rotation. Pitching well may be a bit more important to him than some of the other candidates.

“He knew coming in that the odds were a little longer than maybe some of the guys we traded for,” said Melvin. “That’s where performance for him comes into play. You never know where it’s going to go as far as injuries, too. And then with as many guys we want to see start games against first lineups, it’s tough to get consistent starts for him. But if you pitch well, you have a chance. We didn’t bring him in just to bring him in. We brought him in because the potential is there to possibly make the team.”

Melvin said versatile Ben Zobrist would make his first start in right field on Wednesday. He’s at second base today. Stephen Vogt will go five innings behind the plate on Wednesday after making his 2015 debut behind the plate with three innings on Monday. Vogt said his foot feels pretty much 100 percent but he’ll continue to wear a protective steel plate in his shoe for much of the first half of the season.

Jarrod Parker was scheduled for another full bullpen session, and if it goes well, Melvin said he could have some news on Parker’s next step. Melvin also noted that he’s still holding out hope that Josh Reddick (oblique strain) could be ready for Opening Day.

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Zobrist may yet wind up in right field for the A’s

When Ben Zobrist came to the A’s, it was with the understanding that he would be Oakland’s starting second baseman.

But Zobrist, who played in the outfield nearly as much as the infield in helping build Tampa Bay into a power, including 47 outfield starts in 2014, may be asked to put that versatility on display again as the opening day right fielder.

The A’s will almost certainly start the season with right fielder Josh Reddick on the disabled list after he came down with a right oblique strain late last week. That being the case, manager Bob Melvin is looking for options, and the versatile Zobrist is at or near the top of the list.

“I think Zobrist enjoys moving around some,’’ Melvin said. “But you never get as comfortable as possible moving positions. This team is built around depth and versatility, and he is a big part of that.’’

Zobrist has not played right field this spring, and in the day-ahead lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Diamondbacks, he’s listed as being the second baseman. But he carries two gloves with him at all times and it’s likely he’ll be in right field before too much longer.

There are, of course, other options. Melvin said that Mark Canha, the Rule 5 first baseman/outfielder, is one if he makes the roster. Craig Gentry, who is down to split time in center fielder with Sam Fuld, is another.

And look for first baseman Ike Davis to get some work in the outfield before too much more of the spring has passed. He could be freed to go out to right field by having current DH Billy Butler play at first base.

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Hahn getting every chance to be a part of A’s rotation

workout 03-09-15 004There is no better way to sum up how important right-handed pitcher Jesse Hahn is to the A’s future than to look at Monday’s starting lineup with Oakland traveling to Surprise to face the Rangers.

Under Cactus League rules teams must bring at least four starters on the road, the starting pitcher can be one of them. The A’s have only three obvious front-line players in center fielder Sam Fuld, shortstop Marcus Semien and catcher Stephen Vogt.

The only way manager Bob Melvin gets to four is by including Hahn, a strong candidate for the back end of the rotation. Hahn was in the starting rotation for the San Diego Padres the second half of last season and showed himself to be enough of a commodity Oakland was willing to trade catcher Derek Norris for him this winter.

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Jim Harbaugh sees the A’s as `Jungle Lions’

A's first base coach Tye Waller, left, talks with his replacement today for a few innings, former Stanford and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, now the Michigan head coach

A’s first base coach Tye Waller, left, talks with his replacement today for a few innings, former Stanford and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, now the Michigan head coach

Jim Harbaugh may have given the 2015 A’s their identity Saturday, telling them in a pre-workout meeting that he thought of them as “Jungle Lions.’’

Harbaugh, the former Stanford and 49ers coach who is now heading up the football program at Michigan, explained his thinking to me after talking with the media while wearing an A’s uniform with his No. 4, threads he would need for the couple of innings he is due to coach first base later this afternoon.

“The A’s to me, the way they compete, the team, the different way they think, they are jungle lions,’’ Harbaugh said. “Zoo lions get tired of Zebra after a while and want filet mignon. Not jungle lions.’’


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News gets worse for Reddick: out 4-6 week with oblique

Josh Reddick will be shut down for two weeks to deal with a right oblique strain.

Josh Reddick will be shut down for two weeks to deal with a right oblique strain.

The news just gets worse for A’s right fielder Josh Reddick.

Two hours after manager Bob Melvin announced that Reddick was being shut down for two weeks to let a right oblique strain heal, Reddick told this newspaper that the prognosis for his return is 4-6 weeks.

“Actually, it was a worse feeling last night,’’ Reddick said. “After I got the MRI, they were telling me that it could be two months. So to hear this morning that it’s just 4-6 weeks is actually comforting, something of a relief.’’

Just not much of one. It seems unlikely in the extreme that he’ll be ready for the season opener against Texas on April 6, and at this point, just missing the first 10 or 12 games of the season would be close to the best Reddick and the A’s can hope for.

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Reddick hoping right oblique strain only a 3-4 day event

Josh Reddick will miss three or four days at a minimum after having felt some right oblique pain.

Josh Reddick will miss three or four days at a minimum after having felt some right oblique pain.

A’s right fielder Josh Reddick is hoping that the pain in his right oblique felt Friday morning during a defensive drill is minor and won’t keep him out of action more than three or four days.

But oblique injuries can be tricky. He had a left oblique stain back in 2009 and he wound up missing two months of what would become his rookie season with Boston. That time he hurt himself with a hard swing and couldn’t breathe, sneeze or cough without pain.

“I felt like somebody stabbed me with a knife,’’ he said recalling his last go-around with an oblique injury. “This isn’t like that. I felt it pop, but I can walk and breathe without pain.

“There is a little pain when I sneeze or rotate, but I’m hoping three or four days should do it.’’

Reddick said he was taking part in the A’s stretching and Yoga session at Hohokam Stadium early Friday and “I couldn’t believe how good the back and the oblique felt.’’ He went so far to remark about how upset he’d be if he were to have another oblique injury this season, and it wasn’t two hours later that he felt it.

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Freiman won’t blame weight room work for his back injury

Nate Freiman will miss a couple of weeks with a back strain, setting back his chances of making the A's roster out of spring training.

Nate Freiman will miss a couple of weeks with a back strain, setting back his chances of making the A’s roster out of spring training.

First baseman Nate Freiman said that he injured his back lifting weights this off-season, and even while the resultant muscle strain is causing him to miss a couple of weeks of Cactus League work, he defends against the suggestion that too much work in the weight room is bad for a baseball player.

“Respectfully, I have to disagree with that. I think work in the weight room is very important,’’ Freiman said. “The benefits enormously outweigh the risks.

“I think for every injury you see coming out of the weight room, there are many more injuries on the field that don’t happen because players who work with weights are in such good shape.’’

Freiman does admit this is a major setback to his hopes of making the A’s 25-man roster coming out of spring training. He was going to be hard-pressed to win a job with the A’s having a Rule 5 first baseman, Mark Canha, in camp who has to make the roster or be offered back to the Marlins.

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Vogt off and running, and now it’s time for some DH at-bats

Catcher Stephen Vogt is due to run the bases hard in the next day or so, then could get into spring games as the DH.

Catcher Stephen Vogt is due to run the bases hard in the next day or so, then could get into spring games as the DH.

A’s catcher Stephen Vogt, coming back from off-season surgery on his right foot, is still playing with a steel plate lining his right shoe, and it will be like that until the middle of the season.

He ran the bases hard Friday, the last test before he gets into Cactus League games as a DH.

“I felt great,’’ he said. “There was no pain running, no pain hitting the bases or rounding them.’’

And the steel plate?

“That’s pain of a different sort,’’ he said. “That doesn’t count. I can deal with it. But the important thing is my foot feels better.’’

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