Semien survives one of hardest-hit balls seen this year

Marcus Semien caught a break when Albert Pujols' 109-mph liner deflected off his glove Wednesday.

Marcus Semien caught a break when Albert Pujols’ 109-mph liner deflected off his glove Wednesday.

Albert Pujols won’t soon forget one of his hits from Wednesday’s game with the A’s, and it’s not the Angels’ slugger’s two-run homer off Sonny Gray in the second inning.

Instead it’s the first-inning single Pujols lined directly at the face of A’s shortstop Marcus Semien. The ball came off Pujols’ bat at 109.61 mph according to Statcast, harder than any baseball ever thrown by Nolan Ryan … or anybody else.

It was headed directly at Semien’s head, and it was part quick reaction time and part luck that Semien wasn’t hit in the face.

“I swear I closed my eyes, because I thought that ball hit him in the head,’’ Pujols said after the game, recalling the scary moment. “When I saw that ball bounce, I closed my eyes. I didn’t think it got his glove. That’s probably one of the hardest balls I’ve hit.’’

It was about as hard a ball as Semien, the A’s first-year shortstop, has ever seen.

“(Yoenis) Cespedes hit one about as hard as that right at me,’’ Semien said. “But this one was right at my face.’’

Semien’s reactions were such that he got his glove up to catch the ball only to find that the ball had some sideways movement on it.

“That ball was coming in straight, and then it broke to his right,’’ infield coach Ron Washington said. “That ball was just crushed. I’m only glad that Marcus had the reactions to get his glove there.’’

Semien himself came out of it unharmed but disappointed that he hadn’t made the play. It would have been the first out of what turned out to be a four-run Angels’ inning.

“The thing about Pujols is that his ball is hard to read because his swing is so flat,’’ Semien said. “The ball can move like that one did. But I’ve got to learn to make that play, because we really needed that out, no matter how hard it was hit.’’


–Left-hander Sean Nolin, one of the arms picked up in the Josh Donaldson trade with Toronto over the winter, was promoted from Triple-A Nashville Friday and will start Sunday’s series finale with the Mariners.

Nolin will fill the rotation spot of the recently demoted Cody Martin, who started and lost against the Angels Tuesday.  The A’s have hopes that Chris Bassitt will return to the rotation, but he’s recovering from some right lat discomfort and isn’t ready to throw.

Because Nolin missed all of spring training after recovering from sports hernia surgery, A’s manager Bob Melvin hasn’t seen him enough to know exactly what to expect. Nolin made 12 starts and a pair of relief appearances with Triple-A Nashville, going 2-2 with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

He throws in the low 90-mph range and isn’t a pure power pitcher, relying on command of the strike zone to attack hitters.

“He was a big part of that trade,’’ the manager said, indicating health was the only reason Nolin hasn’t made it to Oakland until now.

With Nolin pitching Sunday, left Felix Doubront has been pushed back to Monday, when he will face the Astros.



–Stephen Vogt was in the original starting lineup, but had to be scratched because of a sore right elbow. Instead, Tyler Ladendorf went into left field and Mark Canha moved from left to first base.

–Outfielders Sam Fuld and Coco Crisp were on the bench again Friday. Melvin said Fuld (back) is still not ready to play but Crisp (neck) was available for late-inning duty, although not quite ready for a full nine-inning game.

–Bassitt hasn’t resumed throwing yet, Melvin said. The club says his shoulder is structurally sound, but they are “going to be pretty careful with it,’’ he said.

–Disabled starting pitcher Jarrod Parker, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2013’s Tommy John surgery, hasn’t started throwing yet, but Melvin said he is getting close to doing so.

–When Nolin starts Sunday, he will be the 28th man to pitch for the A’s this season. That will be a new Oakland record and will tie the franchise record set in Philadelphia (1915) and matched in Kansas City (1955).



Scribner gets the bad news that he’s done for the season

Evan Scribner's hopes to finish season strong for the A's have been dashed by news that he has a torn lat muscle and won't pitch again in 2015

Evan Scribner’s hopes to finish season strong for the A’s have been dashed by news that he has a torn lat muscle and won’t pitch again in 2015

Evan Scribner’s confidence that he’d gotten out of Monday’s game before doing serious injury to his lat muscle turned out to be misplaced.

The A’s announced Wednesday the right-handed reliever had torn the lat, technically known as a latissimus dorsi, and won’t pitch again this season.

Scribner, who lost three months to a similar injury while with the Padres in 2011, took the news hard.

“I really wanted to finish the season strong,’’ he said. “I’ve never had a full season in the big leagues, and I was hoping this would be the one.’’

Instead, he gets to rest and rehabilitate his right shoulder and prepare for the 2016 season. Manager Bob Melvin said it was his understanding that Scribner will be good to go come spring training.

“The good thing is that if it is three months, I should be able to go through my regular winter routine,’’ Scribner said.

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Semien’s dive and glove flip shows the progress he’s making

Marcus Semien's ever-improving defense is a bright spot for the A's in the second half of 2015.

Marcus Semien’s ever-improving defense is a bright spot for the A’s in the second half of 2015.

For the night, it wound up not meaning much.

But Marcus Semien’s ability to start a double play in the fourth inning suggested that whatever else is happening with the A’s, he is continuing to make progress on his defense.

The Angels had a 4-1 lead with no one out in the fourth and runners at the corner. Reliever Arnold Leon, just up from Triple-A Nashville, had just entered the game. He immediately induced a grounder up the middle from second baseman Taylor Featherston.

The grounder could have been an RBI single. Instead, Semien did an all-out dive to his left, snaring the ball. There was no time to get the ball into his throwing hand, so he flipped his left wrist up, opened his glove and floated the ball to Eric Sogard.

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Diminutive Dull most unlikely of promoted A’s to be here; Pridie and Ladendorf could give lineup some options

Tyler Ladendorf missed most of the season with an ankle injury, but he's up with A's now as rosters expand from 25 to 40

Tyler Ladendorf missed most of the season with an ankle injury, but he’s up with A’s now as rosters expand from 25 to 40

Outfielder Jason Pridie remembers the first time he met right-handed reliever Ryan Dull in the clubhouse of the Nashville Sounds just over a month ago.

“I looked at him and thought he was the batboy,’’ Pridie said. Pridie and Dull were among eight players called up by the A’s Tuesday. Pridie was in the starting lineup and another callup, Cody Martin, was the starting pitcher. Dull was in the bullpen, waiting for a chance to throw.

Dull, the A’s 32nd-round pick in the 2012 draft, is in the big league despite look at least half a dozen years younger than his given age of 25. Manager Bob Melvin said one look at his minor league stats (a 3-2 record, 12 saves and an 074 ERA in 47 games split between Double-A and Triple-A) and “you’d think is 6-3 and 230. But he’s not.’’

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A’s use roster expansion to bolster an overworked bullpen

Dan Otero is one of four relievers called up by the A's, who promoted eight players in all with rosters expanded.

Dan Otero is one of four relievers called up by the A’s, who promoted eight players in all with rosters expanded.

The A’s used the Sept. 1 expansion of roster limits mostly to augment the bullpen, four of the eight players promoted being right-handed relievers – R.J. Alvarez, Arnold Leon, Dan Otero and Ryan Dull.

Also called up one other right-handed pitcher, Cody Martin, who will be Tuesday’s starting pitcher against the Angels.

The A’s added one catcher, Carson Blair, one infielder, Tyler Ladendorf, and one outfielder, Jason Pridie.

To clear space on the 40-man roster for Blair and Dull, who weren’t on the 40, the A’s moved pitchers A.J. Griffin and Jesse Hahn on the 60-day disabled list, which doesn’t count against the 40-man roster, and Angel Castro was outrighted to Nashville.

Alvarez, Leon, Otero and Ladendorf have been with the A’s earlier this year and Martin was in the big leagues with the Braves before being acquired by the A’s. Pridie has been in the big leagues with five different organizations. Dull and Blair are in the big leagues for the first time.

Blair began the season at Double-A Midland, spent the last two months at Nashville and has a combined .252 average with nine homers.

Dull, who also began the year at Midland, has raced through the minor leagues this year, combining for a 3-2 record, 12 saves and a 0.74 ERA.

Pridie, a 31-year-old lefty, was hitting .310 with 20 home runs and 89 RBI, owning a .380 on-base percentage and 20 steals. He has been in the big leagues with the Twins, Mets, Phillies, Orioles and Rockies.



Canha has evolved from role player to mainstay for A’s

Mark Canha, being congratulated after Monday's three=run sixth inning homer, has become key figure in A's offense.

Mark Canha, being congratulated after Monday’s three-run sixth inning homer, has become key figure in A’s offense.

Coming into August, Mark Canha was an outfielder who could play some first base, a rookie who was playing about two-thirds of the time and having a decent first season in the big leagues.

Coming into September, Canha is the A’s first baseman. Period. He’s started there for 18 consecutive games, including Monday, when he hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning and added a sacrifice fly in the eighth for some insurance as the A’s beat the Angels 11-5.

That’s lots of progress for a Rule 5 pickup who had to fight just to make the roster and who, under the provisions of Rule 5, would have had to go back to Miami if the A’s couldn’t find a way to keep him on the big league roster all year.

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Martin steps in for Bassitt, who has shoulder issues

Chris Bassitt has been scratched from Tuesday start because of shoulder pain. Cody Martin starts instead.

Chris Bassitt has been scratched from Tuesday start because of shoulder pain. Cody Martin starts instead.

The A’s long season of starting pitchers succumbing to injury continued unabated Monday when the A’s said that scheduled Tuesday starter Chris Bassitt would be replaced by Cody Martin.

The A’s acquired Martin on July 2, sending cash and an international draft slot to the Atlanta Braves for him. The Northern California (Dos Palos) right-hander was 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA while pitching out of the Braves bullpen. He’s 4-7 with a 4.08 ERA at Triple-A this year in 17 games, 16 of them starts.

Bassitt was scheduled to have an MRI Monday night to deal with some shoulder soreness. It’s not clear how long the injury will keep Bassitt sidelined.

The A’s have had two starting pitchers, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, on the disabled list all season. In addition, Oakland starters Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Sean Nolin and Taylor Thompson all have spent significant chunks of time on the disabled list this season.

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Unsurprised Gallego fired; surprised Wash to coach third

Mike Gallego is heading home to Arizona after having been replaced as A's third base coach by Ron Washington.

Mike Gallego is heading home to Arizona after having been replaced as A’s third base coach by Ron Washington.

Mike Gallego said he was prepared for the phone call he got from A’s manager Bob Melvin Monday morning saying that Gallego was no longer Oakland’s third base coach.

He’d been preparing for it at some level since the A’s hiring of Ron Washington as a special infield coach to help shortstop Marcus Semien through an error-plagued first season with Oakland. And with the A’s mired in dead last in the American League West with the worst record in the league, it was only a matter of time.

“I told my family to be ready,’’ Gallego said by phone from Seattle, where he’d flown with the team Sunday night. The A’s start a three-game series with the Mariners Monday night in Safeco Field.

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With Davis on DL, Canha finally has a position of his own

Mark Canha is putting up big numbers now that he has a position to call his own.

Mark Canha is putting up big numbers now that he has a position to call his own.

With first baseman Ike Davis off to the disabled list and facing surgery Thursday that will have him out for the year, the A’s have finally found a job, a full-time job, for Mark Canha.

The Rule 5 infielder got just one start at first base from June 18-Aug. 6, getting work mostly in left field with Coco Crisp out with some time spent in right field and as the DH. He also served as a pinch-hitter.

As Davis’s hip injury got more serious and the A’s began giving him more time in the hope that rest would be a cure, Canha moved in at first. Since Aug. 11, Canha has started 11 consecutive games for Oakland, 10 of them at first base.

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Doubront not looking to repeat six-walk performance; Valencia still hurting, but he says he’s good enough to play

Felix Doubront says his six-walk performance his last time out was out of character. He starts Monday in Seattle.

Felix Doubront says his six-walk performance his last time out was out of character. He starts Monday in Seattle.

Felix Doubront surprised some A’s watchers his last time out, allowing just one hit while walking six last Tuesday against the Dodgers.

The left-handed starting pitcher was as surprised as anyone. He’d only walks six batters all season in 33.1 big league innings, including four starts with Toronto before coming to the A’s, starts in which he’d walked a total of five.

So he says not to expect a repeat performance of what manager Bob Melvin called him being “effectively wild.’’

“I was mad at myself for that; that’s not how I should pitch,’’ he said. “When you do that, you should give up 10 runs.’’

The fact that Doubront allowed just one unearned run not only spoke to “the extra focus I had with men in scoring position,’’ he said, but impressed Melvin enough to make sure he got Monday’s start in Seattle against the Mariners. It doesn’t hurt that he has a career 1.43 ERA against the M’s.

“I made sure when I had those situations with men in scoring position, I made good pitches,’’ he said. “I was mad at myself, but I wasn’t trying to go out there and strike everybody out to get outs. I was more focused than I have been.

“The real issue was when I was pitching from the windup. It was difficult to release the ball right. Before, I was in the bullpen. Coming out of the bullpen, I was throwing out of the stretch, so I was a little rusty in the windup. It was weird for me. I can’t remember the last time I walked six.’’

It was in 2013, back when he was a rising star with the Red Sox, and 11-game winner. That was before his shoulder went south on him. The soreness plagued him, and as his ERA went up, he hit the road, winding up with the Cubs and then the Blue Jays before Oakland got in in a cash deal with Toronto.

“It’s just in the last two months that I’ve been close to 100 percent healthy with my shoulder,’’ he said. “Today I can say I feel 100 percent. That makes a big difference.’’


–Danny Valencia, who was held out of Saturday’s game while a right hamstring problem led to him getting an MRI, was back in the lineup Sunday even after the MRI revealed some tendinitis in the area of his right knee.

“I had treatment the whole day yesterday, and I still feel it,’’ Valencia said. “But I don’t think anybody is 100 percent at this time of the year. It’s playable.’’

He said he’d never had problems with his right leg before, but “it’s something that started cropping up in the last seven or eight days.’’

“I try to think about it, but I can’t pinpoint one incident when it happened,’’ he said. “I can say the night game against the Dodgers (last Tuesday) it was really bad.’’

Valencia went 2-for-5 in that game, including getting the single that started an eight-inning game-tying three-run rally.

Since joining the A’s after Toronto let him go in a roster adjustment, Valencia is only hitting .255, but he has a .527 slugging percentage thanks to half of his 14 hits going for extra bases, including three doubles and four homers. That kind of production has been difficult to find in the Oakland lineup this season.

“It’s always nice to have him in the lineup, especially as productive as he’s been for us,’’ Melvin said.



–Melvin said his plan for Sean Doolittle call for his first game to be in a non-save situation, but he clarified that Sunday morning. While it won’t be a save situation, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a high leverage situation, the manager said.

–Scott Masler, the ball boy down the left field line who wound up on SportsCenter and all over Twitter Saturday night after his diving catch in front of the A’s bullpen, remained something of a minor celebrity Sunday. “It was incredible to see myself on SportsCenter,’’ he said. It’s his job 81 games a year to make sure as best he can that line drives into the bullpen don’t hit anybody. “When I saw that ball headed for the pen, I thought if there was ever a time to try for a dive like that, it was then.’’

–Melvin spent extra time on the field before the game meeting, talking with and shaking the hands of season ticket holders, who were on the field pregame for their annual meet and greet with the players and staff. “They were awesome,’’ Melvin said. “I probably spent more time out there than you anticipate because they are so supportive, and you want to give each and every person some time. I’m extremely honored to manage this team for these people.’’