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Sogard getting first-ever shot as a leadoff hitter

Eric Sogard get his first big league start as a leadoff hitter Friday vs. Royals.

Eric Sogard get his first big league start as a leadoff hitter Friday vs. Royals.

Eric Sogard moved into the A’s leadoff spot Friday, becoming the sixth different leadoff hitter employed by Oakland this season.

In taking over for Billy Burns for the night with Burns “a little banged up right now’’ in the words of manager Bob Melvin, Sogard is venturing into uncharted territory. He has played in 381 big league games since coming to the big league with the A’s in 2012, and in exactly none of them has he been the leadoff hitter.

“I’ve batted leadoff before,’’ Sogard said. `I just can’t remember when.’’

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Lawrie expects weekend series with Royals to be “just a baseball series”

This slide by Brett Lawrie fueled a heated series in April between the A's and Kansas City Royals, but Lawrie expects the series that resumes Friday to Oakland to be "just a baseball series."  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

This slide by Brett Lawrie fueled a heated series in April between the A’s and Kansas City Royals, but Lawrie expects the series that resumes Friday to Oakland to be “just a baseball series.” (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Everybody remembers the last time the A’s took on the Kansas City Royals.

Rather than a fine rematch of the American League Wild Card game, the series deteriorated into a string of bean balls and hot tensions. Royals pitcher Kelvin Herrera earned a five-game suspension for throwing at A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie, who was the target of the Royals’ ire after his slide into second base injured the Royals’ Alcides Escobar. Here’s some old reading if you want to rehash a little of it.  Continue Reading

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Vogt’s elbow “feels great”; he’s playing 1B Wednesday, will be back catching Thursday

Stephen Vogt is back in the lineup and says his elbow "feels great." (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

Stephen Vogt is back in the lineup and says his elbow “feels great.” (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

Stephen Vogt is back in the lineup Wednesday, as expected, and is playing first base. He said his elbow felt great after doing some early hitting in the cage and his cortisone shot from Sunday appears to be doing the trick.

“It’s been bothering me for about a month,” Vogt said. “Hopefully this shot will take care of it. We’ll have to see how it feels tomorrow catching.”

The plan is for Vogt to be back behind the plate for Thursday’s day game series finale here in Texas. He said his left elbow issue has been more bothersome while catching, although he did also feel it at times while hitting. But he hopes it’s a thing of the past. Continue Reading

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Vogt out after cortisone shot, Venditte could be throwing by end of the week

Stephen Vogt is out of the lineup Tuesday after getting a cortisone shot in his left elbow. ( (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Stephen Vogt is out of the lineup Tuesday after getting a cortisone shot in his left elbow. ( (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

A’s catcher Stephen Vogt had a cortisone shot in his left elbow and is not in the lineup Tuesday for the opener of a brief three-game road trip to Texas.

Vogt had the cortisone shot on Sunday to relieve what was diagnosed as “tennis elbow” and manager Bob Melvin expects him to be in the lineup Wednesday night against the Rangers. His availability to pinch-hit Tuesday will be determined based on how Vogt feels once the game is underway.

“He’s been dealing with it,” Melvin said of the elbow. “I think once he gets into the batter’s box, he doesn’t think too much about it. Yet, there’s some days that it’s worse than others. Some swings are worse than others.” Continue Reading

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Ron Washington returns to Texas, tells Rangers fans “I love them”

IMG_5758ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Ron Washington was greeted everywhere he went Tuesday when he returned to the stadium where he managed for eight years.

“I parked in the parking lot upstairs and the fans greeted me coming in, then the security guards and all the guys riding around through the tunnel on the carts,” Washington said, “and then I finally made it to the clubhouse.”

Cameras followed Washington as he worked with infielders early before Tuesday’s A’s game with the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park. It’s the first time Washington, now an A’s coach, has been back at his former home stadium since resigning in September 2014 citing personal issues that he later revealed involved infidelity. Continue Reading

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Lawrie shrugs off bad call at third base to get A’s going

Brett Lawrie thought he was safe on this attempted steal of third base. After replay review, the out call against him stood.

Brett Lawrie thought he was safe on this attempted steal of third base. After replay review, the out call against him stood.

No one has yet convinced Brett Lawrie that he was out on his attempted steal of third base in the second inning Sunday.

No one has yet completely convinced A’s manager Bob Melvin that he should have had to forfeit his replay challenge when the replay did not go the A’s way, either.

Lawrie tried to take advantage of Angels’ third baseman David Freese setting up close to the shortstop spot as the Angels shifted weigh Ike Davis at the plate.

He seemed to beat the throw from pitcher Garrett Richards, getting a “safe’’ call from ump Greg Gibson before Gibson called him out for over-sliding the bag.

“I was safe,’’ Lawrie said. “I haven’t watched the video, but I’m 100 percent sure of that.’’

The A’s challenged the call on the over-slide. After a horrifically long delay of five minutes, 14 seconds, the out was confirmed – not on the over-slide, but on the original safe call.

The ruling was that Lawrie had been tagged by Freese on the right shoulder, a ruling that wasn’t immediately obvious on watching the replay.

Because he hadn’t challenged that part of the play, Melvin argued that he shouldn’t be penalized the loss of his right to challenge.

“There is probably still some debate on whether he got him or not,’’ Melvin said of the Freese tag of Lawrie. “The debate went on for a few innings. I wanted to see if I could get my challenge back. The (umpiring) crew is terrific. They did everything they could; they called back to New York. There has never been that precedent before. I credit them.

“I think what they are saying is that no matter what the challenge is, it’s the whole play (that gets reviewed). I did not get the challenge back. If I did, I would have brought it here with me (to the interview room.’’

Melvin had no problem with Lawrie’s decision on his own to try at steal third.

“It’s a pretty heady play,’’ the manager said. “No one is paying attention to him and the third baseman is quite a ways away. It took an absolutely perfect throw to get him. And then there is probably still some debate on whether he got him or not.’’

It was a big day for Lawrie, who made a tumbling catch on the bullpen mound in the fourth inning, and who singled to drive in the first of two Oakland add-on runs in the sixth inning. After a slow start to the season, his overall average is up to .291 after averaging .365 so far in June, 23-for-63.

“He was huge for us today,’’ catcher Stephen Vogt said of Lawrie. “With that unbelievable catch there, he’s the player of the game for us today. This whole year, Brett Lawrie’s been the same guy. Nothing has changed. Whether it’s four punch outs or hitting like he has been lately, he shows that intensity, always plays hard.’’

Lawrie wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I make a conscious effort for it to be that way,’’ Lawrie said. “There’s just so much baseball, so much time. Yesterday is one day, but today’s another day. I can’t let it bother me.

“I’ve been playing this game for a little while now. Stuff will bother you, but to let it linger, that’s something I’ve been working hard on. Every day is a new day and it’s just good to come each day into a clubhouse of fresh energy.’’

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Vogt makes his pitch for All-Star inclusion with his bat

Stephen Vogt is making a strong case for inclusion on the AL All-Star team.

Stephen Vogt is making a strong case for inclusion on the AL All-Star team.

Stephen Vogt, All-Star. Has a nice ring to it.

Vogt is making a very strong case for himself to get a berth in next month’s showcase game in Cincinnati, including three more hits Saturday and an RBI, his 51st, moving him at least temporarily into a tie with the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera for the American League RBI lead.

Vogt said he doesn’t allow his focus to drift in that direction, but he’s heard the talk.

“It’s awesome to be in that conversation,’’ he said. “I don’t think about it much, but obviously it’s an honor as a major league baseball player. It’s pretty special.’’

Manager Bob Melvin said that Vogt, hitting .293 with 13 homers, along with starting pitcher Sonny Gray and right fielder Josh Reddick, need to be in the conversation. As for Vogt specifically, Melvin can’t sing his catcher’s praises enough, even when Vogt is the DH, as was the case Saturday.

“He’s been as consistent a performer, not only for us, but for anybody in the American League,’’ the manager said. “You try to find ways to get him in there. Today was at DH. He’s hitting lefties; he’s getting big hits for you. You look at his body of work and he’s played as well as anybody in the league.’’

The 51 RBI is not only a single-season high, it matches his previous career total spread over parts of the previous three season with Tampa Bay and, since 2013, with Oakland.

Vogt said it’s just a matter of being the right bat in the right spot.

“I’ve just been feeling good at the plate,’’ he said. “I’ve been hitting behind a lot of guys who are getting on base this year. A lot of guys in this lineup are having great years. I’ve been fortunate to hit behind them.’’

Melvin hasn’t pitched his case yet with AL All-Star manager Ned Yost yet, but it’s likely the subject may come up next weekend with the Royals in town.

“If I feel like I need some input, I’ve done that before,’’ Melvin said about approaching the All-Star skipper, who does get some picks after the fans and the players have their choices. “I think a lot of our guys, the numbers speak for themselves.’’

That would be particularly true of Gray, who continues to lead the AL in ERA at 1.95 despite having his poorest start of the season Friday, giving up six runs (five earned) in six-plus innings. Melvin sees Gray on the short list of candidates to start for the AL.

“There is no question about Sonny,’’ he said. “There are other guys in the conversation, but he certainly has to be there.’’

 

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Melvin pushes Gray as strong candidate for All-Star start, sees Vogt and Reddick as worthy of inclusion on AL roster

Sonny Gray should be a strong candidate to start All-Star Game, manager Bob Melvin says.

Sonny Gray should be a strong candidate to start All-Star Game, manager Bob Melvin says.

When Major League Commissioner Rob Manfred stopped by the Coliseum Friday, he said that even with fans in Kansas City making a strong effort to stack the vote for the All-Star Game, he was satisfied for the most part with the selection process for the mid-summer showcase.

A’s manager Bob Melvin agrees with that, but as the manager of a last-place team with at least three men he sees as potential All-Stars – catcher Stephen Vogt, starter Sonny Gray and right fielder Josh Reddick – he also realizes the system isn’t the A’s friend.

Teams with the worst record in the league traditionally have trouble getting multiple representatives. Even teams better than dead last have problems, In the eight seasons between 2005 and 2012, the A’s had more than one player on the team just once.

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Error-per-game defense has become almost unwatchable

Brett Lawrie's fourth-inning error led to second of Angels' runs Friday.

Brett Lawrie’s fourth-inning error led to second of Angels’ runs Friday.

To watch the A’s play defense this year is a study in the macabre.

With Friday’s four errors in a 12-7 loss to the Angels, Oakland has made 69 errors in 70 games and is on a pace for 160 errors this season.

It wouldn’t be a club record – from 1977-79, three of the worst clubs in Oakland history averaged 182 errors – and the 1982 team, the last of the Billy Martin “BillyBall’’ teams, committed 160 on the nose.

Still it’s been three decades since the A’s made that many, and this team, the numbers notwithstanding, should be better defensively than it is.

Brett Lawrie’s inability to grab a hard grounder hit to third base by Albert Pujols in the fourth inning led to a run.

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Familiarity with Sonny Gray breeds Angels’ respect

Sonny Gray has been as tough on the Angels as anyone in baseball.

Sonny Gray has been as tough on the Angels as anyone in baseball.

Friday night was the A’s 70th game of the year and the 15th start of the season for Sonny Gray.

It was the fourth of those 15 in which Gray had been matched against the Angels, and while that may just be a schedule fluke for most, it’s a major impediment to the Angels, who are 0-3 against Gray, scoring just four runs (three earned) in 22.2 innings.

Angels’ slugger Mike Trout is an MVP candidate year-in and year-out, but against Gray he’s been amazingly ordinary, just four hits in 22 at-bats (.182) coming into Friday. Seeing lots of Gray he hopes will at some point show some benefit.

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