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Doubront heads to DL with sprained elbow; Lambo up; Friday’s start in Seattle likely between Hahn and Surkamp

 

Felix Doubront will miss Friday's start against Seattle after going on the DL with a sprained left elbow.

Felix Doubront will miss Friday’s start against Seattle after going on the DL with a sprained left elbow.

Felix Doubront has been diagnosed with a sprained left elbow and has been placed on the disabled list by the A’s, meaning Oakland will need someone else to start Friday’s game in Seattle.

To take Doubront’s place on the roster for the moment, outfielder Andrew Lambo was recalled from Triple-A Nashville less than 48 hours after being told he hadn’t made the club.

A’s primary options for the Friday start would be either right-hander Jesse Hahn or left-hander Eric Surkamp.

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From high school quarterback and shortstop, A’s versatile Sonny Gray has morphed into an ace and Opening Day staple

Sonny Gray gets the ball for his third consecutive Opening Day start Monday in the Coliseum against the White Sox.

Sonny Gray gets the ball for his third consecutive Opening Day start Monday in the Coliseum against the White Sox.

It is perhaps a fluke that Sonny Gray is the A’s starting pitcher Monday against the White Sox.

There was a time when it wasn’t preordained that Gray would be a pitcher, much less one of the best in the Major Leagues.

And he remembers well the day he went from versatile athlete to somebody with the idea of being a big league pitcher. He was a freshman in high school, a quarterback when playing football and a shortstop all the time on the baseball field except when he was pitching.

“I was enough of an athlete that I could play most positions,’’ Gray said. “I pitched but I didn’t know if I was really any good.’’

He was about to find out. Smyrna High was playing a game against nearby Good Pasture High, a team with a good senior pitcher that the Vanderbilt University baseball coaching staff was attempting to recruit. As it happened, Gray was scheduled to pitch that day.

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Reddick, Axford, Bassitt star in A’s morning shootaround

The A’s got their collective minds off baseball Saturday morning with a trip next door to the Arena, where they had a team free throw and 3-point shooting competition.

There were some serious highlights to be had, including Josh Reddick pulling off a Steph Curry shot from the tunnel leading to the Warriors’ locker room and John Axford channeling his inner Rick Barry with an underhanded bomb from the lower stands.

Forewarning of the competition, an idea proposed by visiting clubhouse manager Mike Thalblum, was given to the A’s earlier in the week by manager Bob Melvin, who threatened to compete in it himself – “I could dunk when I was a sophomore in high school,’’ the skipper said – but ultimately bowed out.

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Chapman reveling in Bay Bridge reward, Graveman looks ready, the surgery lowdown on Jarrod Parker

SAN FRANCISCO – Eleven years is a long time. It’s an even longer time for a baseball team not to develop one of its own draft picks as a fixture position player.

But that’s how long it’s been for the A’s, whose last drafted-and-developed everyday player who played any extended length of time with them was shortstop Cliff Pennington, their top pick way back in 2005.

Most of their top position prospects since either didn’t make the grade, didn’t last long like Jemile Weeks, or were traded to other teams before making it to the majors like Addison Russell.

Enter 22-year-old third baseman Matt Chapman, who looks like the best bet to end that dubious drought. Chapman, who hit 23 home runs in just 80 games for Class A Stockton last year despite fighting a bad wrist, could conceivably be in Oakland by September if his impressive spring carries over into his anticipated next assignment at Double-A Midland.
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Melvin promises lineup mix-and-match, a strong outing for Bassitt and Alonso shows his deft touch at first

SAN FRANCISCO – A’s manager Bob Melvin called a team meeting Thursday night at AT&T Park to remind his position players one last time that the team is likely to have a lineup that changes fairly dramatically from day to day.

Translation: Nobody’s head should be so big that they should consider themselves a lock everyday starter.

Right fielder Josh Reddick may not have to worry much about that, but for just about everybody else, a look at the lineup card will be essential viewing upon arrival in the Oakland clubhouse in 2016. That may even include assumed regulars like designated hitter Billy Butler, shortstop Marcus Semien and third baseman Danny Valencia.

“Starters for us are relative,” Melvin said. “We’ll have two different lineups with what we feel are all potential starters. There will be five different guys in the lineup (Friday night) who we feel are all starters, too. It’s going to be about the collective 25 and these guys need to know that. We need to put egos aside for the team and know if we’re going to succeed, it’s going to take all 25 guys.”
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Will increased bat speed give Butler impact in 2016?

Billy Butler is looking for more celebrations with increased bat speed in 2016.

Billy Butler is looking for more celebrations with increased bat speed in 2016.

The way the 2015 season went for Billy Butler, it was almost as if he’d played his first season in Oakland in slow motion.

He’s picking up the pace in 2016, and you don’t have to take his word for it. You could look at his spring batting average, .342. Or you could talk to some of the scouts that have seen him take his hacks in the Cactus League.

“Butler’s bat speed is much better this year than last year,’’ one American League scout said. “It’s up significantly, more like it was when he was with the Royals. He can get to pitches deeper in the strike zone.’’

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Hill not perfect, but gets his best game in last spring start

Rich Hill closed out his first As spring with his best start yet Wednesday.

Rich Hill closed out his first As spring with his best start yet Wednesday.

The A’s got a glimpse of what Rich Hill must have looked like last September when he turned in his best start of the spring in Oakland’s 12-9 loss to the Diamondbacks Wednesday.

Hill was signed to a one-year contract out of free agency by Oakland following four September starts with the Red Sox in which he posted a 1.55 ERA and was, for a month, the Red Sox’s top starter.

This spring Hill struggled with his control, his focus and a 15.26 ERA through much of the spring. But when he left 4.1 innings into the A’s Wednesday Cactus League finale, he’d allowed just two hits, one in the fourth inning and another in the fifth.

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Reddick contract negotiations have some flexibility

Josh Reddick still has a chance to get a contract extension. Talks continue.

Josh Reddick still has a chance to get a contract extension. Talks continue.

The A’s and representatives of right fielder Josh Reddick are likely to continue negotiations on a contract extension past opening day.

At the beginning of spring training Reddick said that he didn’t want negotiations to drag into the season. But sources told this newspaper that the deadline has some flexibility.

The source said the window of negotiations could continue some short time into the season, but only if the two sides are close enough but haven’t gotten a deal done. Negotiations are ongoing.

The right fielder, the winner of the Gold Glove in 2012 and the A’s homer and RBI leader last season, has made it clear he’d like to return on some level of contract extension, and A’s executive vice president Billy Beane has expressed similar sentiments.

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Hahn struggles again; his spot in the rotation is in trouble

Jesse Hahn is in danger of not making the A's rotation. He has an 11.15 ERA with just one spring start left.

Jesse Hahn is in danger of not making the A’s rotation. He has an 11.15 ERA with just one spring start left.

Jesse Hahn’s chances of remaining in the A’s starting rotation took a hit, or closer to the point, 10 hits, Monday. The Indians got that many off Hahn in 4.2 innings as he gave up six runs.

Hahn pitched his way into the rotation with a 3.06 ERA last spring, but this time around the ERA is more than triple that at 11.15 with one more start left to him against the Giants Saturday in the Coliseum.

Asked if he is feeling a sense of urgency with the A’s having six starters and only five jobs, Hahn said “absolutely. I have to get some guys out.’’ The right-hander said he was happy with his location and stuff, but he’s not getting the same downward plane from his sinker that he did 12 months ago.

“I don’t want to carry this into the season,’’ Hahn said. “I need to come out and attack hitters like I have in the past.’’

Manager Bob Melvin said no decision have been made, but the club “is looking for results.’’ So far, Hahn’s haven’t been good.

“He started out up in the zone, and they got some pretty good swings off him,’’ Melvin said. “They ne made some good pitches but just not consistently enough to get outs to stop some of the damage he had. He had breaking balls up in the zone again, and he’s a sinkerball pitcher.’’

Hahn said he continues to throw the sinker, but it’s flattening out instead of diving into the dirt, and that can only help the hitters.

“I know I’m a better pitcher than I’m showing right now and I need to get some guys out,’’ Hahn said. “I’m not seeing the same sinker that I usually have. It was better today; it had good action today, but it’s still not where it needs to be.’’

“It’s a little frustrating, but at the same time it’s still spring training. I have time to figure it out. I have another start. I’m getting hit right now, and I think it’s because my fastball isn’t sinking. It usually sinks.’’

The A’s are wondering if the hot days and drier-than-normal Arizona air is playing into the problem. Hahn’s next start will be in the Coliseum, so those results may suggest something.

 

NOTES

–The A’s are taking everyone still in camp except lefty starter Sean Manaea to the Bay Area for the three-game series with the Giants that starts Thursday. Among other things, this means third baseman Matt Chapman, non-40-man roster player who has been one of the shining lights for Oakland both with his power, four homers, and his defensive work. The A’s will bring 35 players north.

–Manaea, threw a pain-free bullpen session Monday, will stay in Arizona to pitch in a minor league game Thursday. He said the left groin problems that had been bugging him were not in evidence today. “I felt great,’’ he said. “I’m trying to keep on top of it with treatment.’’

–Tuesday’s game, the Cactus League road finale for Oakland, will be a matchup of staff aces, Sonny Gray for the A’s and Jake Arrieta for the Cubs. Chapman impressed Melvin by being excited, rather than nervous, at the chance to face Arrieta. The A’s and Cubs have agreed to use a DH so that neither pitcher will have to hit against the other.

–Melvin said he believed outfielder Jake Smolinski, sent down Sunday, “has the potential to be an everyday player.’’ The manager particularly likes the simplicity of Smolinski’s swing.

–Sam Fuld, back with the A’s after a long time away during which he had cortisone and PRP injections in his ailing left shoulder and went home to Florida to be at the birth of his fourth child, says he’s a couple of days at least away from full baseball activity, although he may mix in some swings before then. The shoulder pain is much diminished, he said.

–Left fielder Khris Davis had his biggest day at the plate this spring, going 3-for-3 with a single, double and triple. He started slowly, but he’s been closing fast and he’s pushed his average to .304. He started 4-for-22, but in his last eight games he’s 10-for-24, .417.

–Yonder Alonso is another fast finisher. The first baseman had a solo homer and two singles, drove in two runs and pushed his average in four at-bats to .364. He has five hits in his last eight at-bats after going 0-for-11.