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Lindblom, Pomeranz get second shot at A’s bullpen

The A’s have talked plenty in the last 36 hours about the depth of their pitching.

And while it’s true that they can promote someone like Jesse Chavez to fill in as a member of the rotation to start the season, that kind of move necessarily weakens them in the bullpen.

Chavez has only made two big league starts in 191 career games. The A’s have never seen him go more than 5.2 innings, and that was in relief in an 18-inning game. He was terrific in that one, throwing scoreless relief and getting the win.

Chavez, at least early on, can’t be expected to go more than five innings in starts because he doesn’t have the track record. If it was any other pitcher, the A’s could weather that, because they’d have Chavez in the bullpen to come in the game in the fifth or sixth inning.

With Chavez in the rotation, that luxury is gone unless they can come up with Chavez Lite.

So for the final couple of weeks, the A’s may stretch out Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz with the idea that one of them will take Chavez’s role as the man who eats innings in the bullpen.

Lindblom, acquired from Texas in the Michael Choice deal that brought outfielder Craig Gentry to Oakland, could have a chance to make the opening day roster now that wasn’t there just a couple of days ago. The Rangers started him five times last year, but they seemed to have liked him in bullpen. His overall numbers weren’t great (1-3, 5.46 ERA overall, but he allowed no runs in 4.1 innings in three games of relief.

Pomeranz, a lefty picked up from Colorado in the Brett Anderson trade, falls into much of that same situation. He pitched in eight games for the Rockies last year, starting four. He had an 8.10 ERA as a starter, but in five innings of relief over four games, he, too, didn’t allow a run.

Until this week, both men seemed likely to be heading to Triple-A Sacramento. Now, with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin opening up jobs, they have a chance to start in Sacramento.

To this point, Lindblom seems to have the edge. Both have pitched in four games, but Lindblom’s 3.32 ERA is about half of Pomeranz’s 6.23. But Pomeranz is scheduled to pitch in relief today in Scottsdale against the Giants, so he has a chance to bridge the gap.

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A’s have no problem visualizing Chavez in midst of rotation

Jesse Chavez is pitching his way into A's starting rotation with Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin hurting

Jesse Chavez is pitching his way into A’s starting rotation with Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin hurting

Jesse Chavez seems to have come into his own since the middle of last season.

And the timing couldn’t be better for the A’s, who very likely will plug the right-handed pitcher into the starting rotation to begin the season with Friday’s news that Jarrod Parker (forearm tightness) and A.J. Griffin (elbow soreness) both could be out of action to start the season.

He’s only started twice in 191 career games, but the A’s, like the Blue Jays before them, have kept him stretched out, holding open the possibility of using him as a starter.

Chavez’s last 10 games last year saw him put together a 2.84 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .163 batting average. That was all in relief, but both general manager Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin have talked about moving Chavez into the rotation if there was ever a need.

The need is now. And Chavez has been making himself ready for this moment, including throwing 12.2 scoreless innings this spring, four of them Thursday against the Rockies.

The secret, says the 30-year-old Chavez, is being able to visualize a pitch before he throws it.

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A’s approve of Griffin taking charge of his pitching future

A.J. Griffin is going back to an old friend - his changeup

A.J. Griffin is going back to an old friend – his changeup

Managers and pitching coaches would much rather have a young pitcher come to them and say “I need to develop a pitch’’ than have to suggest that kind of move themselves.

The idea is that if the prompting is internally generated, the pitcher is more likely to do the little things that go into the making of a pitch.

So the A’s are happy that starter A.J. Griffin has decided he would rather go back to throwing his changeup, a pitch he used to master, while ditching the cutter he’s thrown with mixed success since picking it up in 2011.

“What it says to me is that the player knows his strengths and weaknesses,’’ Oakland manager Bob Melvin said, “and he wants to work on his weaknesses. You want to see that in all your guys.’’

Melvin’s pitching coach, Curt Young, said that Griffin is on the same quest every other young starting pitcher (Griffin is 26) is on.

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Sogard’s #FaceofMLB run `like going to Disneyland’

The bespeckled face of nerdpower isn’t, ultimately, the face of baseball.

A’s second baseman Eric Sogard’s wild ride through the Twittersphere came to an end Friday morning when a late push got the Mets’ David Wright over the top and a victory in MLB Networks’ #FaceofMLB competition.

“It was like going to Disneyland,’’ Sogard said Friday after the results were announced. “I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.’’

Sogard did nothing to promote his own candidacy, and said he was shocked when A’s fans originally picked him as the Oakland contestant in the competition. But as he rolled past the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, the Giants’ Buster Posey and the Jays’ Jose Bautista, his momentum morphed from a strong surge into a tidal wave.

Were fans into it? Just a little. They took photos of the man whose black-rimmed glasses have had him crowned the face of #nerdpower, digitally imposed them on every picture they could think of and inundated Twitter with them.

There was Sogard in a poster for the movie Fight Club. And Raiders of the Lost Ark. And Toy Story. And the list goes on.

“There were so many amazing memes,’’ Sogard’s wife, Kaycee, said. “Eric took it all in stride, but we loved them all. I’m going to track them all down and make a book of them. They’re too good to lose.’’

Sogard just laughed when asked if he was going to ask for a recount of the vote, which saw him lose to Wright by two percentage points, 51-49. Sogard had been ahead when the West Coast went to bed Thursday night, but the East Coast rallied early.

None of which bothered Sogard.

“It goes to show the passion of A’s fans,’’ Sogard said. “It’s not just about me, it’s about this team and the fans we have. They are amazing.’’

Reliever Sean Doolittle has a theory on how the Sogard phenomenon got so big so fast.

“Who are the Oakland A’s?’’ Doolittle said. A’s fans had a chance to flip baseball on its side and they did a great job of it.’’

As did the A’s players, at least those who are on Twitter.

“We had a blast with it,’’ Doolittle said. “It got to be seeing who could come up with the coolest things to say to promote Sogie.’’

Josh Reddick dropped a few names and got Larry the Cable Guy and WWE wrestler The Big Show on board on Sogard’s behalf.

Starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Dan Straily orchestrated a scam in which Gray directed to Straily a tweet of support of Sogard his “new’’ phone number, asking that Straily call him. The number was the A’s ticket office.

Jarrod Parker, Josh Donaldson, A.J. Griffin, Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and Tommy Milone all were out in front in leading the charge for Sogard. Even former A’s pitcher Travis Blackley, now pitching in Australia, chipped in, as did Brett Anderson and Pat Neshek, both of whom spent 2013 with the A’s.

Tweeted Norris: “Vote for the guy whose glasses are so powerful he can see the future.’’

Tweeted Crisp: “Who do you think showed @Coco_Crisp all his dance moves? Yup!! It was #EricSogard #FaceofMLB Sogie’s got skills.”

Tweeted Cook: “My timeline is a joke …  #EricSogard #FaceofMLB all over the place!

“I think you saw the personality of this team come out through all this,’’ Gray said. “Everybody was into it.’’

Sogard, a second baseman who has a fight ahead of him to hold the job he won last spring, won’t soon forget any of this.

“We may not have the most fans, but we have amazing fans,’’ Sogard said. “They get the credit for all this. This was them.’’

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Parker seems on target for opening day start vs. Indians; Melvin taking Twitter out for a spin for the second time

UPDATED

The first starting pitchers for A’s Cactus League play starting Wednesday will be Jesse Chavez, Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker.

Manager Bob Melvin told the Bay Area News Group Sunday evening he’d mistakenly swapped Milone and Parker when he was talking about his first three starters of the Cactus League season.

There was no official notice of an opening day starter from Melvin, but the fact that Parker is pitching Friday suggests that he is down to get the opening day start.

Oakland starting pitcher candidates Parker, A.J. Griffin, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, and Sonny Gray are expected to throw every fifth day to get them in order.

Doing that would, when you factor in days off March 20 and March 30, would have Parker scheduled for a March 31 start. And that’s opening day in the Coliseum against the Indians.

Milone has a chance to break into that rotation, but if he does so, it likely would have to be at the expense of Straily, who won 10 games for the A’s as a starter after being called up to stay at the end of April.

Although he’s been a starter and is getting Wednesday’s start against the Giants in Scottsdale Stadium, Chavez pitched only relief in Oakland last year and would seem destined for that role again this year.

 

–Twitter 1, Melvin 0.

Melvin joined Twitter last spring with the idea that he needed to keep abreast of the latest trends. He lasted three days. He didn’t much like what he read, finding it annoying for the most part.

But he’s back. He said Sunday he joined Twitter for a second time, this time under an alias, and for the moment, at least, will just read and won’t be posting tweets. He noted his buddy, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson joined this year and has tweeted once.

Who’s he following? A total of 29 people at this point including about 10 of his players and most of the local media involved in covering the A’s. That would include one @jhickey3.

“It’s more the players who annoy me more than anything else,’’ he said. “Some of the stuff, I don’t even want to see what they’re doing.’’

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Russell heads to spring as 12th-best MLB prospect

The A’s will enter spring training with one of the youngest rosters in the Major Leagues.

There is a drawback to that, albeit a small one. When MLB.com just came out with its annual list of the top 100 prospects, the A’s only had one player on the list. Shortstop Addison Russell, who turned 20 on Thursday, ranks 12th.

Beyond that, nada for Oakland.

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Melvin sees this A’s bullpen as his best yet

Bob Melvin ended the 2013 season with a bullpen he believed was the best he’d ever had at his disposal.

The relievers A’s manager Melvin called on last season went 24-18 with a 3.22 earned run average. The bullpen was the backbone of a second consecutive American League West title. The relievers won or saved 70 of the A’s 96 wins.

Now with spring training’s start drawing close, the manager says the Oakland bullpen for 2014 could be his best ever.

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There could yet be room for Tanaka in Oakland

If there is one team in the Major Leagues that doesn’t need Masahiro Tanaka, it’s the Oakland A’s.

That apparently doesn’t mean that the bidding for right-handed free agent starting pitcher from Japan will go on without the A’s having input.

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Game 162 wrapup: Melvin makes sure Donaldson finishes over .300; Gray tunes up for ALDS start; Norris has smooth sailing playing first base

What’s in a number?

On Saturday, Brandon Moss got to the 30-homer level. On Sunday, Josh Donaldson was taken out of the game in part to preserve a plus-.300 batting average and Chris Young came out with his average at .200.

There’s something about round numbers that baseball likes.

Donaldson likes his .301 average, too, but he was loathe to be taken out of the game after just one plate trip.

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Blevins finding his game again, just in time for playoffs; A’s like progress Griffin has made

NOTE: this was written Tuesday night with the plan to post it then, but technical issues with the posting software cropped up.

Here it is, 12 hours late.

 

Jerry Blevins limped into the end of August in one of those everything-goes-wrong slumps that athletes sometimes must endure.
The A’s left-handed reliever pitched in five games, had a 6.75 ERA after giving up five runs on five hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. His overall ERA skied from 3.15 to 3.61.
That was then. The Blevins who pitched Tuesday in Angels Stadium was the pitcher he has most often been the last two seasons with Oakland – concise with his pitches, effective in the strike zone and able to shut down the other side.
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