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Minor league jobs: Christenson moving up, Prieto staying on

The A’s made their minor league managing, coaching, instructing and training positions for 2015 official today.

It’s nice to see one of baseball’s great guys, Ryan Christenson, moving up the managerial ladder. He was at Class A last year and is moving up to take over Double-A Midland after he got Stockton into the California League playoffs last year.

Ariel Prieto, who spent the last few seasons coaching with the big league team and serving as interpreter for fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes, is staying with the organization, moving back to the job he had previously as the pitching coach for the A’s Arizona Rookie League team.

And Steve Scarsone, who managed the last two years in Sacramento, will move to Nashville with the A’s moving their Triple-A affiliate there.

Here’s the complete release from the A’s:

Garvin Alston was named minor league pitching coordinator after spending the previous six seasons as minor league pitching rehab coordinator.  Greg Sparks will take over as minor league hitting coordinator after spending three seasons as hitting coach at Triple-A Sacramento.  Sparks is in his 18th season in the A’s organization, which includes eight years as minor league roving hitting instructor from 2004-11.  Juan Navarrette is in his 21st season with the A’s and will be the minor league defensive, base running and bunting coordinator. Craig Lefferts, who spent the previous 12 seasons as pitching coach in the A’s farm system, replaces Alston as minor league rehab pitching coordinator.  Aaron Nieckula was named minor league field coordinator and will oversee minor league spring training, extended spring training and instructional league.

Steve Scarsone was named manager of the A’s new Triple-A affiliate at Nashville.  This will be his third consecutive season as manager of the A’s Triple-A club as he guided Sacramento to a 79-65 record in each of the previous two seasons.  Scarsone now has a 568-554 record in eight seasons as a minor league manager, including stints in the A’s system with Midland from 2011-12, Stockton in 2010 and Kane County in 2009.  Don Schulze and Webster Garrison earn their first Triple-A assignments in 2015 as pitching coach and hitting coach, respectively.  This will be Schulze’s 10th year as a pitching coach in the A’s system, including the last four at Double-A Midland, and Garrison’s 15th as a coach or manager.  Brad LaRosa returns as the athletic trainer and Terence Brannic was named strength coach.

Ryan Christenson takes over as manager at Midland after leading Single-A Stockton to an 85-55 record and a playoff appearance in 2014.  He made his managerial debut in 2013 at Single-A Beloit after spending six seasons as a player in the Major Leagues, including four with the A’s from 1998-2001.  John Wasdin will be the pitching coach on Christenson’s staff for the third consecutive season and Eric Martins was named hitting coach.  Martins served as a scout for the A’s for the past seven seasons.  Justin Whitehouse returns as the athletic trainer and A.J. Seeliger is the new strength coach.

Rick Magnante assumes the managerial reins at Stockton, his 13th season as a minor league manager.  He has a 457-497 record in his previous 12 seasons, including 55-84 last season with Single-A Beloit.  Rick Rodriguez will be the pitching coach after two seasons in that capacity at Sacramento.  Rodriguez is in his 31st season in the A’s organization, which includes seven seasons as a player and two years as bullpen coach in Oakland (2011-12). Brian McArn returns as hitting coach, his 18th in that role with the A’s and his fourth at Stockton (2011-12, 14).  Travis Tims returns as athletic trainer and Henry Torres takes over as strength coach.

Fran Riordan joins the A’s organization as manager at Single-A Beloit after spending 14 years managing in independent leagues.  Riordan spent the last four seasons at the helm of Florence in the Frontier League, guiding the Freedom to a 190-194 record over that stretch. Steve Connelly, who had his first professional coaching assignment as pitching coach at Short Season Single-A Vermont last year, takes over those duties at Beloit in 2015.  Lloyd Turner returns for his second consecutive season as hitting coach with the Snappers and Brian Thorson returns as athletic trainer.  JD Howell will serve as strength coach.

In addition to his duties as field coordinator, Nieckula will manage the A’s Short Season club at Vermont, his ninth year as a manager in the A’s farm system.  He has spent the last two seasons at Midland and guided the RockHounds to a 77-63 record and the Texas League Championship in 2014.  Carlos Chavez will be the pitching coach after two seasons with the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League. Tommy Everidge returns for his second consecutive season as Vermont’s hitting coach and Toshi Nagahara returns as the athletic trainer.

Ruben Escalera will manage the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League for the second consecutive season and ninth season overall.  He previously managed from 2002-08 and spent the five years in between in various roles as an instructor in the A’s system.  Ariel Prieto was named pitching coach after serving as a coach on the Major League staff the previous three seasons.  He previously served as pitching coach with the A’s rookie club from 2009-11 and will also serve as a liaison between the A’s Dominican Republic and United States based operations.  Juan Dilone returns for his seventh season as hitting coach and Gabriel Ortiz is in his second season as coach.  Chris Lessner returns as the athletic trainer.

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Cespedes gets a day off to take mind off slump

Yoenis Cespedes took the word that he was getting a day off Sunday in stride, A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

The manager said his left fielder knows what’s going on.

And what’s going on right now is a hitless streak of nine at-bats and a six-game batting average of .154. Add to that some faux pas in the outfield and Melvin figured it would be a good day for a day off.

Cespedes is willing to accept that.

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Game 6 wrapup: Cespedes’ elbow sore; Sogard’s defense shines; Donaldson’s big at-bat; Astros’ curious move

Yoenis Cespedes flinched while taking a swing in Saturday’s 6-3 win over Houston, and he admits there is some discomfort in the elbow.

While manager Bob Melvin said the medics would have another look at it and see if Cespedes is good to go Sunday in the series finale, the left fielder didn’t see any reason to come out of the lineup.

“It’s good,’’ he said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “It was just the one swing.’’

There have, however, but plenty of off-looking swings from Cespedes of late. He struck out three more times Saturday while going 0-for-4, and in his last 20 trips to the plate he’s struck out nine times. A .450 strikeout percentage is nobody’s idea of a good time.

But to hear Cespedes, it’s all good.

“I’m not worried about the elbow,’’ he said. “I’m not worried about the strikeouts. I’m not worried about anything.’’

“I’m seeing pitches well, but I’ve gotten a little crazy with my mechanics. I’m trying to hit the ball ahead instead of waiting for the ball to come to me.’’

And then Cespedes offered the media a little tidbit.

“I’m going to give you guys a lot of home runs this year,’’ he said.

What we’re supposed to do with them no one knows, but A’s fans and his Oakland teammates will take all the home runs Cespedes has to offer. He’s only got three hits this season in six games, a .130 average, but two of the three have been homers.

 

TRYING TO MAKE THE TEAM

Eric Sogard made the opening day roster, but that isn’t the end of his quest. It’s just the beginning.

Sogard wants to keep his job as the primary second baseman in a platoon with Scott Sizemore, and two plays he made on defense Saturday will help keep him in the lineup.

He started a double play to get Bartolo Colon out of a potential jam in the sixth inning, then made a diving stop, then got up and made a throw for the first out of the eighth.

“Defense is a big part of the job,’’ Sogard said. “I’m not doing as much as I want to on offense right now, but I’ve got the opportunity to make a lot of plays.’’

Sogard did get an RBI single to cap a four-run sixth inning Saturday. But after hitting close to .500 for most of the spring, he’s off to a .188 start now that the games count.

“His defense has been terrific,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s got great timing with his dives. And when you start a double play or take away a hit the way he did tonight, that’s as big as getting a hit in its own way.’’

 

THE BIG HIT

Josh Donaldson is struggling as much as any hitter wearing an Oakland uniform.

He had just two hits before the sixth inning Saturday when he fell behind in the count against Astros opening day starter Bud Norris. Donaldson worked to get back into the count, the hit a 3-2 pitch to the opposite field for a game-tying single.

“I don’t know if it was my best AB yet, but it was definitely a good AB,’’ Donaldson said. “I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball pretty good, but I haven’t had any of the balls fall in, so that was definitely a nice at-bat to have.’’

Donaldson, as much as anyone, has fallen victim to the wide-open space in Minute Maid Park this weekend. He hit a bomb that was caught at the wall in left-center in the fifth inning Saturday and that ball was a virtual duplicate of a bomb that he unloaded Friday.

“That’s going to happen,’’ he said. “Sooner or later those are going to start falling in.’’

Melvin called Donaldson’s game-tying single the A’s biggest at-bat of the night. And that’s on a night when Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Seth Smith all homered.

 

GOING AGAINST THE BOOK

Houston’s first-year manager, Bo Porter, made the most curious move of the night by bringing in a lefty reliever, Wesley Wright, to face the A’s Derek Norris, a right-hander who generally hits lefties well.

The game was tied at the time and Norris delivered a go-ahead single. Oakland never trailed again.

Asked if he was surprised at such a move from the other manager when going to a right-handed reliever would seem to be the way to go, Melvin couldn’t retreat from the question quickly enough.

“I’ve brought in (lefty) Sean Doolittle to face right-handers,’’ Melvin said. “I don’t know his roster like he does.’’