A’s are scattered all over Valley one day before heading home

Coco Crisp will get swings but won't play defense Tuesday morning in A's minor league camp.

Coco Crisp will get swings but won’t play defense Tuesday morning in A’s minor league camp.

One day before the A’s fly as a group back to the Bay Area for the Bay Bridge Series and then the start of the season, the A’s find themselves scattered around the Valley of the Sun.

Because of their desire to have left fielder Coco Crisp (right elbow) and Josh Reddick (right oblique) play in a more contained manner Tuesday, they will have them play in a camp game in Mesa’s Fitch Park against minor leaguers beginning at 10 a.m. Crisp will be limited to swinging a bat in this, his first day of game-like activity since hurting his elbow and subsequently having a cortisone shot.

For players who are further along, like starting pitcher Sonny Gray and catcher Josh Phegley will play in the Triple-A Game about an hour later against minor leaguers of the Arizona Diamondbacks on the road at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.

And then bulk of the team will be in Tempe to play the Angels with Barry Zito getting his last spring start in an effort to extending his streak of scoreless innings past its current 11 and, along the way, perhaps land a job in the big leagues. There are expected to be scouts from teams looking to add pitching on hand.

The A’s don’t have a big league job for him, and it’s not clear if the former Cy Young Award winner would be willing to begin the season in the minor leagues.

Normally, manager Bob Melvin would try to take in parts of all minor league games before heading to the Cactus League game. But he’ll likely settle for watching Crisp and Reddick and then the Zito-led semi-regulars after that.

“We’re a little bit scattered today,’’ Melvin said. “There’s a lot going on.’’

Wednesday will be the opposite. With the team scheduled to fly out of Phoenix late in the afternoon, players will be allowed to arrive at the ballpark late so as to finish last-minute packing. The Cactus League finale against the Angels in Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium will be moved up from 1:05 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. to facilitate an early departure.

It’s been a long six-plus weeks and “we’re all anxious to get going,’’ Melvin said.


Zito, Crisp take center stage today for A’s vs. Cubs

Barry Zito's gets his first Cactus League start Thursday against the Cubs.

Barry Zito’s gets his first Cactus League start Thursday against the Cubs.

It’s a quiet morning in Mesa with only a little bit of news coming out of A’s camp

That figures to change this afternoon as former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito makes his fist Cactus League start of the spring in what he hopes will be a first step toward winning a job in the A’s rotation.

And Coco Crisp will start in left field, marking his move there from center field, his home for most of his big league career.

Zito has a long road to go to make the A’s rotation. The A’s have three spots open behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, but the club is leaning toward giving Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz the first shots at two of those jobs, and Oakland went out and got handful of not-quite-ready-for-primetime pitchers for the fifth spot, including Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt.

It’s a virtual certainty that one of those last three makes the rotation, and two of them making it isn’t out of the question.

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A’s hoping Crisp’s time out due to pinkeye will be short; Muncy’s RBI single drives in only run of intrasquad game

Coco Crisp will miss some time after coming down with conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye.

Coco Crisp will miss some time after coming down with conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye.

The A’s are looking at being without Coco Crisp for Tuesday’s start of the Cactus League season after the center fielder missed Saturday’s workout having come down with a case of pinkeye.
“He wasn’t here today; we hope he’ll be here tomorrow, but we don’t know,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.
Crisp didn’t start for nine consecutive days from Sept. 19-27, 2012, with the same problem.
“We’re hoping we’ve caught it early,’’ Melvin said. “He came in with it yesterday and we’ve got him at home now hoping this resolves itself quickly.’’
Pinkeye, known medically as conjunctivitis, manifests itself in redness as swelling of the eyelid and eye surface, which becomes red and swollen. It’s a contagious affliction, but is usually not serious and goes away in 7-10 days without medical treatment.
Crisp, who was wearing sunglasses indoors Thursday, when he talked with the media about his new iPhone game app, Coco’s Fro Patrol, didn’t start a game from Sept. 19-27 in 2012 because of pinkeye as the A’s were in the middle of their dramatic rally to edge Texas on the season’s last day for the American League West title.
“We’re hoping very much that it’s not going to take him that long this time,’’ Melvin said. “But if it had to happen, this is a good time, with so much of the spring left.’’
Even before this, Melvin wasn’t planning on putting Crisp in center field in the early going of the Cactus League, which opens Tuesday with the A’s hosting the Giants with lefty Brad Mills on the mound.
Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld have plenty of experience in center field, but Melvin pointed to infielders Matt Olson, Tyler Ladendorf, Andy Parrino and Alden Carrithers as being likely to pick up playing time with Crisp out.
The manager said he felt Crisp, who has a history of being able to return to play quickly after being sidelined, would only need one or two nine-inning games to be ready to go for the season.
Crisp, 36, is the A’s leadoff hitter and the man who usually makes the offense go. Oakland is protective of his health, and the A’s would love to see him start more than the 126 games in which he played last year.
Since 2010, the A’s are 303-252 with Crisp in the lineup, a .546 winning percentage, and 130-125 without him, .510.

–Threatening skies held off Saturday morning and early afternoon as the A’s got in a four-inning intrasquad game.
Only one run was scored, that on an RBI single by minor league infielder Max Muncy, who drove in Billy Burns. Burns was hit by a Brock Huntzinger pitch in the second, took second on an Eric Sogard single and scored on Muncy’s one-out hit.
The game was played with particular attention to the new baseball rules on batters staying in the batter’s box between pitches if they don’t swing.
“We’re just trying to get a feel for the new rules,’’ Melvin said.
Fernando Rodriguez, who threw a scoreless second inning, was singled out by the manager for his performance, as was R.J. Alvarez, who walked the first two men he faced, then came back to strike out the next two before getting an inning-ending grounder.
And then there was switch pitcher Pat Venditte. He warmed up as a left-hander, then started the inning as a right-hander against right-hander Rangel Ravelo before moving back to the left side to close out the inning.
Melvin also singled out the defensive work of outfielders Gentry and Fuld and infielders Brett Lawrie and Marcus Semien.

–Chad Smith, claimed off waivers from the Tigers, reported to camp Saturday. The A’s will work him into the pitching mix in the next day or two.
“I’m excited to be here,’’ Smith said. “You really don’t expect to be traded. You think it will be the other guy. But I have some family in the Bay Area, which is nice.

–The A’s starters for the first three games of the Cactus League season will be lefty Brad Mills, right-hander Jesse Chavez and lefty Barry Zito.
–Ryan Doolittle, the right-handed brother of A’s lefty Sean Doolittle, pitched the final half inning Saturday and showed a lively fastball.
–Alex Hassan, picked up on a waiver claim from the Orioles, should be in the A’s camp Sunday


Pitching guru has great expectations for Zito’s return to A’s

Barry Zito's winter spent with pitching guru Ron Wolforth has resulted in an invitation to A's spring training camp.

Barry Zito’s winter spent with pitching guru Ron Wolforth has resulted in an invitation to A’s spring training camp.

Ron Wolforth won’t throw an inning in the big leagues this year, but he could have a huge impact on the A’s starting rotation.

It was Wolforth, something of a pitching guru working out of Houston, who resuscitated Scott Kazmir’s career a couple of years back. Kazmir, a 15-game winner and an All-Star last year, is the No. 2 man in the Oakland rotation behind Sonny Gray.

And Monday came the news that another Wolforth reclamation case, Barry Zito, has signed with the A’s. Zito will be on a minor league contract, but if the left-hander does as well as Wolforth seems to believe he will, the one-time Cy Young Award winner could easily fit into the A’s rotation.

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A’s Doolittle honored as a finalist for Hutch Award

There is some nice news out of the Pacific Northwest in that A’s reliever Sean Doolittle is one of the 10 finalists for the Hutch Award.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this particular award, it’s a big deal, if for no other reason that the names who have won it already – the first three winners were Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax and Carl Yastrzemski. In all, 11 members of the Hall of Fame have been given the award, given to a Major League player who “best exemplified the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred Hutchinson by persevering through adversity.’’

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ALDS Game 5 pressure on shoulders of Oakland organization given its history, not the A’s players

The A’s have been very good at deflecting pressure, putting one foot in front of the other and moving on a very orderly path through the 2013 season.

Does all that change now, with the season down to one game?

They won’t want to admit it, but yes it does.

Just not so much for the players. Most of them went through the disappointment of losing in Game 5 of the 2012 playoffs to Detroit and Justin Verlander, and they know the obstacle the Tigers are.

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ALDS Game 2 wrapup: A’s show their fight once again; Coliseum had room for more than baseball

This was what Raul Ibanez meant.

Last week when I was talking with the Mariners outfielder, he praised the A’s mental toughness, their inability to stop fighting. He called them one of the grittiest clubs he had ever seen.

Saturday’s 1-0 win over Detroit was the personification of that game. They scored not a run against former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander for seven innings, then didn’t score in the eighth after putting two men on base.

Come the ninth inning, the A’s were still clawing. Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith backed up doubles, and after Josh Reddick was intentionally walked, Stephen Vogt came up with the game-winner.

On paper, the Tigers may have the better team. They certainly hit for a better average, and as good as the A’s starting pitching is, the Tigers will say theirs in better. There is no Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander in Oakland.

But as Ibanez was pointing out, some things can’t be measured in statistics alone.

The result makes for some very good baseball. Saturday’s game was as good an exhibition of high-quality baseball as you’re likely to see.

As Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “This is post-season pitching. That’s what you saw tonight at its best.’’

This kind of victory actually speaks well for the A’s going forward. The Tigers have sent their best two starters at Oakland and only got a split of the games. Jarrod Parker, who pitched a solid Game 1 in Comerica Park last year, goes against the Tigers in a day game Monday, and Dan Straily, whose win on Aug. 28 came at the expense of the pitcher he’ll oppose Tuesday, Doug Fister, has been pitching as well as anyone.

–Billy Beane was asked how Saturday’s scoreless battle between starters Verlander and Sonny Gray matched up with A’s post-season pitching matchups.

Misunderstanding the question, Beane said it reminded him of the 1991 Jack Morris 10-inning 1-0 win, outlasting Atlanta’s John Smoltz, who like Morris did not allow a run.

After that, Beane came up with Barry Zito vs. Mike Mussina of the Yankees in the 2001 playoffs, and Tim Hudson vs. the Yankees Andy Pettitte, also in 2001.

The fact is this one was a classic, for most of us anyway.

Late in the game the A’s general manager brought his kids down to manager Bob Melvin’s office where they, along with A’s managing partner Lew Wolff broke out the crayons and did some coloring.

The preschoolers (not including Beane Sr. and Wolff) “didn’t even know when we scored the winning run,’’ Beane said.


Game 55 wrapup: Moss heartened by strikeout

Brandon Moss’s swing has been so off-key that manager Bob Melvin felt the need to pull Moss aside before Thursday’s game to talk about it.

In the 31 games coming into Thursday’s series finale against the Giants at AT&T Park, Moss was hitting just .191. Before that, he was at .302.

The manager asked Moss what his approach was at the plate.

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Comparing stats of the ‘Big Three’

In light of reports that former A’s pitcher Mark Mulder is retiring, I thought it’d be fun to compare the stats of the Big Three (Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito) from their Oakland careers. These are solely the numbers they compiled with the A’s, not counting their time w/other teams.

Tell us which guy you would have chosen if you needed to win one game …

Career games started
Zito 222 (4th on Oakland list)
Hudson 183 (7th)
Mulder 150

Career wins
Zito 102 (4th on Oakland list)
Hudson 92 (6th)
Mulder 81 (7th)

Career strikeouts
Zito 1,096 (4th on Oakland list)
Hudson 899 (5th)
Mulder 668 (9th)

Career ERA
Hudson 3.30 (10th on Oakland list, min. 400 innings pitched)
Zito 3.55
Mulder 3.92

Career shutouts
Hudson 8
Mulder 8 (both tied for 8th on Oakland list)
Zito 4

Career won-loss pct.
Hudson 92-39, .702 (1st on Oakland list)
Mulder 81-42, .659 (2nd)
Zito 102-63, .618 (6th)

Career Cy Young Awards
Zito 1 (2002)
Hudson 0 (finished 2nd in 2000)
Mulder 0 (finished 2nd in 2001)