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A’s experiencing some of the problems of success

There are problems with success, as the A’s are discovering.

Win consistently, and the expectation is that you will continue to do so.

Best the best and playing at less than your best level raises eyebrows.

And in the big leagues, have the best record and you’ve got virtually no chance of claiming a player on waivers.

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A’s: Lester addition forces Tigers to play catchup

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Deny them what you will, the Oakland A’s aren’t boring.

They could have settled for just having made the Independence Day trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but in the final six hours before the trade deadline they went out and completely rebuilt their roster.

At that point, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander said Oakland made the trade because of the A’s had to come through Detroit in the post-season.

But after the A’s moved Yoenis Cespedes from left field and shipped him to Boston in exchange for All-Star starter Jon Lester and platoon left fielder Jonny Gomes, it seemed like the Tigers were playing catch up with the A’s when Detroit made a three-team deal for the other big name starting pitcher out there, David Price.

With it being obvious there was no room at the inn for Tommy Milone in the A’s rotation near term, they traded the minor league starter to the Twins for center fielder Sam Fuld.

The moves spoke about the A’s on several levels.

One. They didn’t believe they could re-sign Cespedes to a long-term contract when his four-year deal ran out after next year.

Two. They didn’t see Jason Hammel or Jesse Chavez as giving them their best chance to win in a post-season start.

Three. Center field is a problem. Coco Crisp has trouble staying in the lineup ever since running into a pole holding up the Coliseum outfield fence and suffered whiplash. And Craig Gentry has a broken right hand that will keep him out two more weeks at a minimum.

Four. There is no time like the present. The A’s are playing to go to the World Series this season. Next season will have to take care of itself.

Things could change, but Lester seems to be a two-month purchase. He gives the A’s something that, with all their pitching, they didn’t have – experience pitching in the World Series. He was 2-0 in the series last year with a 0.59 and 4-1 in the three rounds of the playoffs overall and his career ERA in the playoffs is 2.11.

The A’s have the best record in baseball four months into the season, but that gets you nothing, particularly when the team with the second-best record in the majors is in your division. Because of that, general manager Billy Beane keeps pushing forward.

Since Jan. 1, Beane has added a left-handed reliever who has been one of the best in the game, Eric O’Flaherty; added a right-handed hitting first baseman in Kyle Blanks, claimed lefty pitcher Jeff Francis from the Reds, traded for left-handed starter Brad Mills, traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, then traded for Lester and Gomes and reacquired Fuld.

That nine additions this year already, and even with Blanks injured and Francis no longer around, as A’s co-owner Lew Wolff told me Thursday, “there’s time yet.’’

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A’s shoot down report a decision has been made on Griffin

The internet lit up for a while Friday with a report saying the A’s had decided that starting pitcher A.J. Griffin was going to undergo Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery in his right arm.

The A’s were quick to shoot it down.

The club announced just Thursday that Griffin was going to visit Houston-based Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff Tuesday to have a second opinion on his right flexor tendon which has been slow to heal even after almost a month of rest.

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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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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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Tanaka has potential to alter look of AL West

With their relative surplus of pitching and relative paucity of wealth, the A’s don’t seem inclined to be in on the bidding for Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in the coming weeks.

That doesn’t mean Oakland won’t be closely following the ins and outs of the Tanaka talk. The 25-year-old right-hander was made available for posting Thursday, and it wouldn’t be too outlandish a proposition to see him coming to rest with one of the A’s American League West competitors.

Tanaka, who was a simply unbelievable 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, stands to be the player with the most potential impact still on the open market this winter. The Yankees (yawn) are almost always the first club mentioned as coveting Tanaka, thanks to their big pockets and fragile starting rotation.

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ALDS wrapup: A’s left too much of roster unused; Disappointment follows another Game 5 loss

For a team that prided itself on using its entire roster to get through the 162-game season with the best record in the American League West, the A’s got away from their trademark in the post-season.

Four players, pitchers Jerry Blevins and Jesse Chavez, catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Chris Young, didn’t get into a game. Another catcher, Derek Norris, got one at-bat as a pinch-hitter.

That’s essentially 20 percent of the 25-man roster unused.

This is a quick postmortem, but that’s unlike the A’s.

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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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Stephen Vogt does where Crash Davis never did

If you don’t think there is something wonderful and downright fun about baseball in the playoffs, then you haven’t met Stephen Vogt.

And if you had seen Vogt six months ago, you wouldn’t have seen someone destined for the limelight. You would have seen a man not feeling the wonder, not feeling the fun, just walking through a shopping mall in Durham, N.C., not far from where another minor league catcher, Crash Davis, made a name for himself.

At the time Vogt had close to 1,900 minor league at-bats in which he averaged .299, but in his only 25 at-bats in the big leagues he was a whopping zero, zilch, nada, nyet for 25.

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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.