Matt Olson (Getty Images)
Much has been made about the A’s offense needing to find ways other than home runs to score because the power that has marked Oakland teams of the recent past isn’t in evidence this time around.
That may be true, although Josh Reddick (32 in 2012), Ike Davis (32 in 2012 for the Mets), Billy Butler (29 for the Royals, also in 2012) and Josh Phegley (26 last year, 23 of those in the minor leagues with the White Sox) have at least the promise of the long ball.
What seems clear is that the A’s power shortage may be a short-term thing. Last year at Class-A Stockton, first baseman Matt Olson hit 37 homers and third baseman Renato Nunez hit 29.
R.J. Alvarez brings explosive fastball and dreams of being in A’s bullpen in 2015.
When you hear that a baseball player was just born to play the game, metaphor is in play.
In the case of A’s relief pitcher R.J. Alvarez, it’s true.
Roy and Susie Alvarez both are baseball fanatics. When their son R.J. (Roy Jr., of course) was born on June 8, 1991 in West Palm Beach, Fla., Roy Sr. met him for the first time with a gift – a baseball glove.
“I think Susie kind of expected it,’’ he said. “We dated in high school, and it was always about baseball.’’
The A’s will not get a look at left-handed starting pitching candidate Sean Nolin for a while.
Oakland had hoped a flat ground throwing session Saturday would indicate Nolin was ready to throw off a mound following off-season sports hernia surgery.
Manager Bob Melvin said that the throwing did not go well.
Jesse Chavez starts this year as he did last year, feeling he has something to prove to the A’s.
Here’s what A’s manager Bob Melvin said about Jesse Chavez’s first session throwing off a mound in camp Friday:
“He looks in mid-season form every time I ever see him,’’ Melvin said, “whether he’s throwing bullpen, or in a game early. Impressive. He’s a very focused kid who comes here with the mindset he has something to prove. That’s always what you like to see.’’
Twelve months ago he said virtually the same thing and Chavez went out and won a job in the starting rotation after beginning the spring with 12.2 scoreless innings in the Cactus League.
Chavez will have something to prove again. Last year he got an unexpected chance to start when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin went down with season-ending Tommy John surgeries. Chavez lost his job in the rotation after 21 starts in which he posted a 3.44 ERA as the A’s traded for veteran starter Jon Lester at the trade deadline.
Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin said he sent get well wishes to Giants manager Bruce Bochy Thursday night after hearing that Bochy had been admitted to a Scottsdale hospital after his physical exam revealed the need for an operation that inserted two stents into his heart.
“That’s scary, and he’s talking like it’s no big deal,’’ Melvin said. “He’s the best manager in the big leagues.
“I don’t know if that gets caught in the physicals they gave 10 years ago or when I was playing.’’
Melvin said Thursday that the only quirk he’d had during a physical was when as a player he was detected as having a heart murmur. It turned out to be something of an overly vigorous heart.
“It turned out my heart was too strong,’’ he said, shaking his head.
Tyler Clippard remains likeliest candidate to start season as A’s closer
Tyler Clippard thought he’d dodged a bullet when he started talking contract with the Washington Nationals last month, so it came as a bit of a shock for him to learn he’d been traded to the A’s on Jan. 14
`I kind of thought I was out of the woods,’’ Clippard said after reporting to the A’s with the rest of the pitchers and catchers at the extensively remodeled Hohokam Stadium Thursday morning. “Our arbitration date was three days away and we were talking about contracts.’’
The surprise came in the form or Yunel Escobar. Oakland had picked up the shortstop along with Ben Zobrist four days earlier from Tampa Bay in a deal that sent John Jaso to the Rays.
Mark Canha, who went from Bellarmine High to Cal, is mostly a left fielder and first baseman, but he can play some third, and A’s may well give him that chance in 2015.
The smart money says the A’s aren’t done with their tri-annual roster remake, but as we await those, there are some intriguing possibilities put forward by the moves the club already has made since the end of the season.
For me, one of the more compelling is the addition of Rule 5 slugger Mark Canha, the Cal product who is mostly a first baseman and left fielder.
He also plays third base, and has a Triple-A slash line good enough – .303/.384/.505 – that the A’s traded a young pitcher they liked, Austin House, Thursday morning to make sure they could emerge from the Rule 5 draft with Canha, the owner of 68 career minor league homers, in the fold.
John Jaso wants to be back with the A’s, but doesn’t know if a trade is in his future.
It’s possible that the A’s have done their damage at the 113th Winter Meetings and will cool their heels the rest of the week, but it’s not a solid bet.
Oakland still has at least one other player the A’s might consider moving, catcher John Jaso. To be sure, general manager Billy Beane is a huge fan of Jaso, who works the count, has a habit of coming up with timely hits and who is an on-base machine.
On the down side, he’s had concussions the last two years that have taken him out of back-to-back stretch drives with Oakland. Doctors have given him the go-ahead to resume catching.
“I think that’s ancient history now,’’ Jaso told me Tuesday morning. “I’m moving on, starting my workouts and I’m ready to go. As of right now, I’m still planning on taking up catching again, whatever team I’m on.’’
Starter Jon Lester is one of seven potential free agents the A’s could see leave this off-season.
Now that Madison Bumgarner is going to stop grabbing all the headlines, which should happen any day now, the clock is up and running on the 2015 season for the A’s, and for everyone else.
The A’s had visions that starter Jon Lester would have the same kind of impact on Oakland’s October as Bumgarner did for San Francisco’s. Lester, after all, had the second-best World Series ERA, 0.43, in history before Bumgarner’s MVP performance against the Royals lowered his career World Series ERA to 0.25, pushing Lester to third.
Now Lester is all but gone from the A’s. He said he loved his time in Oakland, and the A’s would like to have him back, but the money doesn’t work. Lester is going to get a contract in the range of $150 million from someone – the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Cubs lead the list of the usual suspects – that would all but break the bank in Oakland.