A’s batting coach Chili Davis spent his usual Sunday morning in the batting cage working with eight or 10 of the club’s hitters, whoever wandered by over the course of 90 minutes.
One of those was, as is almost always the case, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Davis had Cespedes hit off a tee, then tee off on some underhand flips from Davis behind a screen.
After Cespedes, who has spent the spring trying to turn a long swing into a short one, was done and things were dying down, Davis turned to me and asked, “Why is everyone so concerned about Cespedes?’’
I said a .130 spring batting average will do that, and Davis just shook his head.
The A’s have had a rather easy time of it this year.
The players have been happy with the manager and the front office. The manager has balanced the players’ needs with the front office’s desires. And the front office has had no reason to complain about much of anything.
It’s not like that in much of baseball, however. The A’s are going to the playoffs. Two-thirds of Major League teams won’t be. One of those is Seattle, and the Mariners made the kind of news Friday that losing teams make entirely too often.
After 122 games last year, the A’s were five games behind Texas, so it’s clearly better that after 122 games this season Oakland trails the Rangers by just 1.5 games.
At this point last year, the A’s had clearly turned a corner. After a stretch of four losses in five games, the A’s had gone 5-1 in Games 117-122. They would only lose 12 of their final 40 games.
Chili Davis liked to play mind games when he was a player, and that hasn’t changed since he’s become a coach.
Asked what it was that his hitters have done to win four of five decisions against Texas ace Yu Darvish, Davis just smiled.
“I think we’re in his mind more than he’s in our minds,’’ Davis said.
At some level A’s manager Bob Melvin seems to have made a wise choice in having John Jaso get most of the starts in the leadoff spot with Coco Crisp on the disabled list.
You want the leadoff hitter to get one base, and Jaso has done that. His on-base percentage coming into Tuesday when in the leadoff slot was .462. He doesn’t have great speed, but getting on is the name of the game.
Jaso has been all over the lineup the last season-plus in Seattle and Oakland, and he doesn’t change his work habits just because of where he’s situated in the lineup.
PHOENIX – There’s nothing quite like seeing a few of the old-timers around, especially as one creeps towards old-time status oneself.
So it was nice to run across Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart today with the A’s. I covered them when they were crucial parts of the A’s championship run 1988-1990 (Rickey didn’t land back in Oakland until 1989, but you get the point).