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A’s: Burns’ spring training trial could be ready to pay off

Billy Burns went from Double-A to the big leagues Monday, joining the A's in Houston.

Billy Burns went from Double-A to the big leagues Monday, joining the A’s in Houston.

Billy Burns was almost out the hotel door, heading to the ballpark in Frisco, Texas, where he’d be the center fielder Monday night for the Midland Rockhounds, the same as the day before and the day before that.

His manager, Aaron Nieckula, changed everything with one phone call. Pack your bags and come to the park, Nieckula said. An explanation would be awaiting.

It was, but Burns didn’t need it. Shortly after the first call he got another, this one from A’s traveling secretary Mickey Morabito, on the line to arranging a quick flight to Houston, where Burns would be joining the A’s. Oakland was down two center fielders, Coco Crisp out for at least a few days with a neck injury and Craig Gentry out possibly a couple of weeks or more with a broken right hand.

Before the night was over, Burns would go from being a .250 hitter at Double-A unhappy with the level of offense he was putting out, to being up two levels and getting his first big league at-bat. He flew out to right as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of a 7-3 loss to Houston.

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A’s: Gentry, Crisp prove speed doesn’t take a day off

Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry combined their speed skills to run down Giants Monday.

Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry combined their speed skills to run down Giants Monday.

The focus in Oakland almost always on the offense, which has scored the most runs (444) or on the pitching, which has the second-best ERA in the majors (3.11).

The thing is, the A’s can do more. And they did more Monday in the opener against the Giants, a team they will play three more times this week.

The A’s first run came in the fifth inning off Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong, who hit Craig Gentry with a pitch. Gentry then stole second and took third as Coco Crisp dropped down a brilliant bunt down the first base line, beating it out with a speed show of his own.

“It’s a good combination when they’re both on,’’ manager bob Melvin said. “there’s the dynamic where (the pitcher) has to be quick to the plate.’’

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A’s: Latest trend in clubhouse: Going to the jungle

I went to the jungle Friday.

I had no idea of what was going on when I walked into the A’s clubhouse shortly after it opened at 3:30 p.m. ET and heard multiple players yelling “I went to the jungle!’’

The phrase was new to me in a baseball sense, well in most any sense, really, so I asked the nearest player I could find, infielder Nick Punto, what was going on.

He said he wouldn’t let me write about it unless I did it. That’s a challenge writers can get from the players in a baseball clubhouse from time to time. I pursued it.

It seems that on Wednesday in New York, leadoff man Coco Crisp brought a small vial of hot sauce. A few of the players rubbed some on their gums before the A’s-Mets game. Second baseman Eric Sogard was one of the first, and when some of the stragglers came over to join in, Sogard coined a phrase.

“I told them, `Welcome to the jungle.’ ’’ Sogard said.

It caught on. Immediately the practice became “Going to the jungle.’’

The A’s then went out and scored six runs in the first two innings. In baseball, everything that happens has a certain level of causality, so the hot sauce was back Friday.

The challenge, Punto said, was to put a dollop on the tip of my index finger, then rub it over my gums.

Me, I’m just dumb enough to do that. Punto said later he didn’t think I would. He was wrong.

Let me say here and now that there was some pain involved. Not an unbearable amount, but it’s safe to say the practice isn’t for everyone.

Crisp wasn’t around to see me do it, but word got out quickly. A fist-bump ensued.

He explained that he has three small bottles of intense hot sauce. This was the mild one. It registers, he said at 300,000 on the Scoville Chile Flame Scale. Your average Jalapeno comes in at about 2,500-5000. A sweet bell pepper goes at 0-100. So 300,000 is way, way over what most people are used to. These intense sauces are mostly used in small amounts to

Crisp’s other two are Scoville listed at 5 million and 9 million.

I don’t think I’ll be trying those.

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A’s: Cespedes fills in, nails Crisp with pie in face

The As pride themselves on their versatility and depth. 

Yoenis Cespedes is all smiles after delivery celebratory pie to Coco Crisp Saturday

Yoenis Cespedes is all smiles after delivering celebratory pie to Coco Crisp Saturday

It has seldom been tested more than after Coco Crisp’s game-winning single to beat the Red Sox 2-1 in 10 innings Saturday.

The Oakland tradition after a walkoff it is a ceremonial whipped cream pie in the face during the post-game television interview. It’s been going on for a few years now, with right fielder Josh Reddick doing the honors for the most part.

If Reddick is unavailable, or if he’s the man who’s delivered the game-winner, then Crisp takes over. On Saturday, Reddick was off on an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Sacramento. And Crisp delivered the hit.

So there was a void.

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A’s day off comes at a good time and in a good place

Coco Crisp gets to celebrate a family birthday on the off-day Thursday.

Coco Crisp gets to celebrate a family birthday on the off-day Thursday.

There are few things the A’s like more than playing in Anaheim, then having a day off before playing again in Oakland.

Many of the A’s have homes or family in Southern California, and they use the off-day to visit family and friends, something that’s hard to do in the course of the season.

The timing this week is great for Coco Crisp. The center fielder will stay in Southern California and will celebrate a family birthday Thursday.

Things were not quite as convenient for infielder Alberto Callaspo, whose wife is about to give birth … in Florida.

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Foul or not, A’s now have game plan to attack Scherzer

John Jaso worked Tigers starter Max Scherzer for 22 of the 107 pitches he threw.

John Jaso worked Tigers starter Max Scherzer for 22 of the 107 pitches he threw.

 

The A’s didn’t beat Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer Tuesday night.

They didn’t beat anybody.

What they may have done, however, is put together a blueprint for how to beat Scherzer in a big game should one appear down the line.

And since the Tigers and the A’s have met in the post-season the last two years, what are the odds?

The A’s fouled off pitch after pitch, and took pitches that weren’t in the strike zone. Catcher John Jaso looked at 20 pitches all by himself in just his first two at-bats.

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True to form, Crisp sees no point in talking about injury

Coco Crisp will need some time off after neck problems flared up Tuesday.

Coco Crisp will need some time off after neck problems flared up Tuesday.

You won’t see any quotes from Coco Crisp about the status of his sore neck anywhere today.

Crisp makes it clear he has no interest in talking about injuries, now or ever.

He’s felt like that for a long time, that there’s nothing to be gained by getting into it.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me to talk about it,’’ he said after Tuesday’s 3-0 over Tampa Bay. Crisp had a big day – two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored – but a recurrence of the neck injury that troubled him mid-month sent him to the bench in the sixth inning.

“There are people you can go to to ask about (his injuries). The manager will tell you what he knows.’’

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Crisp proud of way A’s rally whenever someone’s missing

Coco Crisp is a fan of the way A's step up when injury keeps someone out of the lineup.

Coco Crisp is a fan of the way A’s step up when injury keeps someone out of the lineup.

Coco Crisp was back in the lineup in center field for the A’s Friday, and it was as if he’d never been away.

He played, he contributed and Oakland won, 11-1.

Crisp struck out in his first at-bat, but he walked his second and third times up, and his speed running to first force a throwing error on the Cleveland defense his fourth time to the plate. He scored once and the A’s won for the seventh time in eight games.

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Even after being Reddicked, Josh has a good night

Josh Reddick got Reddicked Monday in Arlington, Texas

Josh Reddick got Reddicked Monday in Arlington, Texas

The Texas Rangers clearly had a target painted on Josh Reddick.

They know the A’s right fielder as an aggressive base runner. They tried to take advantage of that, catcher Robinson Chirinos repeatedly throwing behind him at first base in an effort to pick him off.

It didn’t work, although it was close enough that in the eighth inning the umpires had to have a video review to determine if Reddick was out or had been tagged by first baseman Prince Fielder.

“They were treating me like I was Coco (Crisp),” Reddick said through a grin, referring to the A’s top base runner.

Later in the inning, center fielder Leonys Martin climbed the wall in right-center to bring back Daric Barton’s bid for a home run. Martin then threw to first base. Reddick, already past second base, raced back to first and beat the tag.

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Flopping Lowrie, Donaldson in order pays off for A’s

Jed Lowrie has been helping set the table for Josh Donaldson and A's offense.

Jed Lowrie has been helping set the table for Josh Donaldson and A’s offense.

The season began with Josh Donaldson batting second and Jed Lowrie batting third for the A’s.

The logic was sound. It lasted a week. Since the first homestand of the season, it’s been Lowrie second and Donaldson third, and the logic is sounder. And, it should be pointed out, more productive.

Manager Bob Melvin’s idea going in was that Donaldson, a more selective hitter, would be the ideal man to hit second behind Coco Crisp, taking more pitches and assuring Crisp would have more time to select the proper pitch with which to steal a base.

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