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Norris doesn’t recognize too many faces on current A’s roster

Derek Norris figures his trade to San Diego has worked out well for both the A's and the Padres.

Derek Norris figures his trade to San Diego has worked out well for both the A’s and the Padres.

The last time the A’s saw Derek Norris, he was putting his beaten up body behind the plate after Geovany Soto was injured in the American League Wild Card game against Kansas City last Sept. 30.

Norris had no real business being behind the plate, but John Jaso was on the disabled list, Stephen Vogt was playing on one foot and Soto, the man being used as a bridge to get the A’s through to the AL playoffs proper, injured his thumb in the third inning.

He was the last strong-armed catcher the A’s had left and Norris, plagued by back spasms and shoulder issue saw the Royals run on him, taking advantage of his infirmity.

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Lack of clutch performances suggest change is in the wind

A's GM Billy Beane has made to moves to tear up the roster, but it was at about this time in 2012 he did so, with great success.

A’s GM Billy Beane has made to moves to tear up the roster, but it was at about this time in 2012 he did so, with great success.

The A’s have built their entire season on statistical oddities, but none is quite as off the wall as having the worst record in the American League – 25-39 after Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Angels – while having outscored their opponents.

Albert Pujols homered in the first inning off A’s starter Kendall Graveman, and that was it for this one, Oakland’s 18th loss in 22 one-run games.

When the A’s win, they often win big, as they did Thursday in a 7-0 win over the Rangers. When it comes to close games, however, the A’s have minimal success despite having outscored opponents 265-257.

Oakland has been shut out six times while A’s pitchers have thrown nine shutouts. In the losses, the A’s were one swing away from at least tying the game in five of them, the exception being a 13-0 loss to the Twins on May 6.

It’s a much different story when you look at the shutouts the A’s have thrown. Final scores in the shutouts the A’s have won have included 12-0, 10-0, 8-0, 7-0, 5-0 (twice), 4-0 (twice) and 3-0.

Scores like that are the reason the A’s have more runs scored than allowed. But a 12-0 or 10-0 victory only counts for one victory. When it’s crunch time, this team hasn’t gotten it done.

You can see that in the A’s record in one-run games, now 4-18. The last three losses have all been by one run.

Those numbers are not all about the offense, although the hitters have bogged down plenty with the game one the line. The bullpen with its 5-15 record, has contributed mightily to the one-run loss stat, as has the American League’s worst defense.

It’s just these kinds of chaotic performances that will induce a general manager to start cleaning house, although A’s GM Billy Beane has made no moves in that direction yet.

But it’s worth noting that three years and a week ago, Beane began scuttling what the A’s had in what was a disappointing season – eight games under .500 and nine games out of first place in the American League West. He did it by bringing up reliever Sean Doolittle, then outfielder-turned-first baseman Brandon Moss from Triple-A in the space of three days. Later that June they added catcher Derek Norris to the mix, called up starter A.J. Griffin for the first time and brought in first baseman Chris Carter.

As the summer wore on, catcher-turned-third baseman Josh Donaldson, pitcher Dan Straily and shortstop Stephen Drew were brought in.

The team that was at one point 13 games out of first place, turned around, kicked into gear and won the American League West.

It’s hard to see that happening this year – the winning the division part, that is. The freefall collecting of new faces, that’s easy to see.

 

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Vogt still sore after foot surgery but feeling good once again

A's catcher Stephen Vogt has been cleared to run after spending 9.5 weeks in a surgical boot following foot surgery.

A’s catcher Stephen Vogt has been cleared to run after spending 9.5 weeks in a surgical boot following foot surgery.

Stephen Vogt has sore feet, but the A’s catcher isn’t complaining.

He spent 9½ weeks in a boot following surgery on his right foot Oct. 14, and the soreness is just a matter of getting acclimated to not having his foot encased in a boot for all that time.

His surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Jung, cleared him to start running last week and Vogt says he expects to be good to go when spring training starts in Mesa, Ariz. in a month’s time.

“There is soreness, but there is no pain, so that’s a huge improvement for me,’’ Vogt said. “I played in pain for the last three months of the year, and that’s gone. So even with the soreness, I’m feeling good physically.

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A’s likely not done dealing after Norris exits for two arms

The trade of Derek Norris brings two good arms into the A's camp and leaves open more possible moves.

The trade of Derek Norris brings two good arms into the A’s camp and leaves open more possible moves.

You have to wonder what’s next for the A’s.

Billy Beane & Co. have spent the last six weeks stocking up on young talent, most of it pitching, including right-handed starter Jesse Hahn and right-handed reliever J.R. Alvarez who are the newest additions with Derek Norris having been traded to the Padres Thursday night.

Already five of the seven players the A’s had at the All-Star Game this season are off the roster, and as Norris told me Thursday night, it seems like the A’s “are looking to rebuild’’ heading into 2015.

Norris may be right about that, but it seems more than a little possible that Beane is loading up for one big swing between now and the start of spring training. With Matt Kemp off the block now, the biggest bats known to be available are outfielder Justin Upton of the Braves and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies.

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Healthy Jaso will catch, but wonders if it will be with the A’s

John Jaso wants to be back with the A's, but doesn't know if a trade is in his future.

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.’’

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A’s could see all seven of their free agents gone in 2015

Starter Jon Lester is one of seven potential free agents the A's could see leave this off-season.

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.

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A’s did well to get to post-season given their injury issues

Sean Doolittle's intercostal strain, putting him out for 18 games in August and September, rattled the A's bullpen.

Sean Doolittle’s intercostal strain, putting him out for 18 games in August and September, rattled the A’s bullpen.

Had they advanced to the American League Division Series against the Angels, the A’s likely would have been heavy underdogs.

That has nothing to do with how the A’s played the Angels this season, but because of the personnel Oakland would be able to put on the field.

Center fielder Coco Crisp suffered a hamstring injury not long before the A’s suffered a 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Royals in Kansas City. Catcher Geovany Soto jammed his thumb in the first inning and had to come out of the game in the third.

Manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday the injuries were not short-term.

“We would have had to go without Coco and without Soto in the next round if we’d gotten that far,’’ Melvin said.

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Melvin move to get Moss in over Dunn results in early A’s lead

Adam Dunn wasn't in the A's lineup Tuesday vs. Royals. Manager Bob Melvin likes him as an option off the bench.

Adam Dunn wasn’t in the A’s lineup Tuesday vs. Royals. Manager Bob Melvin likes him as an option off the bench.

Manager Bob Melvin made one prudent choice (with an asterisk) and one surprising choice in setting his lineup for the A’s wild card game tonight with the Royals.

The surprise is that DH Adam Dunn is on the bench. Brandon Moss, who generally plays left field when Dunn is the DH, is the designated hitter tonight and Sam Fuld is in left.

Then came the big surprise. Moss homered to give the A’s a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. He had no homers in his previous 25 at-bats (11 games) and just two since July 24 (154 at-bats).

Is Moss feeling better now since his cortisone shot in the waning days of the regular season? Maybe so.

It’s clearly a move to put the A’s best defense on the field. Kansas City runs as well as any team in the game, and with Fuld and right fielder Josh Reddick flanking center fielder Coco Crisp, the A’s have their best coverage outfield going.

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A’s got with Soto & Moss, without Dunn & Norris vs. Royals

Adam Dunn will sit out the start of A's wild card game tonight vs. Royals

Adam Dunn will sit out the start of A’s wild card game tonight vs. Royals

Manager Bob Melvin made one prudent choice (with an asterisk) and one surprising choice in setting his lineup for the A’s wild card game tonight with the Royals.

The surprise is that DH Adam Dunn is on the bench. Brandon Moss, who generally plays left field when Dunn is the DH, is the designated hitter tonight and Sam Fuld is in left.

It’s clearly a move to put the A’s best defense on the field. Kansas City runs as well as any team in the game, and with Fuld and right fielder Josh Reddick flanking center fielder Coco Crisp, the A’s have their best coverage outfield going.

Still, choosing Moss over Dunn is not at all clear-cut. Dunn, whose streak of 2,001 games without a post-season appearance, the 14th-longest in Major League history, will end if he gets in the game, is a career .200 hitter against Kansas City starter James Shields.

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Soto catching on for A’s during race to post-season

Geovany Soto's big swing in the first inning Monday was A's biggest hit of the night in 8-4 win over Angels.

Geovany Soto’s big swing in the first inning Monday was A’s biggest hit of the night in 8-4 win over Angels.

Some deals get more notoriety than others.

But for the final 10 days of the season, the trade that brought Geovany Soto to the A’s could rank there with any of them. Oakland picked him up from the Rangers in a little-noticed Aug. 24 transaction. Since then the A’s have been down two starting catchers, Soto and Derek Norris.

And for Sunday and Monday at least, it was just Soto. Norris is dealing with a shoulder problem and has taken a wild pitch off his jaw, so he could use the break.

All Soto has done has been to deliver three RBIs for the A’s in Sunday’s 10-inning win over the Phillies, then get the key hit of the game Monday, a bases-loaded single that drove in the middle two runs of a six-run first.

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