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A’s aren’t same as three months ago, but they need to be

Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A's lately

Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A’s lately

The A’s could get Coco Crisp and John Jaso back this weekend and Sean Doolittle back early next week.

When they do, the A’s will start looking a little more like themselves.

This team is not the team it was at the end of June.

Back then they were trotting out a three-catcher platoon, with Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt all major contributors. Yoenis Cespedes was in left field. Brandon Moss was at first base.

Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz and Brad Mills were all in the starting rotation.

With such a drastic makeover, it’s small wonder that the A’s aren’t playing like they did in April, May and June.

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Sogard still having trouble playing out of position at short

The transition from second to short for Eric Sogard hasn't been smooth.

The transition from second to short for Eric Sogard hasn’t been smooth.

The talk since spring training has been about the A’s depth.

It’s easy to see why Oakland wanted to get players like Craig Gentry and Nick Punto and Sam Fuld into the fold. They can play multiple positions, and when injuries crop up, the A’s would be covered.

Not so much right now, though. Starting shortstop Jed Lowrie is on the disabled list with a broken right finger. His backup, Punto, is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.

That means second baseman Eric Sogard and minor league callup Andy Parrino have to play short. Sogard, the veteran, gets the bulk of the playing time against right-handed pitchers, but he’s not the player at shortstop that Lowrie is.

Lowrie is not Ozzie Smith. But his defense has been better this year, even if his range isn’t terrific. He can get a ball and start a double play. He makes some errors, but who doesn’t?

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Pomeranz likely roster space victim after strong start

Drew Pomeranz gave teh A's a huge lift Wednesday, but they may need his spot on the roster Thursday.

Drew Pomeranz gave teh A’s a huge lift Wednesday, but they may need his spot on the roster Thursday.

There have been a lot of “thanks, but no thanks’’ moments for the A’s of late.

They sent down reliever Dan Otero last week. when he had a 7-1 record and 2.28 ERA when they needed the roster space.

They told first baseman Nate Freiman they were sending him down Wedendsday because they needed roster space.

And the man Freiman was moved for, Drew Pomeranz, could be facing the same fate Thursday.

Pomeranz isn’t at all likely to stay in the starting rotation, and even after 5.1 innings in which he allowed one unearned run and did more than his share in a 5-4 A’s win over the Astros, it will be three or four days before he could pitch again. Because the rosters expand after Monday’s game, Oakland could send him down and have him back on Tuesday.

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A’s: Sogard a bit of an intimidator at the plate these days

Eric Sogard surprised himself and everyone else with four walks Saturday night.

Eric Sogard surprised himself and everyone else with four walks Saturday night.

Second baseman (and sometimes shortstop) Eric Sogard has been hitting up a storm since the All-Star break, but not even he expected what happened Saturday night – walks in his first four plate trips.

He was batting ninth, and he became just the 14th No.9 hitter since 1914 to draw four walks in a game.

“I must have looked intimidating,’’ Sogard said, laughing. “If I’d known that 1914 thing, I might have looked at a couple more pitches in my last at-bat.’’

Sogard, who said “three walks was probably my max,’’ bounced back to the pitcher in his final plate trip in the eighth inning of the A’s 9-4 win. He’d never walked more than twice in a game this year and his career best was three walk against the cardinals on June 28, 2013.

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A’s: Jaso says Sogard at the heart of his sudden RBI spree

John Jaso wants to credit Eric Sogard for much of his RBI production of late.

John Jaso wants to credit Eric Sogard for much of his RBI production of late.

In his last 15 games John Jaso has driven in 13 runs, not bad for someone not generally considered an RBI threat.

Jaso knows just who to blame.

“A lot of it’s about Eric Sogard,’’ Jaso said after driving in three runs in the A’s 9-3 win over Texas Sunday night. “A lot of what I’ve been doing started when he began to get hot again.’’

Jaso isn’t kidding. Of his last nine RBIs since July 20, he’s driven in Sogard four times. Sogard was 4-for-35 before turning it around beginning on the 20th. He’s 7-for-20 (.350) since then and has scored eight runs, half of the time Jaso being the man to bring him home.

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A’s: Second base upgrades in short supply

Before Friday’s game with the Rangers, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he didn’t see Oakland in a position where it had to trade for a second baseman for the stretch run.

Having acquired starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4, Melvin said, was good enough and the club could make do with at second. Eric Sogard has picked this week to up his game a little, and Alberto Callaspo is due off DL Sunday.

And that may be just as well, because the pool of available candidates seems to be evaporating. Six weeks ago, it seemed a sure bet the Rays would trade Ben Zobrist. Then Tampa went on a surge.

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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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Tough roster move faces A’s before Tuesday in New York

Setup man Ryan Cook should be activated for Tuesday's game in New York.

Setup man Ryan Cook should be activated for Tuesday’s game in New York.

As May turned to June, the A’s found themselves closer to the roster they thought they might have in April.

Sunday’s recall of catcher Stephen Vogt gives the club three catchers, meaning manager Bob Melvin can play two of them on any given day (one of them as the designated hitter) and still have the ability to pinch-run.

That’s the way things worked for much of the middle of the 2013 season before injuries got in the way.

More than that, having a three-catcher ensemble means Melvin doesn’t have to fret about the scenario of having to either give up the designated hitter or have third baseman Josh Donaldson, a former catcher, get back behind the plate.

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A’s running game vs. Angels not as sharp as it should be

Eric Sogard says he will be more alert to Angels' deception in future

Eric Sogard says he will be more alert to Angels’ deception in future

One of the issues addressed by the A’s in their review Monday before the start of the three-game series with the Angels was the need to keep in mind how much the Angels like to throw behind runners.

On Tuesday, despite the preparations and the warnings, the A’s ran into outs on the bases with the Angels throwing behind them twice.

In the third inning, Josh Donaldson, batting with Jed Lowrie on second base, singled to right, thought Lowrie would try to score and was caught between first and second when Lowrie held at third

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Barton convinced ninth inning call wouldn’t be altered

Daric Baton was confident ninth inning call wouldn't be reversed.

Daric Baton was confident ninth inning call Monday against Angels wouldn’t be reversed.

Daric Barton couldn’t see the play at first base in the ninth inning.

He could feel it, though, and that was good enough for him.

Moments after John Jaso’s homer put the A’s in position to score a 3-2 win over the Angels, Oakland reliever Luke Gregerson came out of the bullpen and got two quick ground balls.

The first one was routine. The second was bobbled at second base by Nick Punto, who quickly regrouped and fired a throw to Barton. Umpire Chris Segal called base runner Howie Kendrick out, and the Angels howled.

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