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Melvin sees this A’s bullpen as his best yet

Bob Melvin ended the 2013 season with a bullpen he believed was the best he’d ever had at his disposal.

The relievers A’s manager Melvin called on last season went 24-18 with a 3.22 earned run average. The bullpen was the backbone of a second consecutive American League West title. The relievers won or saved 70 of the A’s 96 wins.

Now with spring training’s start drawing close, the manager says the Oakland bullpen for 2014 could be his best ever.

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There could yet be room for Tanaka in Oakland

If there is one team in the Major Leagues that doesn’t need Masahiro Tanaka, it’s the Oakland A’s.

That apparently doesn’t mean that the bidding for right-handed free agent starting pitcher from Japan will go on without the A’s having input.

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ALDS Game 5 pressure on shoulders of Oakland organization given its history, not the A’s players

The A’s have been very good at deflecting pressure, putting one foot in front of the other and moving on a very orderly path through the 2013 season.

Does all that change now, with the season down to one game?

They won’t want to admit it, but yes it does.

Just not so much for the players. Most of them went through the disappointment of losing in Game 5 of the 2012 playoffs to Detroit and Justin Verlander, and they know the obstacle the Tigers are.

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Martinez-Balfour good theater, but not much else

There’s something about seeing the benches clear that elevates baseball.

Or at least it seems to elevate interest in baseball, which isn’t exactly the same thing.

The question is – should it?

When Victor Martinez, who is a fiery guy, took exception to the nonstop chatter put forward by A’s closer Grant Balfour in the ninth inning, it made for great theater.

Players, coaches and managers from both benches swarmed the field. Umpires tried to get between Balfour and Martinez. Members of the bullpens, always late to this kind of party, jogged in. A’s starter Jarrod Parker, on his way from the clubhouse to the field just so he could watch the last couple of outs, had to have somebody tell him what happened.

As it turned out, not much did. Martinez was ticked off. Balfour Rage is not a concept he’s familiar with, apparently, but the A’s clsoer is always yelling, mostly at himself, and most of the time opponents don’t give it a second thought.

This time they did. Did it matter? No. The A’s were ahead 6-3 with three outs to go and Balfour on the mound. After things settled down, Balfour got the three outs and the game went in the books as a 6-3 A’s win.

Will there be any carryover? It seems unlikely. Torii Hunter, one of the Tigers’ leaders, has known Balfour as an opponent for years. He said that the talk was just the way Balfour is and there wouldn’t be any carryover.

But it’s a good bet that the first clip on ESPN will be the benches clearing.

Like we said. It’s great theater.

 

 

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Vogt goes from outhouse to penthouse; A’s will turn some pitchers loose on hitters in BP

The A’s will be carrying three catchers in the first round of the American League Division Series.

That one of them is Stephen Vogt is not a surprise at this point, Vogt having more than proved himself since … well, since almost being out of baseball earlier this year.

He was in spring training with Tampa Bay, but the Rays didn’t have a spot for someone who was 0-for-25 as a rookie in 2012. The A’s picked him up for a few bucks at a point in April where the Rays seemed destined to cut him loose.

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Game 162 wrapup: Melvin makes sure Donaldson finishes over .300; Gray tunes up for ALDS start; Norris has smooth sailing playing first base

What’s in a number?

On Saturday, Brandon Moss got to the 30-homer level. On Sunday, Josh Donaldson was taken out of the game in part to preserve a plus-.300 batting average and Chris Young came out with his average at .200.

There’s something about round numbers that baseball likes.

Donaldson likes his .301 average, too, but he was loathe to be taken out of the game after just one plate trip.

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Game 161 wrapup: Moss gets to 30-homer mark in platoon role; Colon will finish second in ERA title

Brandon Moss didn’t think he’d be hitting 30 homers, so it’s a reasonable assumption that not too many others did.

But there Moss was in the seventh inning of what would likely be his final start of the season, crushing a line drive to right field that somehow carried over the wall for Moss’s 30th homer of the season.

“I thought `no chance’ when he hit that ball,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “I thought it might short-hop the fence. But he got it out.’’

The homer was all the more remarkable in that the A’s platoon Moss, so that he only plays about three-quarters of the time. When Josh Reddick hit 32 to lead the A’s last year, he did it in 611 at-bats.

Moss did it in 444.

“I don’t care if I did it in 100 at-bats or 700 at-bats,’’ Moss said. “Thirty homers is 30 homers. It’s a nice round number.’’

Third baseman Josh Donaldson said Moss showed his ability to hit many homers in few at-bats last year when he played with the Mariners for about 60 percent of the season and hit 21 homers in 265 at-bats, a better percentage even than this year.

Pitcher Jarrod Parker, who has been on the plus end of plenty of Moss homers, said it was an “awesome’’ performance.

“He’s one of the hardest workers in baseball,’’ Parker said of Moss. “He’s always coming up with the big home run. I can’t wait to see him (in the playoffs).’’

 

–Bartolo Colon won’t win his ERA title after all.

The 40-year-old A’s starting pitcher came into the weekend fractionally ahead of the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez for the American League ERA lead, both at 2.64 but with Colon a tad better.

On Friday Colon allowed two run in six innings and finished the year at 2.65. Sanchez pitched for Detroit Saturday in Miami and didn’t allow a run in five innings before leaving the game, giving him the title at 2.57.

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Game 153 wrapup: Bad luck compounds Cook’s woes; Straily makes bid for post-season rotation

There’s a tendency to jump on a player when he’s down that pervades all sports. Baseball is no different in that regard.

A’s reliever Ryan Cook is in a bad slump, no doubt about it.

But sometimes it’s not bad pitching as much as it is bad luck.

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Milone’s season not playing out like he’d hoped

This is not the way Tommy Milone envisioned his season winding down.

Just two months ago he was a key member of one of the best young pitching staffs in the Major Leagues, and at 26 he was a left-hander with positive playoff experience and plenty of promise.

The season started out well enough with Milone earning the No. 3 spot in the rotation and winning his first three starts. But then luck started to get rough. Over the course of his next five starts he brought his ERA down from 3.86 to 3.71 but went 0-5. He couldn’t catch a break.

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Game 144 wrapup: Melvin gives Parker added respect; A’s pen still among best despite slump

It was the kind of thing you see in the middle of a playoff chase that you don’t see in the middle of a season

A’s starter Jarrod Parker had given up a run, then loaded the bases with two out in the sixth inning. Oakland still had the lead at 3-2, but Parker was looking vulnerable.

It was time for a visit from the pitching coach. It didn’t happen. Instead, manager Bob Melvin exercised his prerogative and took the walk to the mound.

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