Daniel Mengden dazzles Giants, may be here for long term

Daniel Mengden has done nothing but impress since he brought his wacky windup, high socks and handlebar mustache to Oakland, and the A’s finally rewarded him for all of his fine work on Monday night.

After scoring just four runs for him combined in his first three major-league starts – all losses Mengden didn’t really deserve — the A’s hammered the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija for five runs in the second inning, continued to add on in later frames and rolled to an 8-3 victory at AT&T Park.

Marcus Semien’s towering three-run homer to center field was the big blow in Oakland’s early outburst as the A’s continued to gather steam following an impressive four-game series in Anaheim, where they won three of four from the Los Angeles Angels and were a bullpen blowup from completing a sweep.
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Samardzija happy to be with White Sox, but a little disappointed A’s didn’t keep roster together for 2015

Jeff Samardzija says A's would have been a force in 2015 if the team had been held together.

Jeff Samardzija says A’s would have been a force in 2015 if the team had been held together.

Jeff Samardzija came back to the Coliseum as a member of the Chicago White Sox Friday, his first visit since the 2014 season ended with Samardzija due to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series for the A’s, a game that never happened.

With Oakland holding a 7-3 lead in the eighth inning and an 8-7 lead in the 12th inning in Kansas City, the A’s couldn’t hold off the Royals in the Wild Card game. That ended Oakland’s season.

And if you think injuries are costing the A’s now, Samardzija said losing catcher Geovany Soto, now a teammate with the White Sox, in the second inning and center fielder Coco Crisp late in the game cost the A’s a trip to the World Series.

“If we win that game, there’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to the Series,’’ Samardzija said. “The momentum going to the winner of that game was something else.’’

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Semien, Bassitt could get shot to be immediate contributors

Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley with soxThe slow process of rebuilding the Oakland A’s took another step forward Tuesday with the completion of a deal with the Chicago White Sox that saw Oakland potentially bring a starting shortstop and a starting pitcher into the fold.

At the cost of top-end starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and minor league reliever Michael Ynoa, the A’s added four players, two of whom, infielder Marcus Semien and pitcher Chris Bassitt, could have an immediate impact on the big league club.

The two other players acquired, catcher Josh Phegley and first baseman Rangel Ravelo, figure to be Triple-A players to start 2015.

Semien, from St. Mary’s High and the University of California, will have the shortstop job to lose come spring training. He’s mostly been a third baseman with a secondary role at second base for the White Sox, but in the minor leagues two-thirds of his playing time has been at second base.

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Shark nets A’s starting shortstop, potential starting pitcher

Jeff Samardzija was finally dealt to the White Sox Tuesday along with minor league pitcher Michael Ynoa.

Jeff Samardzija was finally dealt to the White Sox Tuesday along with minor league pitcher Michael Ynoa.

The Oakland A’s finally completed their deal to send starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox, getting a potential starting shortstop and potential member of the starting rotation in return.

The A’s, who also sent minor leaguer Michael Ynoa to Chicago, landed right-handed starter Chris Bassitt, shortstop Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley and infielder Rangel Ravelo.

Semien has spent most of his brief big league career at second base, but he was drafted as a shortstop and has played some there. The A’s, who have been badly in need of a shortstop with Jed Lowrie leaving via free agency, are betting that he can play shortstop adequately.

Described by a rival club’s general manager as “primarily an offensive player,’’ Semien was on the White Sox’s opening day roster in 2014, played in 64 games and hit .234 in 65 games with a .300 on-base percentage and six homers. He’s only played six big league games at shortstop (50 at third base, 29 at second base), but 250 of his 387 minor league games have been at short.

Bassitt, who will turn 26 before spring training, is a right-hander with command and a moving 91-94 mph fastball that has been tough on right-handed hitters. He pitched six one-run innings against Oakland last September when the A’s got a look at his deceptive delivery.

He can top out at 96mph with his fastball upon occasion, but he has a slider that breaks nicely and a slow curve (69-75 mph) that he uses as a changeup.

He suffered a broken hand last year, but went 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA with the Sox is six games, five starts. As a minor leaguer, he was 3-1 with a 2.08 before his August promotion to the big leagues.

Phegley, a 24-year-old right-hander, hit 23 homers and hit .274 at Triple-A in 2014, finishing second in the International League with 57 extra-base hits and third in homers ad slugging percentage (.530).

Ravelo, who began his career as a third baseman, is primarily a first baseman now. He hit .309 with 37 doubles, four triples, 11 homers, 66 RBIs and a .386 on-base percentage.

Samardzija, a 2014 National League All-Star, came to the A’s in a June trade and would have been no worse than the A’s No. 2 starter had he remained with the team.

Ynoa, at one point a big-time prospect for the A’s, never responded the way the A’s had hoped after 2011’s Tommy John surgery. He was 4-2 with a 5.52 ERA in 31 games as a reliever with Single-A Stockton this year.


Opposing GM likes A’s newest shortstop, Marcus Semien

Jeff Samardzija's trade to the White Sox will be announced Tuesday.

Jeff Samardzija’s trade to the White Sox will be announced Tuesday.

If you must know, the A’s aren’t the only team looking for young shortstop talent here at the winter meetings.

Oakland has one advantage. The A’s have a pitcher everybody wants, Jeff Samardzija, and for the right price the A’s are willing to let him go. The A’s starting pitching would take a hit if the Shark is traded, but if the A’s can get a potential starting shortstop and add to their team depth, Oakland will bite the bullet.

Word got out that a deal with the Chicago White Sox was done, Samardzija returning to his home, but without any clarity on whom the A’s would get in return.

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Samardzija targeted by pitching-hungry clubs

Jeff Samardzija is still a member of the A's rotation. How long that will last, it's hard to say.

Jeff Samardzija is still a member of the A’s rotation. How long that will last, it’s hard to say.

It may be a while before Jeff Samardzija knows where he’s going to be pitching this season.

He’s currently a member of the A’s starting rotation, and there is a chance he will remain there. But there is at least as big a chance that he will wind up elsewhere.

The White Sox and the Red Sox are front-and-center in their pursuit of the right-hander. And while the Braves have made their interest in Samardzija known, the pieces don’t seem to fit for the A’s, sources close to the club said.

And there may yet be another suitor or two yet to make themselves an upgrade heading into 2015.

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A’s could use Lawrie at second if Headley is in their future

Brett Lawrie could be the A's third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

Brett Lawrie could be the A’s third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

The A’s trade of Josh Donaldson Friday may seem to make little sense when looked at as a solo exercise on the part of general manager Billy Beane.

But if it’s taken as part of a package, the deal in which the A’s sent their All-Star third baseman to Toronto in exchange for four players – including third baseman Brett Lawrie –

Oakland management is high on, could well be part of a series of roster maneuvers that might have a chance to keep the A’s competitive in 2015.

The A’s have lost (or will soon lose) starters Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, reliever Luke Gregerson and shortstop Jed Lowrie as free agents. That’s a load and a half to make up during the winter, and it’s possible it can’t be done.

But there are other options out there.

I heard from a source Friday that the A’s are talking with the Braves about outfielder Justin Upton and/or catcher Evan Gattis, two power hitters who would grace any big league lineup. The cost would be astronomical – starter Jeff Samardzija – but the return would be seriously good.

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Donaldson’s torrid defense has Samardzija all fired up

Josh Donaldson's play at third base Monday had the A's singing his praises.

Josh Donaldson’s play at third base Monday had the A’s singing his praises.

You get the feeling that Josh Donaldson really wants back into the post-season.

On Sunday he hit the walkoff homer in the 10th inning that gave the A’s a series win over the Phillies.

On Monday he made some spectacular defensive stops in helping control the Angels offense as Oakland won for the third time in four games, the first such stretch for the A’s since Aug. 19-22.

As a result, Oakland seems to have righted the ship and seems to be closing in on a Wild Card berth, although the A’s have a week’s worth of tough baseball ahead of them to make sure it happens.

The play of the day came to close out the seventh inning. Angels’ catcher Chris Iannetta smoked a hard grounder that Donaldson stopped, only to have the ball kick up into the air. He saw the ball hovering, grabbed it out of the air and threw to first for what would be the final out Jeff Samardzija would get.

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A’s need to loosen up at the plate and work pitchers over

Jon Lester's arrival has seen him pitch well while the A's have struggled.

Jon Lester’s arrival has seen him pitch well while the A’s have struggled.

There are no simple answers for the Oakland A’s.

There are some simple truths, however.

One is that they need to loosen up at the plate.

Oakland hitters spent four months working the count, forcing pitchers into untenable situations, then waiting for the pitcher to wilt under pressure.

Now, it’s not like that.

“What’s going on with their hitters?’’ one Major League scout asked me Thursday. “I saw them a couple of months ago and they knew what they needed to do. Now they’re up there hacking at everything.’’

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Athletics limitless foibles at the plate ruining their season

Jeff Samardzija threw eight shutout innings Wednesday, but it wasn't good enough for a win.

Jeff Samardzija threw eight shutout innings Wednesday, but it wasn’t good enough for a win.

If there isn’t a theoretical limit to the number of times the A’s can tell themselves they’re in good shape just because the American League Wild Card standings say they are, there should be.

By imploding in the ninth inning Wednesday, Oakland fell into a tie with the Kansas City Royals in the AL Wild Card derby, both teams at 83-68, two games up in the race over the 81-70 Seattle Mariners.

It’s technically true that the A’s can make their way in to the playoff by following the old Al Davis dictum, “Just Win, Baby.’’

The trouble is, they seem to have no remembrance of how to win, or even how to hit. Time and again in the last couple of weeks they’ve gotten brilliant starting pitching and have lost because the offense hasn’t made an appearance or because the defense had regressed to high school levels.

Already this month:

–Jon Lester gives up two runs (seven hits, no walks) in eight innings and loses 2-1 (Sept. 3)

–Jeff Samardzija throws scoreless ball for seven innings, turns a 1-0 lead over to the bullpen and Luke Gregerson gives up two runs in the eighth (Sept. 10).

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