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A’s have a gap to fill with the move to Dodgers of Zaidi

It will be interesting to see if the A’s move quickly to fill the void left Tuesday with the news that assistant general manager/director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi will be moving south to take over as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zaidi, who has been working as part of the A’s brain trust for the last 10 years, will be named Dodgers’ GM by Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman later this week, has been a key adviser of A’s general manager Billy Beane for the last five years.

The Philippines-born Zaidi, 37, was given the title of assistant general manager before the 2014 season, his fifth as the director of baseball operations.

David Forst, the long-time presumed heir to Beane, remains as the club’s assistant general manager. He has been with the A’s for 15 years.

Still, Beane has been used to being able to call on a small group of long-time dedicated baseball pros, including Forst, Zaidi, director of player personnel Billy Owens (16 years), director of pro scouting Dan Feinstein (the last three years and a stint from 1994-2004), director of player development Keith Lieppman (23 years) and director of scouting Eric Kubota (30 years).

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O’Flaherty’s call from A’s came at just the right time; Alcantara’s star on the rise; Gray works over the catchers; Ynoa makes it all look so easy

The call that brought Eric O’Flaherty to the Oakland A’s couldn’t have come at a better time.

He was in the middle of rehabbing his left arm after Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery and was trying to figure out where he should go as a free agent.

Then came the news that his mother-in-law, Holly Gualco, had some serious medical issues. Being close to their Washington State home would be ideal.

“The A’s contacted us late,’’ O’Flaherty said Sunday at the A’s spring training camp at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. “But the day we got the news about my mother-in-law was the same day they called.

“I’d told my agents that even though I was probably only going pitch half a season this year (after recovering fully from the surgery), I wanted to pitch for a contender. And with Oakland being the second-closest team to our home, that became a big bonus for us.

“My wife (Heather) is going to spend a lot of time flying to Washington this year. If we were on the East Coast, it would be difficult. Being in the Bay Area makes it much easier on her. And pitching for the A’s, well you can’t pitch for a more competitive team.’’

 

–When the A’s traded reliever Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox in 2011, in return they got Josh Reddick, who has been their right fielder the last two seasons.

At the same time, Oakland insisted on getting right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara in the deal. No Alcantara, no trade.

Alcantara threw for the first time this spring Sunday, delighting manager Bob Melvin and drawing some nice comparisons from longtime A’s director of player development Keith Lieppman.

“I look at him and he reminds me a lot of Jose Rijo with the stuff he throws, minus the slider,’’ Lieppman said.

Rijo pitched for the A’s (without much use of the slider) from 1985-87, then pitched for the Reds (with ever-increasing use of the slider) from 1988-95, including the 1990 World Series when he crushed the A’s with two wins, allowing one run in 15.1 innings for Cincinnati.

Lieppman said that Alcantara, who throws hard, will need to work on his secondary pitches.

“But the thing is he has the tools,’’ the four-decade member of the A’s organization said. “I can see him at Double-A this year and then we’ll see what happens.

Alcantara went 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA at low Class-A Beloit last year, then moved up to high Class-A Stockton where he went 5-5 with a 3.76 ERA. Through it all, he struck out 100 more than he walked, 124-24.

“The ball jumps out of his hand,’’ Melvin said after watching Alcantara throw for the first time this spring Sunday. “It’s just about controlling all the pitches and throwing the ball over the plate. We’re excited about having him. We expect big things out of him.’’

 

–Melvin, a former catcher himself, said that A’s starter Sonny Gray is one of the more difficult draws a catcher can get, especially early in the spring.

“He’s one of the more difficult guys to catch because his fastball movement is really inconsistent,’’ Melvin said. “It will cut one time, it will sink one time.

“You see catchers dropping a lot of balls, especially early in camp. Especially until you’ve caught him a few times. He’s got a very unique fastball. He’s got very late movement to it and very rarely is it straight.’’

 

–Michael Ynoa seems bigger than his 6-foot-7.

And his fastball seems bigger than most, too.

The A’s prospect threw for the first time on schedule Sunday. Last year he was supposed to open up with the A’s in the spring, but a case of the chicken pox got the better of him.

Now he’s healthy, and the A’s like what they are seeing from the Dominican prospect to whom they paid a whopping $4.25 million in 2008 when he was still in his teens. He’s just 22 now.

“That’s just easy, easy. It looks like he’s not working hard,’’ Melvin said after watching Ynoa throw. “I don’t know that he’s sweating. The ball just jumps out of his hand.

“With him it’s all about health and utilizing a secondary pitch because very rarely do you see a guy throw what appears to throw that easy and that hard. There’s a reason he got the type of money he did at the time. Now it’s all about keeping him healthy.’’Alcantara

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A little more on Michael Ynoa, other A’s prospects

If you haven’t seen it, click here for the story I did today on some of the A’s top hitting prospects. Here’s some updates on a few other players in the farm system. Some names you might be familiar with, others not so much:

RHP Michael Ynoa: The prize of the 2008 international amateur signing class has been slowed by injuries. The A’s shut Ynoa down over the summer as he had elbow soreness, and he’s recently battled tendinitis in one of his knees. But his elbow is doing better and he’s been on a throwing program for the past month, according to Keith Lieppman, the A’s director of player development. Ynoa, who turns 18 in two weeks, has been back home in the Dominican Republic, but he’ll return to Phoenix and participate in the fall instructional league, which starts in about a week. Considering his age, and the $4.25 million bonus he was signed to, the A’s will treat him carefully.

RHP Tyson Ross: There’s nothing flashy about the stats for Ross, the Cal product the A’s took in the second round in 2008. But Lieppman is enthusiastic about Ross’ development in his first full professional season. He began 2009 with Single-A Stockton and received a promotion to Double-A Midland, going a combined 10-10 with a 4.09 ERA to this point. He’s likely to start next season with Midland.

1B Sean Doolittle: Doolittle was limited to 28 games with Triple-A Sacramento because of a torn patella tendon in his left knee. But his recovery is coming along well, according to A’s GM Billy Beane, and the team is hoping to find a place for him to play winter ball. Doolittle made a nice impression with the club during spring training and should figure prominently in the future mix at first base if he rebounds from his knee injury.

OF Matt Spencer: He was one of three players the A’s received from Philadelphia in the Joe Blanton trade, along with pitcher Josh Outman and infielder Adrian Cardenas. Spencer, who hits and throws left-handed, began the year with Stockton and turned heads after his promotion to Midland, hitting .294 with nine homers and 62 RBI in 93 games with the RockHounds.

RHP Fautino De Los Santos: After the long recovery from last season’s Tommy John elbow surgery, De Los Santos threw a little bit for the A’s rookie league team this summer and will continue rounding into form during instructional league. He was acquired along with Ryan Sweeney and Gio Gonzalez from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal.

RHP Andrew Carignan: The reliever was deep in the organization’s thoughts when spring training began, but a right shoulder injury sabotaged his season. He didn’t require surgery, but spent the whole season rehabilitating. Carignan will begin throwing again Oct. 1 during instructional league, Lieppman said.

RHP Mickey Storey: Storey was “nowhere on the radar” when the season began, according to Lieppman, but this reliever is climbing rapidly through the system. He began the season as a closer with low Single-A Kane County but is now in Double-A. His combined season stats: A 1.22 ERA with 71 strikeouts and eight walks. Keep an eye on this guy.