Hahn’s spring debut sees him healthy and happy; Vogt homers twice, Madson, Axford debut; Ellis arrives

Jesse Hahn was back on the mound in a game for the first time since July Monday and came out of it feeling fine.

Jesse Hahn was back on the mound in a game for the first time since July Monday and came out of it feeling fine.

It hadn’t been years since Jesse Hahn last started a game. It just seemed like it.

The A’s had Hahn start Monday’s 6-4 win over Kansas City, giving him two innings in which he walked one and gave up a two-run homer but was otherwise able to pitch the way he wanted – his arm free and lose, no pain in his elbow or forearm and the ball moving well through the strike zone.

“It seemed like it was two or three years ago, although it was only nine months,’’ Hahn said of his start. He was able to reach his standard 95-mph with his fastball. The Mike Moustakas homer that cost him two runs came on a changeup that “I shouldn’t throw to him,’’ Hahn said.

DH Stephen Vogt caught Hahn as much as anybody last season but Monday was the DH and could only watch as Josh Phegley did the catching. Even so, Vogt, who drove in four of Oakland’s six runs with a pair of homers, took plenty of satisfaction from seeing what Hahn, whose last big league start was July 1, 2015, was able to do.

“It was real good to see Jesse go out and be able to do that,’’ Vogt said. “I’d faced him the other day in a simulated game, and it hadn’t helped my confidence level any. He threw some changeups and when he has that and his big curve it will make him that much better.’’

In an ideal world, the A’s would have Hahn begin the season as their No. 3 starter behind Sonny Gray and Rich Hill. Hahn was 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 2015, but that doesn’t tell the full story. In the final eight starts before landing on the disabled list he was 5-2 with 2.42 ERA while giving up only three homers and limiting opposing hitters to a .222 average.

What they don’t know is whether or not his elbow will hold up. He went on the DL with a forearm strain in early July that was supposed to sideline him for two weeks. That got stretched to a month, and ultimately he wound up missing the second half of the season. In the first half of the off-season, the A’s weren’t sure that Hahn would be ready to start the spring, but they’ve brought him along slowly, and optimism is growing that he will be ready come April.

“We had Jesse clocked at 95 (mph) today, and he had good sink,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “It was nice to see that out of him.’’

Hahn had been building to this start, as limited as it was, all spring.

“I tried to let it go,’’ he said. “I need to stop rushing the ball to the plate,’’ he said.



–The two Vogt homers were every bit as big a deal to the A’s as the Hahn start. Vogt is just over five weeks out from elbow surgery, and until his final two at-bats Monday, he hadn’t gotten to “trust the elbow.’’ “It was nice to take full swings,’’ Vogt said. Melvin said his catcher still can’t fully extend when making throw from behind the plate, but he’s getting closer. The plan is for Vogt to get in a game behind the plate sometime mid-March.

–Ryan Madson not only made his debut in an A’s uniform Monday, but he did it against the Royals, the team with which he won a World Series ring last year. He said facing the Royals in a spring game was no big deal. But to pitch in an Oakland uniform for the first time and get the kinks out – he had a 1-2-3 inning – was special. “If the stuff I had today is there all year long,’’ he said. “I’ll be real happy.’’

–Another pitcher getting his first appearance of the spring was another free agent pickup, John Axford. Like Madson, he had a scoreless inning to his credit, although he walked two. “When I got out there, I was nervous,’’ Axford said. “But it felt good to get out there.’’ He threw his first curve of the spring, in addition to a slider and a couple of changeups, although he stuck mostly with his fastball.

–Coco Crisp scored the A’s first run, coming around from first base on a third-inning Josh Reddick double. Melvin has liked what he’s seen of Crisp so far, particularly that he’s healthy and able to go all-out after being able to play in just 44 games a year ago thanks to wrist, elbow and neck problems. “He looks much different than last year,’’ Melvin said. The manager liked how Crisp broke well on a liner to center, how he ran the bases and on how he was showing power from the left side in batting practice.

–Mark Ellis, who played second base in Oakland for about a decade before moving on following the 2011 season, it retired now. The A’s would like to lure him back into the game as a scout, coach or instructor, but for now, they will have to settle for him coming into camp for a week as a guest infield coach. “It’s good to be back,’’ Ellis said. “They are talking about some kind of role in the future, but for now I’m just going to enjoy this week. I started working out last week again because I knew I had to put a uniform on.’’

–Mark Canha took two rounds of batting practice after a session in the batting cage, and the impression is that his back problem is improving. He could get into a game by the weekend. Further down the line this spring, Melvin says they may give Canha a look in center field. It would be one more way to get his bat into the lineup.

–Henderson Alvarez (shoulder surgery) gets his first chance to throw a full session of batting practice Tuesday. He’s still being looked at as a possibility to join the club in May.



Hahn wants to steal a little something from Gray’s playbook plus assorted opening notes from A’s opener with Rangers

Jesse Hahn will watch Monday's game with an idea of seeing what works for Sonny Gray against the Rangers.

Jesse Hahn will watch Monday’s game with an idea of seeing what works for Sonny Gray against the Rangers.

Jesse Hahn will be watching Sonny Gray tonight with a more discerning eye than most.

Hahn is starting the season’s second game Tuesday against the Rangers for Oakland, and he wants to see how A’s opening day starter Gray gets it done to take what he can from the performance.

Both are right-handed, but where Gray goes to his fastball first, Hahn is a sinker specialist. That doesn’t mean there isn’t something to learn.

“I’ll be looking to see what works for him,’’ Hahn said before Monday’s opener. “There are a lot of differences between us and the way we throw, but we are both aggressive and try to get outs early in the count by attacking hitters.

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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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Jemile Weeks staying as A’s starting second baseman; Mark Ellis to be utility man

We’re in a rain delay at Citi Field. The announcement just came as rain started falling right around the time first pitch was scheduled for. No word yet on when we’ll start. Until then, here’s the pregame update …

The expected news came down that rookie Jemile Weeks will remain the A’s starting second baseman and Mark Ellis will slide into a utility infielder role. Ellis will be an option at first and third base as well as second, manager Bob Melvin said, and he could start at first as soon as Thursday.

Ellis is handling the news extremely well and saying all the right things, which isn’t surprising considering what a class act he is. “I wasn’t bracing myself,” Ellis said. “I’ve been in (Weeks’) position before. I’ve been that guy before. So I wasn’t bracing myself. But watching him play, I’m proud of him. He’s done a great job, and he’s my teammate.”

At the same time, reading between the lines, I get the feeling Ellis would welcome a trade if it meant going somewhere to be a starting second baseman. “I still see myself as playing second base every day,” Ellis said. “We’ll see what happens there as far as wherever.” Ellis said he has a no-trade clause that allows him to veto a trade to six teams, but didn’t say who they are. I’ve been told by another trustworthy source that the Giants are not one of the six teams. Even with Daric Barton going down to the minors and Conor Jackson being the regular first baseman, the A’s still have two right-handed hitting utility infielders in Ellis and Adam Rosales (Melvin said Rosales will serve as the backup shortstop and not Ellis).

Melvin commended Ellis for how well he took the news, and that Ellis took all the tension out of the conversation when the two talked.

–In other news, left fielder Josh Willingham was scheduled to test his sore Achilles’ tendon by running. That’s the main hurdle for Willingham to clear before he returns to the lineup. He’s OK hitting, he said. If Willingham can’t play Thursday, Melvin said Jackson likely would go to left field and Ellis might play first.

–As things currently stand, Melvin said he envisions Hideki Matsui getting two starts in left field against Philadelphia this weekend, though that depends a lot on Willingham’s availability.

–One man who’s still the odd man out of playing time — David DeJesus. With Jackson playing first, that relieves a bit of the outfield logjam. But you saw how Ryan Sweeney played last night — four hits and a sliding catch in right-center. It’s hard to take that guy out of the lineup right now. DeJesus, like Ellis, is taking his situation very well. “To hang my head and be miserable, the season is way too long to be like that every day,” DeJesus said.

The lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B, Gonzalez LHP.

Mets — Reyes SS, Turner 3B, Beltran RF, Bay LF, Hairston CF, Paulino C, Duda 1B, Tejada 2B, Dickey RHP.


Mark Ellis sits with inner ear problem; Andy LaRoche’s tour of the A’s infield continues

It’s getaway day for the A’s in Toronto, and they want nothing more than to get away with a victory. Trevor Cahill takes the mound looking to help the A’s avoid a three-game sweep. …

Andy LaRoche remains a busy guy. He’s starting at second base today with Mark Ellis experiencing an inner ear problem. LaRoche started at shortstop Tuesday, then played third base Wednesday night. It’s sort of a continuation of what we saw in the spring, when LaRoche bounced around to all four infield spots. Interesting story from the spring: Many utility infielders will have different gloves for different spots – a smaller one for turning double plays at second base or short, and maybe a bigger one for third base. LaRoche told me during camp he prefers sticking with one glove that he’s comfortable with at all three of those positions – advice he once received from Jeff Kent.

Ellis’ inner ear problem is causing him some dizziness but it’s not thought to be vertigo, he said. He felt it a bit during Wednesday’s game (can you imagine backpedaling on a shallow fly to right field if you were dizzy?). Ellis said it was tough sleeping last night, but he gradually felt his ear popping, which relieved some pressure. “I’m not looking forward to the flight (to Minnesota),” he said. Manager Bob Geren said the team was weighing whether it was safe to have Ellis fly today, but driving to Minnesota is not a practical option – too far. The upshot: Ellis won’t play in his 1,000th career game until Friday at the earliest.

Conor Jackson draws a start in right field with David DeJesus getting the day off against Toronto left-hander Ricky Romero. Hideki Matsui is hitting sixth, and Geren said he’ll likely drop DeJesus or Matsui to the No. 6 spot against lefties most games.

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, LaRoche 2B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Jays: Davis CF, Nix 3B, Lind 1B, Hill 2B, Rivera RF, Encarnacion DH, Snider LF, Arencibia C, McDonald SS; Romero LHP.


A’s relievers still being handled carefully; the batting order takes shape

Hideki Matsui makes his A’s debut today, but don’t read too much into the rest of the lineup against the Angels with so many regulars getting the day off. David DeJesus is still trying to shake off a stomach bug, but it’s possible he’ll play tomorrow against the Reds. Here’s your starting nine:

Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Matsui DH
Jackson 1B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carson CF
Carter LF
Taylor RF
Tolleson SS

Braden P

**Joel Pineiro is on the hill for the Angels.

–Michael Wuertz is scheduled to throw off the mound Thursday for the first time since his shoulder soreness started. Fellow reliever Craig Breslow has had some tenderness in his throwing arm, according to manager Bob Geren, so there’s no indication yet when he’ll appear in a game. Closer Andrew Bailey is probably 5-7 days away from his first game. Those are three key guys in the bullpen, but I’d attribute their inactivity to the A’s precaution as opposed to anything seriously bothering any of these guys. The plan has been to limit their throwing early to preserve them for the regular season.

–A little insight into the batting order: Geren said he wants a right-handed hitter to bat behind Hideki Matsui (the likely No. 5 hitter). He mentioned Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mark Ellis as possibilities for the sixth spot. So bit by bit, we can piece together how the order will look. If I had to project right now, I’d say: Crisp, Barton, DeJesus, Willingham, Matsui, Kouzmanoff/Suzuki, Ellis, Pennington.

How would that lineup strike you, A’s fans?


Thoughts on the 2010 Oakland A’s batting order

I was rummaging through my notes from last week’s A’s media event, and wanted to share some thoughts from Bob Geren about his possible batting order. Geren was asked how he would handle the 1-2 spots, with Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis being the prime candidates at the top of the lineup. His take:

“You can do that a couple different ways. You can go Raj-Coco or Coco-Raj. It might depend on who I bat third and fourth. If you have Suzuki batting third, a right-handed hitter, maybe you go Raj first and Coco second. And then Cust could bat fourth, a lefty. I kind of like to (alternate lefties and righties) if it makes sense, so it’s more difficult for the opposition to match up in the bullpen.”

I know … You were hoping that by now, the A’s might have obtained a better fit for the No. 3 hole than Suzuki, right? Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing the Johnny Damon reports. Anyway, Rajai-Coco (or vice versa) is a natural combo in the 1-2 spots. But I could also see a scenario where Suzuki or Ryan Sweeney could bat second and Davis or Crisp could drop down to the ninth spot. Nothing wrong with lighting a fuse at the bottom of the order.

Here’s my stab at a full lineup if the A’s took their current roster into Opening Night. This is assuming that Eric Chavez is coming off the bench, as the A’s plan, and Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are starting the season at Triple-A:

1. Davis LF
2. Crisp CF
3. Suzuki C
4. Cust DH
5. Kouzmanoff 3B
6. Sweeney RF
7. Ellis 2B
8. Barton 1B
9. Pennington SS

**I didn’t purposely try to go right-left all the way down, just worked out that way …

Let’s hear some thoughts on the A’s options …


A’s pregame update: Edgar Gonzalez will start Tuesday, Tomko goes Wednesday

All’s quiet this morning on the A’s front … Sunday mornings are odd because there’s usually no regular BP on the field. The pitchers stretch at their own separate time, and players pop in and out of the batting cage at their leisure. Mostly, players were just sitting around watching the Yankees-White Sox on TV. Probably not real different from how you spent your Sunday morning …

A little news to share w/you …

–Edgar Gonzalez is starting Tuesday unless something unexpected happens. Brett Tomko is slated for Wednesday, which bumps him ahead of Trevor Cahill in the rotation to give Cahill a little extra rest. Manager Bob Geren had mentioned yesterday that Tomko could stay on regular days’ rest in the six-man rotation to give the younger guys a longer break. The A’s will especially monitor the innings of Cahill and Brett Anderson, today’s starter, since those two will surpass their innings from 2008 by such a large margin.

–Geren acknowledged it’s real doubtful Dallas Braden returns from his foot infection in time to rejoin the rotation. A little bullpen duty is still a possibility in Geren’s mind, but like I’ve mentioned here before, I would just shut Braden down and make sure he’s good for 2010. My guess is that will happen.

–Asked if there’s a definitive plan for call-ups on Tuesday when rosters expand, Geren said talks have centered “99 percent about pitching.” That means no Travis Buck, at least not right away. There is a chance they could promote a catcher, Geren said. Eric Munson would be the lead candidate …

–Bobby Crosby is expected to be activated from the DL on Wednesday without going on a rehab assignment. My guess is his playing time would likely come at third or second base, whenever Adam Kennedy or Mark Ellis might need a rest. You figure the A’s will keep running Daric Barton and Cliff Pennington out to first base and shortstop, respectively, to evaluate them as much as possible …

Today’s lineups, featuring Ryan Sweeney batting third. Kurt Suzuki and Scott Hairston both have the day off, and Geren likes the way Sweeney is swinging, so he gets bumped to the middle of the order …

Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Powell C
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Pennington SS
Patterson LF

Anderson LHP

Figgins 3B
Aybar SS
Hunter CF
Vlad DH
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Kendrick 2B
Matthews Jr. RF
Mathis C

Lackey RHP


A’s, Mariners know each other well

A little late with tonight’s post, my apologies on that …

–Landon Powell gets a second straight start tonight for the A’s. He’s at DH after jacking a three-run homer yesterday. Jack Cust is in right field and Rajai Davis gets a night off to rest a sore right thumb.

It’s too bad for Powell he isn’t getting more playing time. He’s really produced when he’s been in there. But other than at catcher or DH, it’s tough finding at-bats for him.

–There was lots of get-reacquainted time on the field during batting practice, as so many former A’s players and coaches are with Seattle. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and bench coach Ty Van Burkleo chatted w/Bob Geren. M’s first baseman/DH Mike Sweeney was catching up w/Mark Ellis … And the newest ex-Athletic/current Mariner, Jack Hannahan, is in the lineup at third base against his former team …

The full lineups

Kennedy 3B
Ellis 2B
Hairston LF
Cust RF
Suzuki C
Sweeney CF
Powell DH
Barton 1B
Pennington SS

Mazzaro RHP

Gutierrez CF
Branyan 1B
Lopez 2B
Griffey Jr. DH
Hall RF
Johjima C
Hannahan 3B
Wilson SS
Saunders LF

Snell RHP


Chad Gaudin — familiar foe for A’s

Not much in the way of pregame updates today. But I’ll be interested to see how Chad Gaudin looks tonight going against his old Oakland teammates. Big night for the right-hander, as this is his first start for the Yankees since they acquired him in a trade from San Diego. I talked to him during the A’s trip to San Diego in June, when he was still a Padre, and he was disappointed he wasn’t on turn to face the A’s down there. Surely he’ll have some extra adrenaline flowing tonight, just as Brett Tomko did facing the Yankees on Monday night.

Check out the first four hitters in the A’s batting order tonight: Adam Kennedy, Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis, Kurt Suzuki. That’s not exactly a 1-4 sequence you expected back in spring training, eh? Things are a little funky tonight because Scott Hairston isn’t starting (his quad still isn’t 100 percent). And there isn’t a hotter hitter on the A’s than Ellis, so might as well plug him into the “3” hole for a night. Suzuki, the DH, gets his first career start at cleanup.

–Joey Devine is backing up to 45 feet to play catch tonight. He said a couple days ago that there wasn’t a set date for him to get on the mound. It’ll be baby steps for him as he continues strengthening his elbow after Tommy John surgery.

–Bob Geren said the team has begun discussions about possible September roster call-ups, and that “obviously pitching will be at a premium.” Triple-A infielders Adrian Cardenas and Brett Wallace are swinging hot bats, as is Double-A first baseman Chris Carter. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them gets a ticket to Oakland. I’d be surprised if Carter didn’t at least get a promotion to Sacramento.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s lineups:

Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Ellis 2B
Suzuki DH
Sweeney LF
Powell C
Cust RF
Everidge 1B
Pennington SS

Anderson LHP

Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
A-Rod 3B
Matsui DH
Swisher RF
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Molina C

Gaudin RHP