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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