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Alvarez no fish out of water in debut spring with A’s

R.J. Alvarez brings explosive fastball and dreams of being in A's bullpen in 2015.

R.J. Alvarez brings explosive fastball and dreams of being in A’s bullpen in 2015.

When you hear that a baseball player was just born to play the game, metaphor is in play.

In the case of A’s relief pitcher R.J. Alvarez, it’s true.

Roy and Susie Alvarez both are baseball fanatics. When their son R.J. (Roy Jr., of course) was born on June 8, 1991 in West Palm Beach, Fla., Roy Sr. met him for the first time with a gift – a baseball glove.

“I think Susie kind of expected it,’’ he said. “We dated in high school, and it was always about baseball.’’

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Abad chases both the American and the Dominican dream

A's lefty Fernando Abad, Green Card in hand, has big plans for A's this season.

A’s lefty Fernando Abad, Green Card in hand, has big plans for A’s this season.

2015 figures to be a monumental year in the life of A’s reliever Fernando Abad.

Less than a month ago, the Dominican left-hander got his Green Card from the U.S. Government. In June, he’s due to get braces off his teeth, braces he’s worn for most of the last seven years.

And he’s a key member of an Oakland bullpen that helped the A’s make it to the playoffs last year, one that has hopes of doing the same in 2015.

“It’s been a big year already,’’ Abad said of getting his Green Card. It meant he had to spend almost all of the off-season in the U.S. rather than going to his native Dominican Republic, but he’s more than cool with that.

His goal for the next off-season is to get his kids, 23-month-old Fernando Jr. and 3-year-old Camilla Fernanda and their mom, Bettania, all green cards.

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Clippard favored to close for A’s, but nothing is settled

Tyler Clippard remains likeliest candidate to start season as A's closer

Tyler Clippard remains likeliest candidate to start season as A’s closer

Tyler Clippard thought he’d dodged a bullet when he started talking contract with the Washington Nationals last month, so it came as a bit of a shock for him to learn he’d been traded to the A’s on Jan. 14

`I kind of thought I was out of the woods,’’ Clippard said after reporting to the A’s with the rest of the pitchers and catchers at the extensively remodeled Hohokam Stadium Thursday morning. “Our arbitration date was three days away and we were talking about contracts.’’

The surprise came in the form or Yunel Escobar. Oakland had picked up the shortstop along with Ben Zobrist four days earlier from Tampa Bay in a deal that sent John Jaso to the Rays.

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A’s may be in right, but probably won’t get protest upheld

Collision or obstruction? There is an excellent chance that the A’s and the Angels will play down to the final weekend of the season before deciding the American League West.

If that’s the case, I wouldn’t want to be umpire Greg Gibson, whose call against the A’s forced Oakland to play Thursday’s game under protest. If the protest isn’t upheld and the A’s finish one game behind, or even in a tie with, the Angels, Gibson will have had as much impact on the race as any player on either team.

The A’s see it as a potential win denied them, the Angels winning 4-3 in 10 innings. The A’s need all the wins they can get at this time of the season, and being denied one could be the difference between winning the division and advancing to a five-game division series or winning a wild card berth and having to win one game for the right to advance or be eliminated.

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Pomeranz likely roster space victim after strong start

Drew Pomeranz gave teh A's a huge lift Wednesday, but they may need his spot on the roster Thursday.

Drew Pomeranz gave teh A’s a huge lift Wednesday, but they may need his spot on the roster Thursday.

There have been a lot of “thanks, but no thanks’’ moments for the A’s of late.

They sent down reliever Dan Otero last week. when he had a 7-1 record and 2.28 ERA when they needed the roster space.

They told first baseman Nate Freiman they were sending him down Wedendsday because they needed roster space.

And the man Freiman was moved for, Drew Pomeranz, could be facing the same fate Thursday.

Pomeranz isn’t at all likely to stay in the starting rotation, and even after 5.1 innings in which he allowed one unearned run and did more than his share in a 5-4 A’s win over the Astros, it will be three or four days before he could pitch again. Because the rosters expand after Monday’s game, Oakland could send him down and have him back on Tuesday.

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A’s: Bullpen is bullying opposing offenses these days

Ryan Cook is on a major roll, unscored upon in his last 18 games, pacing a red-hot a's bullpen.

Ryan Cook is on a major roll, unscored upon in his last 18 games, pacing a red-hot a’s bullpen.

In the middle of a tight pennant race there’s a tendency to look at the things that should be better than they are.

The things that are better than they should be can get glossed over.

That brings us to the A’s, who, it is true, have been struggling to score runs. And that’s an issue.

Equally a part of the equation, however, is just how difficult Oakland pitchers are at making it difficult for other teams to score.

Eric O’Flaherty, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle combined to throw 3.1 perfect innings in relief of winning pitcher Jason Hammel Tuesday.

It’s just part of a bigger picture.

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A’s: Unicorn mask latest bit of oddity in Oakland clubhouse

Reliever Joe Savery had charge of the A's unicorn backpack earlier this season.

Reliever Joe Savery had charge of the A’s unicorn backpack earlier this season.

It’s really true that you can never tell what you’ll see upon walking into the Oakland A’s clubhouse.

It could be players challenging themselves to coat their gums with nuclear hot sauce.

It could be a full sized Darth Vader helmet painted in the A’s Green and Gold gracing the center of the room.

Or it could be players taking turns wearing a large white unicorn mask.

Saturday pregame, it was the unicorn’s turn.

To be clear, the A’s have had a unicorn with them for a couple of years now. The backpack that the relievers fill with sunflower seeds, candy and nuts for the couple of hours they will spend in the bullpen has a unicorn on the back of it.

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A’s will need Cook, defense to gel before too much longer

The first couple of weeks of June have been tough on reliever Ryan Cook.

The first couple of weeks of June have been tough on reliever Ryan Cook.

There are going to be nights or days like the one the A’s lived through Monday in losing to the Rangers 14-8.

Take Sept. 11, 1927.

The New York Yankees went out and lost 6-2 to the St. Louis Browns that Sunday afternoon. The Yankees had played the Browns 21 times already that season. The Bronx Bombers were 21-0 in those other games. They waited until their final game of the year to lose. Who knows why.

(For that bit of arcane information, I thank baseball-reference.com, which has to be one of the top five websites on the planet. I have no idea what the other four are).

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Tough roster move faces A’s before Tuesday in New York

Setup man Ryan Cook should be activated for Tuesday's game in New York.

Setup man Ryan Cook should be activated for Tuesday’s game in New York.

As May turned to June, the A’s found themselves closer to the roster they thought they might have in April.

Sunday’s recall of catcher Stephen Vogt gives the club three catchers, meaning manager Bob Melvin can play two of them on any given day (one of them as the designated hitter) and still have the ability to pinch-run.

That’s the way things worked for much of the middle of the 2013 season before injuries got in the way.

More than that, having a three-catcher ensemble means Melvin doesn’t have to fret about the scenario of having to either give up the designated hitter or have third baseman Josh Donaldson, a former catcher, get back behind the plate.

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Johnson’s woes notwithstanding, help on way for A’s pen

Jim Johnson hasn't had close to the results he'd hoped for in coming to Oakland.

Jim Johnson hasn’t had close to the results he’d hoped for in coming to Oakland.

The A’s are one-third of the way through the 162-game season, and after 54 games, they have no idea what’s up with Jim Johnson.

The right-hander, a 50-saves man the last two seasons with the Orioles, has not found it in Oakland. His sinker isn’t sinking, and the flurry of ground balls that used to get him out of trouble are finding their way to the outfield in unprecedented numbers.

The A’s bullpen was supposed to be the bedrock of the club. Instead it has been the Achilles’ heel. Johnson (3-2, 6.55) is the most glaring problem, but he’s not the only issue. Luke Gregerson has good overall numbers (1-1, 2.70) but eight of the 13 base runners he’s inherited have scored.

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