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Jaso finds catching Kazmir for first time a breeze

After never having caught Scott Kazmir, John Jaso found working with the lefty easy as could be.

After never having caught Scott Kazmir, John Jaso found working with the lefty easy as could be.

John Jaso didn’t know for certain that he was catching Sunday until a few hours before the game.

He was told Saturday night that he might, so he was prepared, but since he’d never caught Scott Kazmir, he couldn’t be sure.

“Not even for a stretch in batting practice,’’ Jaso said. “I’ve never caught him. And I was lucky, because Scott is so easy to catch. Now if it had been Sonny Gray, that would have been different.’’

How’s that?

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Gray pitching like a proven commodity in first full season

Sonny Gray is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts after Saturday's win

Sonny Gray is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts after Saturday’s win

Sonny Gray has only made 13 big league starts. three of them this year.

He commands the game as if he’d made 130.

Once again the A’s 24-year-old was the best pitcher on the field Saturday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball, giving up a first-inning run then almost nothing else in what Gray called “my best game of the year.’’

What he didn’t say was “so far.’’

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Straily the latest of the brotherhood to give A’s top quality

Dan Straily enjoying being part of the brotherhood of A's starters

Dan Straily enjoying being part of the brotherhood of A’s starters

Dan Straily says there’s a reason the A’s starting pitching keeps getting better.

With Straily throwing seven one-run innings Thursday in a 6-1 win over the Twins, Oakland starters have allowed three runs or fewer in all nine of their games this year. The last time they did that, 1990, they wound up in the World Series.

It’s way too early to be thinking such lofty thoughts now, but the fact is that while pitching is a very individual pursuit, the A’s starting corps of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and Straily – No. 5 starter Tommy Milone makes his debut Friday in Seattle – have a nice bond.

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Rules on blocking the plate very much still a work in progress

A's catcher John Jaso got his first taste of the new home plate collision rules in the sixth inning Monday vs. Cleveland

A’s catcher John Jaso got his first taste of the new home plate collision rules in the sixth inning Monday vs. Cleveland

Baseball is trying to reinvent the game, or at least smooth out some of the rough spots, and in Monday night’s opener between the A’s and the Indians, it’s clear that there is still a ways to go.

To combat the spate of concussions and severe injuries that have come from collisions at home plate, the rulebook has been rescripted to make sure the base runner has access to the plate.

However, changing the rule and making the rule second nature are not the same thing. In the sixth inning Monday A’s starter Sonny Gray picked up a deflected grounder and threw the ball to catcher John Jaso.

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Gray will start opener with Kazmir, Chavez, Straily, Milone also in rotation; Cook, Rodriguez, Gentry start season on DL

Sonny Gray is the last  man standing in drive to start opener for the A's

Sonny Gray is the last man standing in drive to start opener for the A’s

Sonny Gray got the job that just about everyone but Sonny Gray expected him to get when A’s manager Bob Melvin named him the opening day starter.

Gray will be followed in the rotation by Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone.

The opening day start was expected originally to go to Jarrod Parker, but the competition opened up when it was learned that Parker will miss the season and undergo tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery.

Even with Parker, Gray was considered a contender for the opening day assignment by manager Bob Melvin, who isn’t afraid of putting the 24-year-old in the spotlight.

Last year in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, Melvin went with Gray over 18-game winner Bartolo Colon, and while the A’s lost that game, it wasn’t because Gray didn’t pitch well.

“He’s very quickly become one of those guys,’’ Melvin said of Gray, who was 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA after his promotion to the big leagues last year and then pitched eight shutout innings in Game 2 of the playoffs against Detroit before taking the 3-0 loss in Game 5.

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Gray pleased to be able to mostly pitch around A’s errors

Sonny Gray came to the A’s as someone with an intricate knowledge of the strike zone.

He’s going to strike out a few, as was the case Friday in a 3-0 loss to the Giants in Scottsdale when he fanned seven in 5.2 innings and walked just one.

He could use a little more help from his defense when he doesn’t register the K. Three times A’s infielder butchered plays, one each by shortstop Jed Lowrie, second baseman Nick Punto and first baseman Brandon Moss.

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Game 5 start in ALCS vs. Tigers put Gray in line for opener

Sonny Gray is the last  man standing in drive to start opener for the A's

Sonny Gray is the last man standing in drive to start opener for the A’s March 31.

Nothing is official, but the A’s have an opening day starting pitcher.

His name is Sonny Gray.

The 24-year-old, with just 10 big league starts to his name, was being considered for the job all along, but it seemed likely the call would go to Jarrod Parker or, perhaps, newcomer Scott Kazmir.

Parker is out for the season with the news that he needs a second Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow and forearm.

As for Kazmir, he was scratched from his start Monday because of triceps pain. He was pain-free Tuesday and wanted to pitch, but the A’s have decided that he’ll throw a bullpen session, probably Wednesday, then return to the starting rotation Saturday.

That rules him out for the opener, because to get to March 31 against the Indians, he’d either have to pitch on long rest or on short rest. The A’s aren’t going to have him do that for the sake of one game, so that leaves Gray to pitch the opener and Kazmir to follow him in Game 2 against Cleveland, the team for which he pitched last year.

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Things haven’t changed for Milone, even though they have

A's left-handed starter Tommy Milone wants to prove himself worthy of starting berth

A’s left-handed starter Tommy Milone wants to prove himself worthy of starting berth

Ask Tommy Milone, and he’ll tell you nothing has changed.

Ask Bob Melvin, and he’ll say nothing has change for Milone.

That’s true, to a point. But with the A’s having definitely lost starter A.J. Griffin from the opening day roster and very likely soon to get similar news about the man who was to have been the likely opening day starter in Jarrod Parker, everything has changed.

Milone was looking at being the sixth man in a five-man rotation, stuck behind Parker, Griffin, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Dan Straily. Now he could be the fourth man in the rotation.

It depends on how he does the final few weeks of the spring. From possibly being on the outside looking in no matter what, he’s in a position to grab a starting job just by pitching his best.

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Moss does Oscar-worthy work in latest A’s TV spots

Brandon Moss talks a good game at first base in A's TV ads

Brandon Moss talks a good game at first base in A’s TV ads

I’m not sure what it says about Vanderbilt University as a steppingstone to stage and screen, but A’s starter Sonny Gray, who took drama there for three years when not playing baseball, lost out in the early Best Actor Oscar nominations in the batch of A’s TV commercials to be released Thursday via social media.

Gray was fine, it should be pointed out, in doing his parts the five (of an eventual total of eight) commercials screened for the media Saturday (Raw footage of some of the other three bits also were shown). But first baseman Brandon Moss was flat-out hilarious in his spots, although some of the best bits, seen in outtakes and bloopers, may be left on the cutting room floor.

Put together by Hub Media and shot over the course of three days, the ads follow the path of “Green Collar Baseball’’ that the A’s have used as a general backdrop to their promotions the last few seasons, winning major awards in the sports advertising world the last three years.

Moss was seen in two bits, one where he chatters to runners at first base to distract them during pickoff throws and the other in which he crashes a group of his teammates doing “I’ve got a Secret’’ and veers the conversation from baseball secrets to improvised personal ones like “I’ve got three nipples.’’

If the bits survive the editing process, a star will be born.

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A’s approve of Griffin taking charge of his pitching future

A.J. Griffin is going back to an old friend - his changeup

A.J. Griffin is going back to an old friend – his changeup

Managers and pitching coaches would much rather have a young pitcher come to them and say “I need to develop a pitch’’ than have to suggest that kind of move themselves.

The idea is that if the prompting is internally generated, the pitcher is more likely to do the little things that go into the making of a pitch.

So the A’s are happy that starter A.J. Griffin has decided he would rather go back to throwing his changeup, a pitch he used to master, while ditching the cutter he’s thrown with mixed success since picking it up in 2011.

“What it says to me is that the player knows his strengths and weaknesses,’’ Oakland manager Bob Melvin said, “and he wants to work on his weaknesses. You want to see that in all your guys.’’

Melvin’s pitching coach, Curt Young, said that Griffin is on the same quest every other young starting pitcher (Griffin is 26) is on.

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