Barry Zito’s gets his first Cactus League start Thursday against the Cubs.
It’s a quiet morning in Mesa with only a little bit of news coming out of A’s camp
That figures to change this afternoon as former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito makes his fist Cactus League start of the spring in what he hopes will be a first step toward winning a job in the A’s rotation.
And Coco Crisp will start in left field, marking his move there from center field, his home for most of his big league career.
Zito has a long road to go to make the A’s rotation. The A’s have three spots open behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, but the club is leaning toward giving Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz the first shots at two of those jobs, and Oakland went out and got handful of not-quite-ready-for-primetime pitchers for the fifth spot, including Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt.
It’s a virtual certainty that one of those last three makes the rotation, and two of them making it isn’t out of the question.
Barry Zito’s winter spent with pitching guru Ron Wolforth has resulted in an invitation to A’s spring training camp.
Ron Wolforth won’t throw an inning in the big leagues this year, but he could have a huge impact on the A’s starting rotation.
It was Wolforth, something of a pitching guru working out of Houston, who resuscitated Scott Kazmir’s career a couple of years back. Kazmir, a 15-game winner and an All-Star last year, is the No. 2 man in the Oakland rotation behind Sonny Gray.
And Monday came the news that another Wolforth reclamation case, Barry Zito, has signed with the A’s. Zito will be on a minor league contract, but if the left-hander does as well as Wolforth seems to believe he will, the one-time Cy Young Award winner could easily fit into the A’s rotation.
The trade of Derek Norris brings two good arms into the A’s camp and leaves open more possible moves.
You have to wonder what’s next for the A’s.
Billy Beane & Co. have spent the last six weeks stocking up on young talent, most of it pitching, including right-handed starter Jesse Hahn and right-handed reliever J.R. Alvarez who are the newest additions with Derek Norris having been traded to the Padres Thursday night.
Already five of the seven players the A’s had at the All-Star Game this season are off the roster, and as Norris told me Thursday night, it seems like the A’s “are looking to rebuild’’ heading into 2015.
Norris may be right about that, but it seems more than a little possible that Beane is loading up for one big swing between now and the start of spring training. With Matt Kemp off the block now, the biggest bats known to be available are outfielder Justin Upton of the Braves and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies.
The slow process of rebuilding the Oakland A’s took another step forward Tuesday with the completion of a deal with the Chicago White Sox that saw Oakland potentially bring a starting shortstop and a starting pitcher into the fold.
At the cost of top-end starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and minor league reliever Michael Ynoa, the A’s added four players, two of whom, infielder Marcus Semien and pitcher Chris Bassitt, could have an immediate impact on the big league club.
The two other players acquired, catcher Josh Phegley and first baseman Rangel Ravelo, figure to be Triple-A players to start 2015.
Semien, from St. Mary’s High and the University of California, will have the shortstop job to lose come spring training. He’s mostly been a third baseman with a secondary role at second base for the White Sox, but in the minor leagues two-thirds of his playing time has been at second base.
Sonny Gray pitches Game 162 Sunday, the only game that matters any more for A’s
The A’s have been waiting for six weeks for their slump to end.
You know the one. It’s seen Oakland lose 30 of their last 45 games and has seen the A’s go from the next American League power to a team that is perhaps hours away from failing to make the post-season at all.
If that were to happen, it would go do as one of the great collapses of all-time, perhaps the biggest in Major League history. Other teams have fallen about as far about as fast, but none of them had the lifelines of two Wild Card berths awaiting non-Division Champions.
The A’s have to win Sunday, have the Mariners lose Sunday or, failing that, beat Seattle in a one-game playoff Monday to avoid having that added to their resume.
Felix Hernandez wasn’t enough for Mariners as A’s win in 10 innings, 3-2
The A’s aren’t going to see Felix Hernandez again this season.
But this post-season? Well there’s an excellent chance they’ll see King Felix in the Wild Card game Sept. 30. The A’s and the Mariners and whichever American League Central second-place team (the Tigers or the Royals) stand as the likeliest candidates to earn Wild Card berths.
If it’s the A’s and the Mariners, there’s a good chance that Hernandez will take the mound for Seattle if he doesn’t have to pitch Seattle into the playoffs on the final day of the season Sept. 28.
For the A’s, the recent memory of having won a game that Hernandez started will be a counterbalance to the 4-0 record Hernandez has against Oakland this season and his 19-7 overall record against the A’s.
Coco Crisp helped get the A’s back on track Friday with a homer and a double to do in the Angels.
It had been a sad stretch for the A’s in the first 19 games of August, winning just eight of them.
So when the Angels opened up Friday with Mike Trout hitting a homer off Sonny Gray, it had a chance to be more of the same.
That it wasn’t was thanks to Coco Crisp. The A’s center fielder, who earlier in the week was finding a way out of a 5-for-43 skid, homered off the Angels’ Hector Santiago and suddenly things were sweetness and light.
Or as manager Bob Melvin put it, “when Coco hit that home run it was like, `all right, we’re fine.’ ’’
Sonny Gray will get extra time off thanks to the All-Star break, as will Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.
The A’s have asked much of their starting pitchers in the first half.
Between then, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez have averaged 119 innings per man in the first half, during which they’ve gone 28-12 with a combined 2.77 ERA.
They are using a rejiggered rotation after the All-Star break to maximize the amount of time each will get off. To do that, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young have gone with newly acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to handle the first two games after the All-Star break Friday and Saturday against the Orioles in Oakland.
There are some hidden depths to the A’s trade with the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
One of which is that it is a preemptive strike at the rest of Major League Baseball’s contending teams, almost all of which believe they need more starting pitching.
The Yankees do. The Orioles do. The Blue Jays do. And the list is long.
A’s have had plenty to celebrate in first one-third of the season.
The last week hasn’t been much for the A’s, what with being swept in a three-game series in Toronto and then coming home and having to settle for getting a split with the Detroit Tigers.
It’s as well to be noted that the Blue Jays have the best record in the American League East. The Tigers have the best record in the AL Central. And, yes, the A’s have the best record in the AL West exactly one-third of the way through the 162-game schedule.
For the first 54 games they’ve played, the A’s have been perhaps the most dominant team in the league. It doesn’t always get reflected in the winning percentage – Toronto, Detroit and Oakland are all in the range of .600, which over the course of the year would come out to 97 wins.