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Vogt takes demotion to Sacramento hard, but with grace

It was a great spring for Stephen Vogt. Right up until Saturday, when he got the word he was being sent down to Triple-A Sacramento.

Catcher Stephen Vogt got the bad news Saturday he is off to Sacramento.

Catcher Stephen Vogt got the bad news Saturday he is off to Sacramento.

It wasn’t unexpected, even if it was undeserved. Manager Bob Melvin said it was perhaps the most difficult end-of-spring conversation he’d ever had with a player.

It wasn’t just that Vogt hit .364 with three homers and a dozen RBIs. It was that he’s developed a bond with the A’s pitching staff, he is genuinely liked by A’s teammates and he was a major part of the Oakland success the second half of 2013.

But the decision to go with two left-handed hitting first basemen, Brandon Moss and Daric Barton, meant the squeeze for roster space was on. Vogt, part of a three-man catching rotation last year, was odd man out when the A’s went with two catchers, John Jaso and Derek Norris, leaving Vogt to start in Sacramento.

And he took it hard. He badly wanted to be in Oakland, to the point where “you never want to believe it will happen until it happens,’’ he said.

Melvin took it hard, too.

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Gimenez one of those waiting for opportunity to strike

This is the week that will determine Chris Gimenez’s season.

Claimed on waivers by Oakland as the fourth man to add to what was a three-man catching rotation, Gimenez is a 31-year-old veteran who has logged creditable time with the Indians, the Mariners and the Rays.

He’s not going to make the A’s roster, which may not have room for three catchers, much less four. He’s out of options, so he can be a free agent once the A’s set up their roster and he’s not on it.

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Barton forces way onto A’s roster with a good spring

The A’s lineup heading into spring training pivoted around one person – first baseman Daric Barton.

If he made the team, the lineup would structure one way. If he didn’t make the team, it would structure quite another.

Barton has had a nice spring offensively. Heading into Monday’s game in Surprise against the Rangers, he carried a .298 batting average, but with no extra-base hits. He also had nine walks and had been hit by a pitch, leading to a .486 on-base percentage, which is something the A’s value highly.

So heading into Monday’s season opener, unless the A’s pull off an unexpected switch, you can figure on Barton being at first base with last year’s first baseman, Brandon Moss, serving as the DH. (Both men are likely to be on the bench when left-handed pitchers start).

If Barton hadn’t made the team, the DH would have been catcher John Jaso, also left-handed, with Stephen Vogt and Derek Norris sharing the catching. There are those in the A’s organization who see having three catchers as a possibility at some point later this season, but not now.

This level of success is a major about-face for Barton, who was repeatedly designated for assignment last year when it seemed his career in Oakland had been played out. But injuries in the outfield and behind the plate led to Moss moving to the outfield for a while and Jaso missing the last two months, and Barton thrived.

Called up for the final week of August, Barton hit .301 the rest of the way while posting a .381 on-base percentage. He’s always been more of an on-base machine than a run producer, but over those 29 games he actually had more RBIs (13) than walks (12).

The knock on him in the past was that he was too passive at the plate, too willing to wait for walks and not going to the plate with the idea of driving in runs, but he showed new aggression last September. It’s carried over to this year.

“I came here this spring to have fun, and I’ve done that,’’ Barton said. “I’m more aggressive now. When they throw a strike, I’m swinging.’’

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Vogt continues to fight for a job that may not be there

It's been a hot spring for A's catcher Stephen Vogt

It’s been a hot spring for A’s Stephen Vogt

It doesn’t seem possible that there have been many players fight harder for a job than the A’s Stephen Vogt, especially when considering there doesn’t seem there’s a job available.

We’re a week away from the A’s having to finalize their roster, and it seems there is no way the club can work it to carry three catchers. And since the other two catchers don’t have options, it seems the A’s will opt to send Vogt to Triple-A Sacramento, keeping lefty John Jaso and right-hander Derek Norris to platoon at the big league level.

Vogt keeps putting pressure on the decision makers. He hit a homer foul with a man on base in the third inning, then came back later in the at-bat to hit the ball out again, this time in fair territory.

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Jaso’s not a DH, so he and Vogt will battle at catcher; that means Moss now most likely to get majority of DH at-bats

There’s been plenty of talk about John Jaso moving from catcher to DH for the A’s this year.

It may have been nothing more than just talk.

A’s manager Bob Melvin went out of his way Saturday to stress that as long as Jaso’s health is such that he can get behind the plate, he will.

“As long as he’s healthy and can catch,’’ Melvin said, “he’ll be a catcher.’’

That says two important things about the A’s roster moving forward.

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Sogard’s #FaceofMLB run `like going to Disneyland’

The bespeckled face of nerdpower isn’t, ultimately, the face of baseball.

A’s second baseman Eric Sogard’s wild ride through the Twittersphere came to an end Friday morning when a late push got the Mets’ David Wright over the top and a victory in MLB Networks’ #FaceofMLB competition.

“It was like going to Disneyland,’’ Sogard said Friday after the results were announced. “I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.’’

Sogard did nothing to promote his own candidacy, and said he was shocked when A’s fans originally picked him as the Oakland contestant in the competition. But as he rolled past the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, the Giants’ Buster Posey and the Jays’ Jose Bautista, his momentum morphed from a strong surge into a tidal wave.

Were fans into it? Just a little. They took photos of the man whose black-rimmed glasses have had him crowned the face of #nerdpower, digitally imposed them on every picture they could think of and inundated Twitter with them.

There was Sogard in a poster for the movie Fight Club. And Raiders of the Lost Ark. And Toy Story. And the list goes on.

“There were so many amazing memes,’’ Sogard’s wife, Kaycee, said. “Eric took it all in stride, but we loved them all. I’m going to track them all down and make a book of them. They’re too good to lose.’’

Sogard just laughed when asked if he was going to ask for a recount of the vote, which saw him lose to Wright by two percentage points, 51-49. Sogard had been ahead when the West Coast went to bed Thursday night, but the East Coast rallied early.

None of which bothered Sogard.

“It goes to show the passion of A’s fans,’’ Sogard said. “It’s not just about me, it’s about this team and the fans we have. They are amazing.’’

Reliever Sean Doolittle has a theory on how the Sogard phenomenon got so big so fast.

“Who are the Oakland A’s?’’ Doolittle said. A’s fans had a chance to flip baseball on its side and they did a great job of it.’’

As did the A’s players, at least those who are on Twitter.

“We had a blast with it,’’ Doolittle said. “It got to be seeing who could come up with the coolest things to say to promote Sogie.’’

Josh Reddick dropped a few names and got Larry the Cable Guy and WWE wrestler The Big Show on board on Sogard’s behalf.

Starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Dan Straily orchestrated a scam in which Gray directed to Straily a tweet of support of Sogard his “new’’ phone number, asking that Straily call him. The number was the A’s ticket office.

Jarrod Parker, Josh Donaldson, A.J. Griffin, Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and Tommy Milone all were out in front in leading the charge for Sogard. Even former A’s pitcher Travis Blackley, now pitching in Australia, chipped in, as did Brett Anderson and Pat Neshek, both of whom spent 2013 with the A’s.

Tweeted Norris: “Vote for the guy whose glasses are so powerful he can see the future.’’

Tweeted Crisp: “Who do you think showed @Coco_Crisp all his dance moves? Yup!! It was #EricSogard #FaceofMLB Sogie’s got skills.”

Tweeted Cook: “My timeline is a joke …  #EricSogard #FaceofMLB all over the place!

“I think you saw the personality of this team come out through all this,’’ Gray said. “Everybody was into it.’’

Sogard, a second baseman who has a fight ahead of him to hold the job he won last spring, won’t soon forget any of this.

“We may not have the most fans, but we have amazing fans,’’ Sogard said. “They get the credit for all this. This was them.’’

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A’s Jaso has put concussion issues behind him; Melvin will give him another shot behind the plate

You may have read that John Jaso will head into spring training as the leading contender for the A’s designated hitter chores this year.

Jaso has read it, over and over again. Such is the power of the internet.

But the veteran catcher, whose contract with Oakland for the 2014 season was just finalized, doesn’t take all that talk all that seriously.

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Stephen Vogt does where Crash Davis never did

If you don’t think there is something wonderful and downright fun about baseball in the playoffs, then you haven’t met Stephen Vogt.

And if you had seen Vogt six months ago, you wouldn’t have seen someone destined for the limelight. You would have seen a man not feeling the wonder, not feeling the fun, just walking through a shopping mall in Durham, N.C., not far from where another minor league catcher, Crash Davis, made a name for himself.

At the time Vogt had close to 1,900 minor league at-bats in which he averaged .299, but in his only 25 at-bats in the big leagues he was a whopping zero, zilch, nada, nyet for 25.

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Generalissimo Y takes center stage in Oakland

It’s way too early to know if there is a new Mr. October on Oakland’s horizon, but it’s at least worth keeping an eye on the A’s Yoenis Cespedes this month.

In Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Tigers Friday, the A’s left fielder shrugged off the effects of a sore right shoulder to triple and hit a two-run homer, producing the only runs the A’s scored in a 3-2 loss.

He came back Saturday with a pair of singles, the second of which touched off the winning rally that culminated with Cespedes scoring from third base on Stephen Vogt’s bases-loaded single for a 1-0 win.

Those were the sixth and seventh games in Cespedes’ admittedly short post-season career. But they are built upon a base that has the chance to be molded into a towering legacy in baseball’s center stage month. He’s the personification of Generation Y in Oakland. Call him Generalissimo Y.

He’s hit in all seven games while averaging .370 with an OPS of 1.006. Small sample size or not, those are impressive numbers.

There are some players who are just built for the spotlight, and Cespedes seems to be one of those. He floundered most of the year, but when there was a chance that the A’s might not make the playoffs, Cespedes shrugged off September shoulder issues to average .314 with six homers. For a little perspective, his best average in the five previous months was July’s .237.

In his first September pennant drive in 2012, he had season monthly best of seven homers and 19 RBIs as the A’s chased down the Rangers.

There are some classically great hitters who have wilted on the big stage. Just last year Robinson Cano of the Yankees was a woeful 3-for-40. A’s RBI machine Miguel Tejada was 2-for-23 after having racked up 70 extra base hits and 106 RBIs in the 2003 season. Manny Ramirez drove in 165 runs in the 1998 season for the Indians, then went 1-for-18 in the playoffs.

Not to tell A’s manager Bob Melvin how to work his lineup, but he’d be well advised to support Cespedes by keeping Seth Smith in the lineup as the DH for the next few games. Smith had two hits Saturday, both following Cespedes hits and the second setting up the winning run, and Cespedes could use the threat of a hot, productive bat behind him to get better pitches to hit.

All Smith did was hit .393 in September, even when he couldn’t get in the lineup every day. He only played in 15 games and started just seven of those, but .393 is .393, and is going to get respect from the other side. That can only help Cespedes.

(Not that it particularly means anything, but while writing this I went back and looked up what A’s starters did when Smith was hitting behind them during his September hot streak. They went 12-for-23, .522. Add in Cespedes on Saturday and it’s 14-for-27, .518).

Whatever the A’s can do to get Cespedes to get better pitches to hit is a terrific idea.

After all, it’s October. It’s the Generalissimo’s time.

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ALDS Game 1 wrapup: Reddick earns his pay with bullet throw; A’s looking at lineup change at first base; Moss says Scherzer the best club has seen

When Josh Reddick doesn’t hit – and too often this year that’s been an ongoing story – there are questions that A’s manager Bob Melvin gets as to why Reddick is in the lineup.

Friday should have dispelled some of those questions. For the fifth time in his last eight games, the rifle-armed Reddick threw out a runner, this time preventing Detroit from scoring a fourth run and potentially blowing open Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

With slow-footed Victor Martinez on second base, Omar Infante sliced a single past first baseman Daric Barton. Martinez got a good jump, but as we say, isn’t fast. Still Reddick came up throwing to catcher Stephen Vogt to get the out and keep the A’s deficit at the time at 3-0.

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