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Will outfielders try to beat the system on dropped balls?

With all the calls being overturned with balls being accidentally dropped in the transfer from glove to hand in Major League Baseball these days, A’s center fielder Coco Crisp was asked Monday how long before someone drops the ball during the transfer on purpose?

After all, runs have to hold and retreat to their bases once they see the ball being caught. But with umpires consistently ruling “no catch’’ even after players have taken three or four strides following the catch, how long before someone opts to make a catch and then drop the ball on purpose to maybe force a very fast runner to get a double play?

Crisp wouldn’t advise it.

“I wouldn’t do it,’’ he said. “You’ve got to make the catch, make the play.’’

The same question was put to Oakland first base coach Tye Waller.

“I know it’s been talked about,’’ Waller said. “So far, nothing I’ve seen has been like that. I think everybody wants to get the outs they can get.’’

As part of their start-of-series scouting meeting before the game Monday, the A’s spent extra time talking about how they want to handle fly balls to the outfield that are no longer as routine as they once were.

“We need to have guys peaking over their shoulders,’’ Melvin said.

Waller said that he’s told his base runners he’d divide the responsibility with them.

“I told them, `I’ll watch the ball,’’ he said. “They have to run heads up.’’

Waller took his eye off the ball over the weekend in Seattle when Yoenis Cespedes lined out to Dustin Ackley. Ackley dropped the ball making the transfer, and neither coach nor base runner realized it. So Waller is going to be watching the ball until the transfer is successfully made, which will put more responsibility on the runners.

“A play like that can never happen again,’’ he said. “You can’t undo what’s been done. But you can make sure it never happens again. It’s an adjustment process for all of us.’’Will

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It’s early days yet, but A’s finding replays `maddening’; Chavez goes to changeup more to dominate Twins

If the minds who decided to add the replay and review system into baseball in 2014 thought the game would be somehow be made crisper by getting the calls right, and right away, they were wrong.

Wednesday’s game between the A’s and the Twins was all about replays.

In the second inning, Jed Lowrie thought he was still at the plate after a foul tip. A lengthy discussion determined that he was out, that former A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki had caught the foul tip and the ball hadn’t touched the ground.

“All of a sudden the flow of the game seemed to have stopped,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “We didn’t do anything after that.’’

In the ninth inning Jim Johnson thought he’d struck out Eduardo Escobar, but Derek Norris was ruled not to have caught the foul tip, Escobar remained alive and popped a single to left to score a run.

On that single, Yoenis Cespedes threw to third base in an attempt to get a force out. The call was that runner Kurt Suzuki was safe and that call, after another lengthy review stood.

Donaldson said he felt Suzuki slide into the bag, “while I had control of the ball,’’ which should have meant an out.

Melvin said on the A’s video review of that play, “we were getting the out call. We thought he was out.

“It’s maddening and it’s tough to deal with at times.’’

 

–Jesse Chavez didn’t get his first win of the season Wednesday, but that wasn’t what bugged him after the A’s 7-4, 11-inning victory.

He was annoyed at giving up the one run he did, a solo homer hit by Jason Kubel in the second inning, saying he’d “like to have that one back.’’

For the most part, however, it was another strong argument why Chavez deserves to be in the Oakland rotation. He mostly pitched ahead in the count, he struck out a career-best nine, he didn’t walk anyone and only once did the Twins get men on base at the same time against him, and that lasted for about 10 seconds before Sam Fuld threw out Trevor Plouffe at third base.

He said he was trying to use his changeup more.

His manager admired what he did to keep the Twins in check.

“Chavvy was great again,’’ Melvin said. “that’s what we’ve seen from him every game since spring training. You see the focus he has. He wants to run with this opportunity.’’

 

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Chili has no worries Cespedes will be a force for A’s in 2014

Yoenis Cespedes is in quest of the perfect hybrid swing

Yoenis Cespedes is in quest of the perfect hybrid swing

(UPDATE POSTGAME)

 

A’s batting coach Chili Davis spent his usual Sunday morning in the batting cage working with eight or 10 of the club’s hitters, whoever wandered by over the course of 90 minutes.

One of those was, as is almost always the case, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Davis had Cespedes hit off a tee, then tee off on some underhand flips from Davis behind a screen.

After Cespedes, who has spent the spring trying to turn a long swing into a short one, was done and things were dying down, Davis turned to me and asked, “Why is everyone so concerned about Cespedes?’’

I said a .130 spring batting average will do that, and Davis just shook his head.

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Moss says Cespedes’s average is not a cause for concern

Brandon Moss is batting cleanup Wednesday, but he still has high hopes for regular cleanup man Yoenis Cespedes

Brandon Moss is batting cleanup today, but he has high hopes for regular cleanup man Yoenis Cespedes

Brandon Moss is the A’s cleanup hitter today against the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.

It’s one of a handful of times that Moss has hit cleanup this spring.

“I’ve done it before on days when (Yoenis) Cespedes hasn’t been in the lineup,’’ Moss said.

Today, Cespedes is in the lineup.

Manager Bob Melvin says there’s no reason to read too much into the lineup. He said he just wanted to have a left-handed bat between two right-handed hitters, Josh Donaldson and Cespedes. The implication was that Cespedes’ .128 average this spring had nothing to do with the move.

And Moss said that Cespedes’ average shouldn’t be a matter of great concern.

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Regardless of numbers, it’s a stretch for Taylor with A’s

The A’s backup outfield job was originally supposed to go to Craig Gentry, and while Gentry had a full workout Monday, things have changed because Gentry’s ongoing recovery from back pain may well keep him from starting the season on the roster.

The options then for the A’s are Sam Fuld, signed as a free agent, or Michael Taylor, who is out of options after playing his entire career in the A’s minor league system.

Taylor’s having a big sprint with a .310 average and just Sunday threw out a runner at the plate from right field. And while the A’s like to hold on to players who are out of options, it’s difficult seeing how Taylor makes the team no matter how good his spring is.

Because both Brandon Moss and Daric Barton seem locked in at first base/DH, there are only four open outfield spots on the roster. And manager Bob Melvin Monday said that the ability to play center field is a major factor in the decision-making process for someone to play behind Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick.

Gentry can play center. And so can Fuld, who has a deal in his contract that he can walk as a free agent later this month if he’s not on the roster. Taylor is seen as a corner outfielder only.

Now since Gentry is likely back in early April, the A’s could go for a week or two with Taylor and without a true backup center fielder, knowing they could shove Cespedes into the role for a game or two if needed. Moss can move to left, freeing up Cespedes, if needed.

But if they stick to their center field predilection, it seems that Fuld’s the guy over Taylor, if for no other reason than the club might be able to hold onto him for the season.

That being the case, it would make sense for the A’s to try and trade Taylor in the next week or so because they risk losing him now that he’s out of options and is unlikely to make the roster.

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ALDS wrapup: A’s left too much of roster unused; Disappointment follows another Game 5 loss

For a team that prided itself on using its entire roster to get through the 162-game season with the best record in the American League West, the A’s got away from their trademark in the post-season.

Four players, pitchers Jerry Blevins and Jesse Chavez, catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Chris Young, didn’t get into a game. Another catcher, Derek Norris, got one at-bat as a pinch-hitter.

That’s essentially 20 percent of the 25-man roster unused.

This is a quick postmortem, but that’s unlike the A’s.

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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 2 wrapup: A’s show their fight once again; Coliseum had room for more than baseball

This was what Raul Ibanez meant.

Last week when I was talking with the Mariners outfielder, he praised the A’s mental toughness, their inability to stop fighting. He called them one of the grittiest clubs he had ever seen.

Saturday’s 1-0 win over Detroit was the personification of that game. They scored not a run against former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander for seven innings, then didn’t score in the eighth after putting two men on base.

Come the ninth inning, the A’s were still clawing. Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith backed up doubles, and after Josh Reddick was intentionally walked, Stephen Vogt came up with the game-winner.

On paper, the Tigers may have the better team. They certainly hit for a better average, and as good as the A’s starting pitching is, the Tigers will say theirs in better. There is no Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander in Oakland.

But as Ibanez was pointing out, some things can’t be measured in statistics alone.

The result makes for some very good baseball. Saturday’s game was as good an exhibition of high-quality baseball as you’re likely to see.

As Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “This is post-season pitching. That’s what you saw tonight at its best.’’

This kind of victory actually speaks well for the A’s going forward. The Tigers have sent their best two starters at Oakland and only got a split of the games. Jarrod Parker, who pitched a solid Game 1 in Comerica Park last year, goes against the Tigers in a day game Monday, and Dan Straily, whose win on Aug. 28 came at the expense of the pitcher he’ll oppose Tuesday, Doug Fister, has been pitching as well as anyone.

–Billy Beane was asked how Saturday’s scoreless battle between starters Verlander and Sonny Gray matched up with A’s post-season pitching matchups.

Misunderstanding the question, Beane said it reminded him of the 1991 Jack Morris 10-inning 1-0 win, outlasting Atlanta’s John Smoltz, who like Morris did not allow a run.

After that, Beane came up with Barry Zito vs. Mike Mussina of the Yankees in the 2001 playoffs, and Tim Hudson vs. the Yankees Andy Pettitte, also in 2001.

The fact is this one was a classic, for most of us anyway.

Late in the game the A’s general manager brought his kids down to manager Bob Melvin’s office where they, along with A’s managing partner Lew Wolff broke out the crayons and did some coloring.

The preschoolers (not including Beane Sr. and Wolff) “didn’t even know when we scored the winning run,’’ Beane said.

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Game 160 wrapup: Cespedes shoulder trouble an issue for A’s; Norris homer-or-nothing in pinch; Cook getting back to form out of the bullpen

The A’s started Friday with a good idea of how they’d be structuring their starting lineup in the playoffs.

Then they played the first game of their final series with the Mariners and things changed dramatically.

The idea was that Yoenis Cespedes, who hadn’t been in left field since Sept. 13, was once again healthy, able to throw and ready to man his position. He’d play all three games in left this weekend to get himself ready for the playoffs.

That meant the resurrected Daric Barton was ready to play first base and Brandon Moss, who can play both first base and the outfield, was going to be the designated hitter. He was in Friday’s lineup as the DH, the first time all season that’s happened.

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