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A’s run differential is a breed apart in the American League

Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson at heart of A's run-producing machine.

Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson at heart of A’s run-producing machine.

After watching the A’s play four games against the Mariners early in the week, you might be stumped trying to come up with words of praise for the A’s hitters.

Oakland scored just 11 runs in four games, losing three of them. The pitching could have been better, too, the bullpen in particular, but it was easy to look at an offense that had trouble scoring runs.

The A’s did more damage against long-time nemesis Felix Hernandez (four runs) than against anyone else the Mariners put out there.

It wasn’t a great showing, but it’s best to have some perspective with such things. Teams don’t live in a bubble. The offense doesn’t exist in solitude. The case can easily be made that the A’s 8-0 win over a tough Washington Nationals team Friday smooths some of the rough spots out of the performance against Seattle.

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Cespedes, Reddick out of lineup as A’s return home

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Yoenis Cespedes has a pair of RBIs in the A’s 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday, but a hamstring injury will keep him from starting Monday’s game. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick are both out of the lineup as the A’s return home to face the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.

Reddick sprained his left ankle trying to get out of the batters box when he hit into an inning-ending double play in the ninth inning of the A’s 3-2 win in 10 innings against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Monday’s game that Reddick won’t be available for “a day or two. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

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Donaldson goes against the grain with head-first slide

Josh Donaldson went against the grain with head-first slide Sunday in Boston

Josh Donaldson went against the grain with head-first slide Sunday in Boston

 

When Josh Donaldson scored the second of Oakland’s three runs Sunday, he did it with a sixth inning head-first slide at home plate.

You know those car commercials where they say “don’t try this at home?’’ The head-first slide at the plate is baseball’s version of that.

Donaldson had already been thrown out on a feet-first slide at the plate three innings earlier, and he wasn’t about to take any chances. Yoenis Cespedes had doubled off the wall in left-center, and the A’s, locked in a 1-all tie, badly needed the run.

“It’s the play they tell you never to make, sliding head-first like that,’’ Donaldson said. “But I was thinking about the first play.’’

The first play, in the third inning, was gnawing at Donaldson even after the A’s 10-inning 3-2 win.

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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.