ALDS Game 3: Key Matchups

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ALDS Game 3: Key Matchups

OAKLAND -- The Oakland Athletics have their backs against the wall in a major way. It seems they like to play with the odds against them. If that's truly the case, then they got their wish. Oakland has lost it's last six postseason games against the Detroit Tigers. The last time the A's beat the Tigers in a postseason series was the American League Championship series in 1972. Many remember that series because of an infamous altercation. Tigers' pitcher Lerrin LaGrow hit Bert Campaneris with a pitch and Campaneris fired his bat back at the pitcher. Tigers' manager at the time Billy Martin was the first out of the dugout to go after Campy as the benches cleared. The A's ended up winning their first Oakland World Series that year and went on to win it all in 1973 and 1974. This may be a subliminal message to the Tigers, but Campaneris will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Tuesday. Of all the A's greats who could have been chosen to throw out the pitch, Campaneris seems like the most relevant choice. Key Match Ups for the Athletics-- Seth Smith vs. Anibal Sanchez: Smith has hit .462 (6 for 13) against Sanchez in his career. He has two homers, one double, and three RBI against the Tigers' righty. Smith was in the lineup when the A's faced Sanchez on August 20 in Detroit and homered off him. The A's knocked Sanchez out after five and two-thirds innings with six runs, five earned, the last time they faced him. Smith is 0 for 5 with two walks in this series so far.-- Anderson vs. Tigers: No player on the Tigers' active roster has hit a homer against Anderson. Miguel Cabrera has fared best against Anderson, he is 3 for 7 with a double, one RBI, and three walks against him. Anderson is going to provide more than a presence on the mound. He becomes the latest unbelievable story that can serve as a motivational factor for a team that could use any boost it can get down 0-2 and facing elimination. It was against Detroit on August 19 that Anderson left with a strained right oblique. A return in time to take the mound when the A's need him the most could pick up a team facing elimination. -- Baseball Gods vs. The Tigers: When Al Aburquerque caught a come backer hit by Yoenis Cespedes and kissed the ball before throwing to first he angered some A's players. In response, Jonny Gomes told reporters that the Baseball Gods have a way of working these things out. The A's have many strange storylines working for them this season, this is just one more. The team will be getting Anderson back, playing for the son of Pat Neshek -- Gehrig John Neshek -- who tragically passed away 23 hours after being born, and playing for Brandon McCarthy who suffered a skull fracture after getting hit by a line drive. They are playing to win, but of all the twists of fate the A's have endured this year, what's one more? Oakland never even held sole possession of the AL West before winning game 162. At this point nothing should shock the A's or their fans anymore. Winning the next three at home against Detroit is just the latest challenge they've been presented. -- Miguel Cabrera's Weakness: The reigning American League Triple Crown-winner can give any pitcher fits. He hit .335 against right-handed pitchers this season and .314 against lefties. That reverse split favors the A's with Anderson, a left-handed pitcher throwing. Only four of Carbera's 44 homers came with a southpaw on the mound. Cabrera has been good in Oakland this season though, he hit .500 (9 for 18) with one double and seven RBI at the Oakland Coliseum this season. -- Fielder of Dreams: So far in nine games against the A's this season Prince Fielder hasn't been a factor. Including the playoffs, he is hitting .086 (3 for 35) in nine games against Oakland pitching in 2012. With an ineffective Fielder backing up Cabrera the A's should be able to be more careful with the Tigers' dangerous three hitter. -- Sanchez surging: The A's were the only team that tattooed Sanchez in September. He had a 2.15 ERA in his last eight starts. That was the sixth lowest ERA in the American League since August 22. -- Anderson's Inexperience?: Anderson may be the most experienced active pitcher in the A's rotation, but he hasn't pitched in the postseason before. At 24, Anderson will be the fifth youngest starting pitcher to take the mound in a postseason game. Vida Blue became the youngest to do so when he pitched in the 1971 ALCS. Anderson is 185 days older than Mark Mulder was when he pitched in the 2001 ALDS. For what it's worth, Mulder won that start after going six and two-thirds innings and allowing just one run.

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

MESA, Ariz. — After spending a few days at spring training, A’s president Dave Kaval heads back to the Bay Area on Tuesday to continue work on the team’s search for a ballpark site.

There are so many factors to consider — location, public transportation access, parking, government obligations to be fulfilled, etc. — it’s easy to understand why it’s such an all-encompassing process.

Kaval shared some detailed thoughts on all of the potential sites the A’s are considering during a visit on the A’s Insider Podcast. Here’s some highlights:

The A’s have narrowed down to four locations in Oakland to build a privately financed ballpark: Brooklyn Basin, Howard Terminal, Laney College and the current Coliseum site on which they play.

Are these four all uniquely different from each other or do they share some common traits?

“I think all of them can fulfill our long-term vision of this urban area around the ballpark,” Kaval said. “Think of Fenway, Wrigley … all of them can achieve that vision. We want to make sure with such a big decision that we swing for the fences. … I think the Coliseum is probably the hardest to create kind of an urban village, but I think it’s possible, and we’re not ruling it out.

"But all the other locations can have neighborhoods around the ballpark where people can live and you can just have a really intimate experience around the ballpark.”

There hasn’t been the same buzz about Brooklyn Basin as Howard Terminal. Located close to the water, does it offer similar attributes as Howard Terminal?

“It’s very close. There’s a couple different places the ballpark could go down there,” he said. “You’re closer to the water, which is exciting, and I think being on the water provides the ability to have water taxis, ferries, other transit options that kind of lower the requirement for parking, lower the requirement for walking or biking. And that actually can be a really great thing for the fan experience.”

Howard Terminal offers a big potential payoff with the terrific views available. But there are some substantial hurdles, not the least of which are the government regulations and approvals required to build right along the water.

“If you want to actually develop something in there, you need to have legislation from the state of California. That’s just something that has to happen,” Kaval said. “So when we think about the steps to get the individual sites (approved) and break ground, it’s just another one you have to do at that site. So you have to weigh, is it worth the time, effort, political opposition that might come up to pursue that type of effort? The site is so iconic that we’ve been keeping it in the mix because, wow, it could just be something that is a game changer.”

That’s just a sample of the many topics Kaval touched on over the course of the podcast.