Anderson leads streaking A's to second straight sweep

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Anderson leads streaking A's to second straight sweep

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OAKLAND When Brett Anderson underwent Tommy John surgeryon July 14, 2011, he knew hed have a long road back to the big leagues.Its doubtful he knew how successful hed be upon returning to the top level ofcompetition in the baseball world.You always have to be confident in your abilities, Anderson said afterimproving to 3-0 in three 2012 starts in the As 6-2 win over the Red Sox. Headded a qualifier that he didnt know if he expected this level of success,though. Not only is Anderson enjoying big-league success again, hes also doing so inthe thick of a playoff race. While most major leaguers are glass-half-fulltypes when it comes to postseason chances, its hard to believe Anderson wasexpecting to pitch in important September games this season.Its been awesome, Anderson said of returning to acontending team. Youre coming out here throwing meaningful innings,meaningful games. Whoever its against, its a meaningful game because we needto win as many as possible.As manager Bob Melvin said its still too early for hisplayers to be looking at the standings, but that doesnt mean he cantappreciate what Anderson is doing under pressure.To give us three games with that type of performance and the magnitude of thegames and coming in later on in the season not just pitching games andgetting ready for next year pitching key games and doing well, its allreally impressive, Melvin said.Forgive the As skipper for his run-on sentence; hes that excited about Andersonsreturn to form. After youve been out that long, theres some things that creep into your mindgoing through the rehab, Melvin said. Anderson agrees.Theres always some days when you say Am I going to get back?, Anderson admitted.This all makes it worthwhile.Anderson has obviously moved past any mental hurdles and can now focus onregaining the control and velocity that made him one of baseballs mostpromising young pitchers in 2010. Melvin noticed that Andersons velocity wasdown a little, as did the southpaw himself.My velocity is still not quite where it was in 2009,Anderson said. But I feel good; my body feels good. Andersons body got a break from pitching early in Sundays series finale, asthe As plated runs in each of the first four innings, giving their starterextended rest in the dugout. Coco Crisp led off the game with a walk, SethSmith followed with a home run for a 2-0 lead and the As never looked back.The early lead, and subsequent insurance, allowed Anderson to pitch to contactand limit the pressure on his surgically repaired elbow.I can pound the zone and try and get early contact and keepthe pitch count down, Anderson said of what the run support allows him to do. Throughthe first five, I mixed and matched a little bit of everything. Got some groundballs, got some strikeouts. Anderson got nine ground outs and four strikeouts, to be exact, and was incruise control until the sixth inning. Thats when the Red Sox loaded the basesand scored their first run. It couldve been worse for Anderson if not forYoenis Cespedes. The Cuban slugger was held hitless, but made his presence felton defense. He threw a perfect strike to catcher Derek Norris at home platefrom deep left to cut down Scott Podsednik trying to score from second on CodyRoss RBI single.I got a little shaky there in the sixth, but Cespy made a tremendous throw,Anderson said.Melvin said a throw like that should turn heads around the league.Nothing surprises us out of him, Melvin said of his rookie outfielder. Hehas a cannon. The more he does that, teams are going to stop running on him.Josh Reddick, a fellow cannon-for-an-appendage outfielder, believes that the Asare inspiring each other during this season-high nine-game win streak.Hitting is contagious; defense is contagious, Reddick explained. If the bug keeps spreading and leads to a win Monday over Anaheim, the As will have their longest win streak since emerging victoriousin 20 straight games back in 2002. In fact, the 10th anniversary ofthat historic 20th win is Wednesday. But the As arent focused onstreaks or standings; Melvin has instilled a tunnel-vision mentality with hisplayers.We still have a month left and if were worried about thenext homestand or the next road trip, those are just distractions we dontneed, Melvin said. The message here is to prepare for the day; put all ourenergy and all our focus into that. And well add wins up a little bitlater.Melvin did admit that its often impossible to avoid looking at the standings,which inevitably will lead to playoff dreams. But for both Melvin and hisplayers, the old clich of one day at a time seems to be the mantra.You cant help but know where you are, but I think we tryto isolate on the day and I think that should be the case all the waythroughout the season, Melvin said. At the end of the day, well prepare forthe next pitcher and the next day and we need to continue to do that.

Kaval: A's considering future move into Raiders' locker room

Kaval: A's considering future move into Raiders' locker room

OAKLAND — The Raiders are likely to play at the Coliseum for the next two seasons at least, but the A’s are daydreaming about the time they can finally call the venue their own.

One idea they’re considering is moving their home clubhouse into the space that currently serves as the Raiders locker room, which would more than double the current space they have.

Beyond that, imagine the possibility of the A’s current clubhouse being transformed into a “club” type area for fans to schmooze and enjoy some beverages. Team president Dave Kaval says both ideas are on the table for after the Raiders move to Las Vegas, which they’re planning to do for the 2020 NFL season.

The No. 1 long-term goal for the A’s, obviously, is to find a location in Oakland and build a new baseball-only stadium. The homework continues on that front, with Kaval maintaining the promise for that announcement to come sometime in 2017.

The Raiders have lease options to play at the Coliseum for each of the next two football seasons, with their plans for 2019 uncertain as their Vegas stadium is built.

Regardless, there will be a gap from the time the Raiders execute their move and the time the A’s are ready to move into their potential new digs. They apparently plan to make the most of that time at the Coliseum, which is the only two-sport complex remaining in major North American professional sports.

Kaval addressed the idea of shifting the home clubhouse into the Raiders’ locker room space.

“Well, it’s considerably bigger than our current locker room, and so we could have a more player-friendly area, more lounge space, be more spread out,” he said as the A’s wrapped up a 10-game homestand Sunday. “Even space for training facilities we don’t have now. And so it just provides a lot more flexibility, and a better draw for players if they want to play here in Oakland.”

That last statement shouldn’t be overlooked. As much as current Athletics would appreciate any upgrades to their day-to-day situation at the Coliseum, the improvements might also help a bit when it comes to attracting prospective free agents, who could be sold the idea of better conditions at the Coliseum and the promise of a brand new ballpark to come.

The A’s try to make use of every inch of space available in the current Coliseum set-up, but it’s an antiquated situation to say the least. Players sprawled out on the floor doing stretching exercises outside the A’s weight room often have to deal with reporters stepping around them as they get off the media elevator.

“I think it could be huge,” catcher Stephen Vogt said of possibly shifting the clubhouse to the Raiders’ locker room. “There’s triple the size of what we have. It’s kind of funny to think that we have the smaller locker room but they’re here for (only) 10 days a year basically. That’s just the way it is. If they are truly leaving and they’re not gonna be here, we could really utilize that space.”

Added Kaval: “We do have space in here, but when it’s a multi-purpose stadium it’s always challenging. Everything we’ve had to do over the years has been temporary.”

One consideration regarding the Raiders’ locker room: It’s a farther walk to the entrance of the field, with an extra flight of stairs to climb. That’s something to consider because baseball players tend to make quick trips back to the clubhouse during a game more so than football players do to their locker room.

But Kaval said he’s already talked to A’s manager Bob Melvin about some of the logistical challenges, and he emphasized that any changes wouldn’t happen without positive feedback from the coaching staff and players.

One change the A’s already have implemented this season with players in mind: They’ve dedicated an expanded luxury suite area solely for players’ families during games and also expanded the nanny service they provide for players’ children during games.

As for the A’s ballpark search, Kaval says the four sites the A’s are considering are all “neck and neck” — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, a site near Laney College and one at Brooklyn Basin, on the other side of Highway 880 from Laney.

“We continue to have meetings with all the key stakeholders,” Kaval said. “I think we’re really happy about the acceleration of those meetings. We’re starting to talk more business terms, starting to get into some of the final feasibility (decisions) so we can make that final announcement this year on a location.”

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

OAKLAND — Some 10-9 records are better than others, and so it is that the A’s can hit the road for a nine-game trip feeling pretty good about themselves.

Their just-completed homestand began with Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman leaving a game early and landing on the disabled list. That was coupled with news that shortstop Marcus Semien would be lost for two months or more with a fractured wrist.

The A’s responded to those developments with a five-game winning streak that was halted by Sunday’s 11-1 rout at the hands of the Seattle Mariners.

The A’s went 5-4 on the homestand, holding their ground after a heavy dose of injury misfortune, and now the outlook changes just a bit. The focus shifts from the players joining the D.L. to those that could soon return to provide a boost.

Graveman, who has a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to throw off the mound Monday. If that goes well, expect him to be activated sometime in the early portion of the upcoming trip. Sonny Gray, who has been out since injuring a side muscle early in Cactus League games, is set to throw Thursday for Triple-A Nashville after an encouraging rehab outing Saturday for Single-A Stockton.

If Gray comes out of Thursday’s start well, look for the 2015 All-Star to join the active roster and pitch sometime against Minnesota in the final series of this road trip. Nothing can be taken for granted until both pitchers actually return healthy, but it’s a promising scenario to possibly add two starters of their caliber as April turns to May.

“I think any time you look up and you’re over .500 and you’ve had a great homestand and you’re missing your best two pitchers, that’s something to be pleased about,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Getting Kendall back is huge. And Sonny obviously did great last night, and felt great, which is more important than the results.

“We’re excited to get those two guys back but in the meantime, we’re gonna continue to keep playing the way we are because we’re playing really good baseball and we’ll just keep things rolling.”

It was clear early on Sunday that a five-game winning streak wouldn’t reach six. The Mariners led 2-0 in the third when Andrew Triggs missed location on a 1-0 sinker and Taylor Motter launched a grand slam over the wall in left-center.

Triggs, who excelled at missing the fat part of bats over his first three starts, didn’t have the feel for his cutter Sunday. When he fell behind to Motter, the cutter is normally a pitch he would have gone to had it been working for him.

“I wasn’t commanding well,” he said. “I didn’t wanna go 1-0 to 2-0. I felt better going with the sinker. I got it down, but missed location in and out. In a perfect world, the cutter would have been great to get a groundout.”

But to this point, the A’s rotation has held firm without Gray and with the short-term absence of Graveman. Perhaps the biggest test moving forward is whether an offense that is tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits can continue to produce consistently with Semien’s absence, particularly without anyone having established themselves as the regular leadoff man.

A’s manager Bob Melvin likes what he’s seen from his team in light of the injuries.

“Every game we go out there there’s an expectation to win,” Melvin said, “and when you win multiple games in a row, you get that feeling and it’s a little more significant. So hopefully we can carry that on to the road trip. As a group, we’ve been able to manage these injuries here recently, and once we start getting guys back it’s gonna be a good thing for us.”