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.

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla says he’s returning to his baseball home, which requires only a trip across the Bay Bridge.

The A’s finalized a two-year $11 million contract with the former Giants closer Friday, adding him to a bullpen that has no shortage of late-inning relief options for manager Bob Melvin.

“There’s an old saying that it’s always good to return home, and I’m very happy to get this new opportunity with the Athletics,” Casilla said on a media conference call, via interpreter Manolo Hernandez Douen.

It’s “new” in that the 36-year-old Casilla spent the past seven seasons wearing black and orange. But his major league career is rooted in Oakland. The A’s signed him out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent back in 2000, and he spent his first six seasons with Oakland, the first two of those pitching under the name Jairo Garcia.

He’s since won three World Series rings with the Giants, including notching four saves during the 2014 postseason. His final season with San Francisco ended on a sour note last year, however, as he was demoted from the closer’s role during a rough September.

What role will he find in 2017?

Casilla, who reportedly can earn up to $3 million in incentives based on games finished, joins three other relievers in the A’s ‘pen who have legitimate big league closer’s experience — John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Doolittle was the closer entering last spring but shoulder problems derailed him for a second consecutive season. Madson handled the ninth for most of 2016 and notched 30 saves, but general manager David Forst made it clear Friday that the Opening Night closer has yet to be determined.

“We had a number of different guys save games last year,” Forst said. “… Santiago saved almost 80 games the last couple years. He’s got a lot of experience. As we talked to him and his representatives, he made it clear he’s willing to do anything. It’s great for Bob to have a number of options. It’ll sort itself out in spring training as to who the guy is to start the season.”

Doolittle, Axford, Ryan Dull and Zach Neal combined for 12 saves last season. But even though the A’s are fully stocked with ninth-inning options, it’s fair to question whether any of them is a clear-cut answer for the closer’s role as spring training nears.

Madson’s seven blown saves tied for second most in the American League. Doolittle hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014. Axford issued 4.11 walks per nine innings last year, and Dull’s biggest strength is his ability escape jams when entering mid-inning.

Casilla went 2-5 with a 3.57 ERA and 31 saves last season, striking out a career-best 10.1 per nine innings, but there was some turbulence. He was displeased with Giants manager Bruce Bochy last May after being pulled from a game. Then he struggled mightily in September and lost the closer’s role. Bochy didn’t call on him at all as the bullpen coughed up a ninth-inning lead to the Cubs in Game 4 of the NL Division Series that ended the Giants’ season. That decision had Casilla in tears after the game.

Asked Friday if he harbored any hard feelings toward the Giants, Casilla replied: “It’s a new year, a new team. I have left this in the past.”

Forst pointed to Casilla’s sustained velocity — his fastball averaged 93.6 miles per hour last season — and his expanded repertoire over his career as reasons why the A’s went after him.

“His numbers were really good — 65 strikeouts, 19 walks,” Forst said. “As we got through the offseason I think we thought he was being overlooked a little bit just because of the narrative surrounding his departure with the Giants. I wasn’t around and I don’t know what went on, but it seems like a few blown saves marred what otherwise was a fantastic season for him.”

In other news, the A’s signed veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training. Forst noted De Aza’s ability to play all three outfield spots and his speed as traits that caught the A’s attention.

A's officially agree to two-year contract with Santiago Casilla

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USATSI

A's officially agree to two-year contract with Santiago Casilla

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Oakland A’s agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Santiago Casilla on a two-year contract through the 2018 season, the club announced today.  To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated outfielder Brett Eibner for assignment.  The A’s also announced that they agreed to terms with left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler and outfielder Alejandro De Aza on minor league contracts with an invite to spring training.

Casilla went 2-5 with 31 saves, a 3.57 ERA and .235 opponents batting average in 62 relief appearances with San Francisco last year.  He ranked sixth in the National League in saves but had nine blown saves, which tied for the most in the majors.  The 36-year-old right-hander struck out a career-high 65 batters in 58.0 innings.  He walked just 19 average his average of 2.95 walks per nine innings was the second lowest mark of his career.  Casilla allowed just 1-of-18 (5.6%) inherited runners to score and held first batters faced to a .228 batting average and .267 on-base percentage.

Casilla returns to the Oakland organization as he was originally signed by the A’s as out of the Dominican Republic on January 31, 2000.  He made his Major League debut with Oakland in 2004 and was 6-4 with four saves and a 5.11 ERA in 152 relief appearances from 2004 to 2009.  Casilla was released following the 2009 season and spent the next seven seasons with the Giants.  He went 32-22 with 123 saves and a 2.42 ERA in 414 games with San Francisco.  Casilla saved a career-high 38 games in 2015 and he ranks sixth on the Giants career saves list.  The 13-year veteran is 38-26 with 127 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 566 career appearances.

Eibner began the 2016 season with Kansas City and hit .231 in 26 games over two stints with the Royals before he was traded to Oakland for Billy Burns on July 30.  He batted .165 in 44 games with the A’s and combined for a .193 batting average, six home runs and 22 RBI in 70 games in his Major League debut.

Detwiler was acquired by the A’s from Cleveland in a minor league deal July 17 and combined for a 2-4 record and a 6.10 ERA in 16 games, including seven starts.  He was also 6-4 with a 4.40 ERA in 16 games, including 15 starts, with Triple-A Columbus and Nashville.  De Aza spent the entire 2016 season with the New York Mets and hit .205 with six home runs and 25 RBI in 130 games.  He is a .261 career hitter in 810 games in nine Major League seasons with Florida (2007, 09), Chicago-AL (2010-14), Baltimore (2014-15), Boston (2015), San Francisco (2015) and New York-NL (2016).

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