Balfour, not Fuentes, to close for A's

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Balfour, not Fuentes, to close for A's

Grant Balfour will open the season as the A's closer, beating out All-Star closer Brian Fuentes for the job, manager Bob Melvin announced Tuesday.Melvin told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that Balfour got the nod because of his impressive 2011 season and his vocal pitch to be the A's stopper."I let them know I'm hungry for the job," Balfour said, according to The Chronicle. "I really wanted it. ... I want to see what I can do in that situation. I'm pretty confident I can do it."Fuentes filled in for Andrew Bailey as the A's closer last season and struggled before voicing his displeasure with former manager Bob Geren's unclear bullpen roles. With 199 career saves, Fuentes was a contender for the role this season and expressed disappointment that he will not be taking the mound in the ninth inning of close games. However, he also said he will happily help out the less experienced Balfour."He has the stuff for sure," Fuentes told The Chronicle. "The last four, five years, he's been pitching at a high level, very effective. ... I think he can do it."

Wendle's active winter takes him from Mexico to CBA meetings

Wendle's active winter takes him from Mexico to CBA meetings

As if Joey Wendle’s offseason wasn’t busy enough, he flew to Dallas this week to attend the Collective Bargaining Agreement meetings between the players’ association and Major League Baseball owners.

Wendle was one of five Athletics who were at the meetings, along with Yonder Alonso, John Axford, Daniel Coulombe and Andrew Triggs. That quintet didn’t play an active part in negotiations. But Wendle, a second baseman who received his first big league call-up in September, said it was time well spent as he made the effort to educate himself about baseball’s labor issues.

“It peaked my interest and I decided to come on out for a couple of days,” Wendle said while waiting to catch a flight back home to Pennsylvania. “I’m aware that we have probably the best sports union of any in the world. I just wanted to come see what it was all about.”

Wendle declined to discuss any of the major details in the CBA, saying he didn’t feel it was his position to comment as a player with so little service time. But he was proud that five A’s showed up, estimating it was among the largest contingent of players from any team.

Wendle, who used an impressive September to play his way into the second base picture, has been on the go since the regular season wrapped. He quickly went to Mexico to play winter ball with Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican League. Wendle played mostly second base, but, to his surprise, he also made a string of starts at shortstop early in the season. A shortstop who was originally in the team’s plans didn’t pan out, so Wendle found himself logging innings at a position he hadn’t played since high school.

That was OK with Wendle, who volunteered to play winter ball because he wanted to gain experience at another position besides second.

“When I went initially, I thought I’d play some third base,” Wendle said. “I showed up and they told me I’d be playing some shortstop. It’s something I got more familiar with as the games went on. I’m still most comfortable at second base. But anytime you can add a position and play the left side of the infield, it can help you as a player.”

A’s officials are happy with Wendle’s improvement defensively. His offensive numbers in his September call-up don’t jump off the page — .260, one homer, 11 RBI in 28 games — but he provided a spark for a stretch as the A’s leadoff hitter.

Wendle swung a hot bat during winter ball, hitting .307 with three homers and 25 RBI in 34 games. His 18 extra-base hits stand out for a player who had just two in his 28 games with Oakland.

“In that environment, I was able to focus on some areas I wanted to work on. I was able to take it on as a learning experience,” Wendle said.

Now, after an extended season that began back in February — plus a quick lesson in baseball labor relations — he’ll enjoy a well-deserved break.

A's announce non-roster invitees for 2017 spring training

A's announce non-roster invitees for 2017 spring training

The Oakland A’s announced 26 non-roster invitees for Spring Training in 2017:

•    RHP Michael Brady: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 15…combined for a 3-6 record and a 2.89 ERA in 18 games (12 starts) with Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in the Washington organization in 2016.
•    RHP Ryan Brasier: Second straight season as a non-roster invitee with the A’s…was 5-3 with a save, a 3.56 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60.2 innings over 46 relief appearances with Triple-A Nashville.
•    RHP Simon Castro: Signed as a minor league free agent after going 0-5 with 10 saves and a 3.38 ERA in 50 relief appearances with Triple-A Albuquerque in the Colorado farm system.
•    IF Matt Chapman: The A’s first round pick in the 2014 draft returns for his second straight big league camp…combined to hit .237 with 36 home runs and 96 RBI in 135 games with Double-A Midland and Nashville…ranked third in all of minor league baseball in home runs and tied for 10th in RBI.
•    RHP Trey Cochran-Gill: Was acquired from Seattle for Evan Scribner following the 2015 season and went 4-5 with a 3.07 ERA in 42 relief appearances with Midland in 2016…added a 1.84 ERA in 10 relief appearances with Mesa in the Arizona Fall League.
•    IF Jermaine Curtis: Signed as a minor league free agent after hitting .291 with nine home runs and 50 RBI in 89 games with Triple-A Louisville in the Reds organization…added 42 walks for a .404 on-base percentage.
•    OF Jaff Decker: Hit .154 in 19 games with Tampa Bay last year and is a .162 career hitter in 60 games over four seasons in the majors…also batted .255 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI in 99 games with Triple-A Durham…signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 22.
•    LHP Felix Doubront: Missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing UCL reconstruction surgery April 12.
•    RHP Heath Fillmyer: Oakland’s fifth round pick in the 2014 draft combined for a 7-6 record and a 3.29 ERA in 26 games, including 24 starts, with Single-A Stockton and Midland.
•    RHP Daniel Gossett: The A’s second round pick in the 2014 draft pitched for Stockton, Midland and Nashville in 2016 and combined for a 10-6 record and a 2.69 ERA in 27 appearances, all starts…led the A’s farm system with 151 strikeouts.
•    RHP Tucker Healy: A 23rd round selection in the 2012 draft, he spent the entire 2016 season at Nashville where he went 4-3 with eight saves, a 3.61 ERA and .202 opponents batting average in 44 relief appearances…struck out 76 in 52.1 innings.
•    RHP Aaron Kurcz: Combined for a 9-1 record, five saves, a 3.03 ERA and .211 opponents batting average in 46 appearances with Midland and Nashville…was acquired by the A’s from Atlanta for international bonus slot 4 on July 6, 2015.
•    OF Andrew Lambo: Appeared in one game with Oakland and also hit .255 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 56 games with Nashville before missing the last half of the season following a diagnosis of testicular cancer.
•    C Ryan Lavarnway: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 21 after playing in the Atlanta and Toronto farm systems in 2016…combined to hit .266 with six home runs and 48 RBI in 91 games with Triple-A Gwinnett and Double-A New Hampshire.
•    IF Richie Martin: The A’s first round pick in the 2015 draft returns for his second consecutive big league camp…combined for a .235 average, three home runs, 38 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 91 games with Stockton and Midland.
•    C/OF Matt McBride: Hit .209 with two RBI in 20 games with Oakland last year…also batted .267 with seven home runs and 30 RBI in 70 games with Nashville.
•    C Sean Murphy: Was the A’s third round selection in the 2016 draft and batted .228 with two home runs and seven RBI in 23 games in his professional debut with the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League and Short-Season Vermont.
•    OF Chris Parmelee: Went 4-for-8 with two home runs and four RBI in six games with New York (AL) last year and is a .248 career hitter with 30 home runs and 98 RBI in 311 games over six seasons in the majors…spent most of 2016 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he hit .248 with 11 home runs and 29 RBI in 64 games…signed as a minor league free agent, Nov. 19.
•    LHP A.J. Puk: Was the A’s first round choice in the 2016 draft and went 0-4 with a 3.03 ERA and .185 opponents batting average in 10 starts with Vermont in his professional debut…struck out 40 in 32.2 innings.
•    IF Josh Rodriguez: Returns for his second straight camp with the A’s as a non-roster invitee…played for Midland and Nashville in 2016 and hit .263 with nine home runs and 53 RBI in 88 games.
•    IF Max Schrock: Was acquired from Washington for Marc Rzepczynski Aug. 25…led all of minor league baseball with 177 hits after batting .331 with 32 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 71 RBI in 129 games with Stockton, Midland, Single-A Potomac and Single-A Hagerstown.
•    RHP Chris Smith: Was a non-roster invitee with the A’s last year…went 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA in 22 starts at Nashville before joining Oakland Aug. 7…had no decisions, a 2.92 ERA and .165 opponents batting average in 13 relief appearances with the A’s.
•    RHP Josh Smith: Was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati Nov. 4 and outrighted to Nashville Nov. 18…went 3-3 with a 4.68 ERA in 32 games (two starts) with the Reds…was also 4-4 with a 3.80 ERA in nine games (eight starts) with Triple-A Louisville.
•    RHP Tyler Sturdevant: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 11…went 0-1 with a 3.93 ERA in 16 relief appearances in his Major League debut with Tampa Bay last year…was also 3-2 with four saves and a 3.66 ERA in 34 games with Durham.
•    RHP Cesar Valdez: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 17 after going 12-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 30 games (18 starts) with Triple-A Fresno in the Houston organization…ranked third in the Pacific Coast League in ERA and tied for fourth in wins…walked 13 and struck out 114 in 138.1 innings.
•    OF Kenny Wilson: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 15…combined to hit .255 with three home runs, 32 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 125 games with Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans in the Miami organization.

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