Brugman sent down, De Aza impressing in outfield battle

Brugman sent down, De Aza impressing in outfield battle

MESA, Ariz. — Jaycob Brugman was among four roster cuts the A’s made Monday morning, thinning out the outfield competition with about three weeks of spring training left.

His demotion points to the strong impression non-roster invitee Alejandro De Aza has made in his bid to make the club as an extra outfielder.

There’s still lots of moving parts in how Oakland’s Opening Night roster could look, and one unresolved issue is whether the A’s keep four or five outfielders.

Khris Davis, Rajai Davis and Matt Joyce are locks for the roster, with Mark Canha a strong bet to platoon with Joyce in right field. De Aza and Jake Smolinski are the top contenders for a fifth outfielder spot, but Smolinski has yet to play defense in a game this spring because of a nagging right shoulder injury.

De Aza, a nine-year veteran who spent last season with the New York Mets, has earned praise from manager Bob Melvin all spring, and he threw out a runner at third Sunday against the Cubs after entering the game in center. He also handles the corner spots well.

“That’s not the first guy he’s thrown out,” Melvin said of De Aza, who throws and bats left-handed. “He keeps the ball down and hits the cutoff man, so even if there’s not a play at the base he’s throwing to, it can be redirected. He’s a veteran guy, a pro, and he knows how to play the positions.”

The other three players optioned to Triple-A Nashville along with Brugman were right-hander Paul Blackburn, reliever Bobby Wahl and infielder Yairo Munoz. Blackburn, an Antioch native who was acquired from Seattle for Danny Valencia, entered camp on the fringe of the battle to make the A’s rotation.

He figures to begin the season in Nashville’s rotation, and Melvin had good things to say about the 23-year-old despite a rough outing Friday against Kansas City when he allowed five runs.

“He’s got a full four-pitch complement,” Melvin said of Blackburn. “I think the curve ball’s gonna be an important pitch for him. I know in the past, it was really good and then he kind of went away from it. His changeup’s good, he’s got subtle movement to all his pitches.”

Asked whether he could envision Blackburn getting a call-up at some point this season, Melvin replied: “It wouldn’t surprise me at all. And depending on how the bullpen shakes out over the course of the season, he’s potentially a length guy as well.”

Jesse Hahn, Andrew Triggs and Raul Alcantara are the leading candidates for two open rotation spots behind Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton (Sonny Gray will begin the season on the disabled list with a lat injury).

Minor league right-hander Daniel Gossett also remains in camp and Melvin has talked highly of him too.

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Stephen Vogt hasn't played since Thursday because of a right heel issue, but Melvin said the veteran would DH on Tuesday and get back behind the plate Thursday, following the A's day off Wednesday.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

BOX SCORE

The A’s sprung to life offensively in the late innings Sunday and polished off their first road sweep of 2017.

They scored all five of their runs over the final three innings to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3, continuing an odd stretch of streakiness. The A’s swept the New York Yankees in four at the Coliseum, then turned around and dropped four in a row to the Houston Astros before arriving in Chicago and taking all three from the Sox. It’s their first sweep on the road since they won four in Kansas City from Sept. 12-15 of last season.

The weekend’s events provided a morale boost for a team that began the series an American League-worst 9-25 away from home. The sweep also featured numerous contributions from a pack of recently promoted young players fresh from the minors.

The A’s had no answer for left-hander Derek Holland through six-plus innings, mustering just four hits off the veteran. But trailing 2-0, they got on the board with Jed Lowrie’s pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh. The next inning, Khris Davis singled home the tying run and Yonder Alonso followed with a go-ahead single down the left-field line to put the A’s up 3-2.

They tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth on back-to-back homers from Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce.

Sonny rebounds: Sonny Gray (3-3) avoided the early trouble that plagued his last start, working seven innings and being rewarded with a victory thanks to the A’s eighth-inning rally. He struck out seven and walked just one. That was a key as Gray had issued seven free passes combined in his previous two starts. Adam Engel hit a 2-1 fastball for a homer in the third, then Jose Abreu scored on a passed ball in the fourth to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. But Gray held the Sox to just four hits over his seven innings.

Sign of things to come? Franklin Barreto got a look as the No. 2 hitter in the order Sunday, a spot that some scouts feel he’ll be well suited for as his career unfolds. He singled to the opposite field in his first at-bat, then struck out looking in his next two trips to the plate. In the eighth, his broken-bat single to left jumpstarted Oakland’s two-run go-ahead rally. Barreto is 4-for-10 in his first two games with the big club.

Joyce provides a lift off the bench: Joyce entered as a pinch runner in the seventh and connected for his 10th homer, right after Rosales had gone deep himself. Joyce became the fourth Athletic to crack double figures in homers, and the A’s improved to 31-26 when they hit at least one home run (they’re 3-16 when they don’t).

Doo does it again: Lefty reliever Sean Doolittle continued to deal since coming off the disabled list. He threw a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts and has allowed just one hit over five innings in six appearances since his return.

An unwanted milestone: The Sox scored their second run on a passed ball by Josh Phegley, which accounted for Oakland’s 50th unearned run, most in the majors. They had just 43 unearned runs all of last season.

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

A new team believes in Stephen Vogt.

The former A's catcher, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

The A's announced the transaction shortly before their game against the White Sox.

News of the Brewers making the waiver claim was first reported by ESPN.

The Brewers were the only team to place a waiver claim on Vogt, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Vogt, a clubhouse leader and one of the longest tenured A's, hit just .217 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 54 games this season.