Athletics

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.

A's adjust rotation in order to give one struggling starter extra rest

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AP

A's adjust rotation in order to give one struggling starter extra rest

The A’s announced a shuffling in their upcoming starting rotation, with Daniel Gossett being called up from Triple-A to start Wednesday at Baltimore and Sean Manaea being pushed back to get some extra rest.

Following Thursday’s day off, Kendall Graveman will now take the ball in Friday’s series opener against Texas at the Coliseum, with Manaea going Saturday. That gives Manaea three extra days of rest from his originally scheduled turn Wednesday. The lefty has seen his fastball velocity diminish in recent starts, even though he had better results Friday at Houston, when he went six innings and gave up three runs.

Gossett was sent down to Nashville on Aug. 3 because the A’s had an upcoming day off in the schedule and they wanted him to keep pitching on turn in the minors. He’s coming off back-to-back strong starts in the minors, striking out 16 with just four earned runs over 12 innings.

Inserting Gossett into the rotation will temporarily give the A’s six starters and also provide a little extra rest for Paul Blackburn, who left Tuesday’s start against Baltimore in the fifth inning after he was struck on the right wrist/hand area by a line drive. X-rays afterward showed no fracture, and Blackburn appeared visibly relieved by that as he addressed reporters in Baltimore after the A’s 6-4 win.

“It’s definitely sore, but I got X-rays and they were negative, so that’s good,” Blackburn said. “But it’s definitely sore. I’m just glad it’s not broken. When I was out there, I couldn’t move my hand. I couldn’t squeeze.”

He said he was hopeful of being able to make his next start but did not know the chances of that.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 6-4 win over the Orioles

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 6-4 win over the Orioles

BOX SCORE

The A’s showed they can make themselves at home in one of the majors’ most homer-happy ballparks.

A day after Baltimore homered four times, Oakland did the same at Camden Yards to power to a 6-4 victory over the Orioles. Ryon Healy went deep twice and continued his hot streak of late, and Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis also homered. The win ended the day on a good note for the A’s, but they hope they don’t get bad news on starting pitcher Paul Blackburn.

He left the game in the fifth after getting hit on the right wrist by a liner. After the game, manager Bob Melvin said Blackburn has a bruised hand/wrist.

Healy has a 10-game hitting streak, and he’s hitting .375 over his past 14 contests. He entered the night having homered just twice over his last 41 games.

The A’s led 5-2 in the eighth before Baltimore rallied for two runs, helped by a missed check-swing appeal call, on which first base ump Angel Hernandez didn’t ring up Tim Beckham on what appeared to be a sure third strike on replays. That extended the inning and made for a tense ninth inning, but the A’s improved to 2-3 on this six-game road trip that concludes Wednesday afternoon.

EARLY EXIT: Blackburn, after getting knocked around a bit in his previous two starts, was locked in Tuesday and impressed through four scoreless innings. Then Trey Mancini led off the bottom of the fifth by lining a comebacker that appeared to hit Blackburn flush near his right wrist. He walked around the mound in obvious pain as A’s head trainer Nick Paparesta came out to check on him. Blackburn was removed from the game.

EXTENDED DUTY AGAIN: When the Orioles loaded the bases in the eighth with two outs, closer Blake Treinen was summoned from the bullpen in the eighth for the second time in three games. He ended the eighth and stranded three by retiring Adam Jones on a groundout. The bottom of the ninth began with a throwing error from shortstop Chad Pinder, but Treinen closed out the game with help from a 5-4-3 double play and a strikeout of Chris Davis.

UNDERRATED PLAY OF THE GAME: Treinen got the ground ball he needed with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth. But it came down to Matt Olson making a great scoop at first base when Pinder short-hopped his throw across the diamond.

ENCORE FROM JED: Jed Lowrie homered for the second day in a row, and the A’s went deep four times total. Along with Healy’s two blasts, Khris Davis connected for his 34th of the season in the top of the ninth to make it a 6-4 game and provide some breathing room.

CONTINUING TO IMPRESS: It was an eventful day for Boog Powell even before he took the field. He enjoyed some barbecue with former Orioles slugger Boog Powell, the man who inspired his own nickname. Then those two held a Face Time chat with a third “Boog” Powell, — a youngster from Tennessee who played in the Little League World Series.

Then Powell, hitting leadoff for the second time in three games, singled in his first two at-bats and scored a run. He’s continued to find ways to provide the A’s a spark since being called up from Triple-A Nashville.