Cespedes arrives at A's camp

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Cespedes arrives at A's camp

Yoenis Cespedes has arrived.

The Cuban slugger was spotted in Arizona Saturday morning, though there are some steps to take before he can take the field.

With the A's scheduled to play their second exhibition game of 2012 -- 12:05 p.m. against the Mariners -- Cespedes is scheduled to complete his physical.

The team did not have an official statement, and he is not expected to work out with the team or address the media on his first day.

Cespedes, 26, agreed to a four-year, 36 million contract last month, which will be finalized on completion of the physical.

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

TEMPE, Ariz. — The A’s moving truck has already left the desert, and the team will be bolting for the airport after Wednesday’s Cactus League finale.

Spring training is quickly drawing to a close, with only the three-game Bay Bridge Series remaining before the games start to count. To mark that reality, here’s a look at the five most burning questions Oakland faced back when camp started in mid-February, and what kind of answers have materialized since …

1) Does Sonny Gray return to his old self?
The A’s absorbed their first major injury blow early when Gray, their potential Opening Night starter, went down with a strained lat muscle after a March 7 start. It wasn’t exactly what the right-hander had in mind coming off a 2016 season that sent him to the disabled list twice. Encouraging news came last week when Gray was allowed to start throwing again one week ahead of schedule.

When exactly he returns is tied to how soon he gets back on the mound. He’s been playing catch out to 105 feet, but manager Bob Melvin stressed the A’s aren’t going to rush things with Gray. Until further notice, the assumption is still that Gray will miss most of April.

2) Can a ‘healthy’ outlook be sustained?
Given what you read in the above item, obviously things haven’t gotten off to a great start in this department. Jake Smolinski, a candidate to make the team as an extra outfielder, showed up to camp with a sore right shoulder and required labrum surgery. Second baseman Joey Wendle, who was ticketed for Triple-A to begin with, also has been set back by a shoulder injury. But the focus, from an injury standpoint, is on Gray. If he were to miss just the first month of the regular season, that’s an absence the A’s should be able to cover. Any longer than that, and his presence really will be missed.

After last year’s roster-wide rash of injuries, better health is the most important first step in the A’s escaping the American League West cellar.

3) Who wins the closer’s job?
Six weeks of spring training has yet to reveal an answer here. If Melvin knows who his closer is, he isn’t saying publicly. Lefty Sean Doolittle, one of the veteran anchors of the relief corps, said Melvin hasn’t discussed roles yet with the relievers themselves. Expect more news on that during the Bay Bridge Series, which runs Thursday through Saturday. Of the four assumed ninth-inning candidates — Doolittle, John Axford, Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson — none has been lights-out in Cactus League games.

The guess here is Madson, the A’s main closer last season, gets the first crack at the role this year as well.

“I don’t even think it’s on anybody’s radar,” Doolittle said Tuesday. “That’s one of the things that makes our bullpen effective. We’re not as attached to those roles as people might think.”

4) Where does Ryon Healy fit into the puzzle?
He fits in a little at first base, a little at third base and a little at DH. What we know is that Healy’s bat will be in the lineup regularly, it’s just a matter of where. Melvin spread his time pretty evenly between all three spots. Healy responded with a terrific spring at the plate. Entering Tuesday, he ranked third in the Cactus League with 16 RBI, the most spring RBI by an Athletic since Kevin Kouzmanoff also had 16 in 2010. Healy will play first base against lefties, platooning with Yonder Alonso. He’ll spell Trevor Plouffe at third. But it stands to reason a large chunk of his time will have to come at DH.

“I think he’s handled it well,” Melvin said. “It’s not easy, especially for a younger guy that was originally a first baseman. He worked as hard as anybody last year to make himself a third baseman. Now, it’s a little bit different for him and he knew that coming into camp. I think he’s handled his time wisely, worked hard at both positions, and he knows he has to move around a little bit this year.”

5) Can the A’s get their mojo back?
If a positive clubhouse vibe plays any part in a team turning around its on-field fortunes, the A’s are off to a good start. The early indications are that newcomers Plouffe, Matt Joyce, Casilla and Rajai Davis — those latter two are in their second stints with the A’s — all add some nice leadership qualities and mesh well with the returning vets. True, you can’t really read too much in spring training, when everyone always gets along in the spirit and optimism of a new season. But the A’s do seem to have better components up and down their roster to lead to a healthier season-long chemistry.

Just as you’ve read in the past, getting off to a strong start in the standings is the most effective way to maintain that chemistry.

 

A's newfound leverage has limits and Libby Schaaf can take a punch

A's newfound leverage has limits and Libby Schaaf can take a punch

John Fisher has shown admirable restraint so far as he contemplates life without the Oakland Raiders in his craw. For one, he hasn’t jumped up and down on Libby Schaaf’s desk and demand that the Oakland mayor take care of the only team she ever has to worry about ever again.

Then again, that might just be prudence on his part. In her present frame of mind, she might take such an opportunity to punch him about 35 times directly in the throat.

Schaaf’s strategy to keep the National Football League from steamrolling her worked, though it came with far more irritation at the end of the process than she thought. She learned face-first that dealing with the NFL means being attacked on all fronts, including the demonstrably false fronts tossed up at the end. She may have thought foolishly that the NFL could be somehow persuaded to see Oakland's rationale for keeping the team, but found out just how well the NFL does dismissive. Frankly, she looked Monday like she’d just had a marathon run over her.

This is not an attempt at sympathy, mind you. She’s a politician in a major American city, and she knew the job was dangerous when took it.

But now that the A’s are the last turkey in the shop, it would be good for Fisher and his new public face, Dave Kaval, to take great care not to push the city too hard. Their leverage has limits, and Schaaf, having punched the NFL to a draw by refusing to budge from his original stadium proposal, knows she can take a punch.

Also, she knows that the A’s don’t have the options the Raiders had. In short, her first offer is likely to be damned close to her last offer, because she just showed that she can do that.

In other words, the A’s have only that leverage the mayor will allow them, and will have to be happy that for the first time ever, they have no impediments between them and a new stadium save their own abilities to achieve them.

You see, the A’s new stadium has been painted as a privately financed operation, and even though there is actually no such thing (the Giants got city money for infrastructure and security when they built PacSBC&TT Park, and never forget that), that’s what it has to remain.

Oakland is trying to guide the A’s toward the Howard Terminal site with all its come-hither stares, but would tolerate Brooklyn Basin or the Coliseum. The A’s want something that allows them to cash in on the land around the stadium (shops, eateries, drinkeries, strip clubs, tattoo parlors, etc.). That much is easily done.

After that, though, Fisher and Kaval need to understand that as one of the few mayors in the nation who gave and held to a take-it-or-leave-it proposal the NFL hated at the start, middle and end, Schaaf has some steel in her spine, and now has the experience to wield it. They push too hard at their peril.

Not because they can be forced from the city, but because they could be left in the Coliseum well beyond their four-year revenue sharing window. At that point, any losses are real-money losses, and any profits come at the expense of the product.

In short, the stadium is the A’s project alone, and though Fisher and Kaval know that and have said all the right things in mind, the temptation to poke the wasp hive of public money may be too much to decline. The smart move is to accept that they are the last team standing, Oaklandically speaking, but not to assume too much beyond that.

The A’s should view this opportunity as theirs and theirs alone. They should also view as an opportunity with limits, because the undertold story about the Raiders’ move is that Schaaf lost almost no approval rating points during the process. She made it clear that the city’s commitment to the Raiders was finite and its interest in letting the NFL turn the Coliseum into the Oklahoma Land Rush was a non-starter, and she stuck to her guns with the only cost being her exasperation level late in the process. Frankly, she might have been better off announcing on Day One that any NFL official entering the city limits would be summarily jailed, jail the first one and then dare them to send any more.

That would have been the pure Oakland play.

As for the A’s, their pure Oakland play is to own the town with their deeds. A stadium built on their own dime that people want to see, and a team with talent and attitude that makes the stadium worth having.