Cespedes: 'I'll rest when we get a championship'


Cespedes: 'I'll rest when we get a championship'

OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes has missed 34 games this year, but he's already played 20 more than the 90-game seasons he's accustomed to in Cuba, and he's not close to done. If things go his way, Cespedes will be in the lineup for the final 19 games of his rookie season and beyond.

"I'm going to be in the lineup every day," Cespedes said through translator Ariel Prieto. "I'll rest when we get a championship."

After leaving Thursday's game in Los Angeles with a sprained right wrist -- an injury he's had trouble with earlier this season -- his presence in the lineup was in question.

NEWS: Cespedes not sitting this one out

"I wasn't 100-percent sure," manager Bob Melvin said. "I think more than anything it scared him a little bit yesterday based on the fact he had that injury earlier in the year. Didn't want to push it. And once he got here today, it was good enough to play. I was thinking DH, but he was good to play the outfield too.

"We're encouraged by that."

The A's can also be encouraged by the fact that Cespedes' numbers are staying consistent -- and good. In just a handful more at-bats after the All-Star break than before, Cespedes has almost twice as many runs, more hits and stolen bases and a batting average that's .046 points higher.

"For a guy that's used to a 90-game season, you can get a little bit run down, as much mentally as physically," Melvin said. "We've been trying to combat that some with some DH spots. Obviously a very important guy for us, so we want to keep him as refreshed as we can."

His importance can't be understated. The A's win a remarkable 64-percent of the games that feature Cespedes. With a 12-22 record in the 34 games he's missed, and a six-team race for a playoff berth, his playing time prophecy could be accurate.

"He wants to play, there's no doubt," Melvin acknowledged.

That said, the team will keep a close eye on him as his game total continues to rise.

"This whole year has been a work in progress for him trying to figure out how to do a 162-game season," Melvin said. "And I think he's done a nice job."

Longevity in baseball is all about adjustments. If his first year playing a 162-game season in a new country against decidedly tougher pitching is any indication, Cespedes could be around for awhile. But Melvin and the A's have a responsibility to keep Cespedes sharp this year, and if it means a day off, he'll have to deal with it. The team is already trying to limit his extra batting practice, as Melvin cited his work ethic and habits of arriving early and taking plenty of swings.

Cespedes, whose wrists were already taped four hours before gametime Friday, said his injury is feeling better, but it's still "a little sore." Indicating he's ready to go, Cespedes joked in English, "I can walk."

Then he went out and hit -- in his regularly-scheduled batting practice -- a 400-foot bomb to left field that landed in an empty seat in Oakland Coliseum's second deck. He can swing too.

A's spring training Day 9: Alcantara trying to add new wrinkle

A's spring training Day 9: Alcantara trying to add new wrinkle

MESA, Ariz. — Right-hander Raul Alcantara, who could factor in as a starting or long relief option for the A’s, is experimenting with a split-finger fastball this spring.

Alcantara, who made five late-season starts last season in his first big league call-up, threw the pitch for the first time to hitters Tuesday, so he’s still in the infant stages with it. The A’s would like Alcantara to develop a solid third pitch to go with his fastball and changeup, though he does dabble with a curve and cutter too.

“In general, we’re looking for a ball that’s gonna dive, something where the bottom’s gonna fall out,” Oakland bullpen coach Scott Emerson said.

Alcantara, 24, faces crowded competition for the No. 5 starter spot with Jesse Hahn, Andrew Triggs and Paul Blackburn among those also going for it. Claiming the last spot in a seven-man bullpen is a possibility, though the A’s could surely utilize a second left-hander to go along with Sean Doolittle.

Making Alcantara’s case more interesting is that he’s out of minor league options, meaning he would need to make it through waivers unclaimed before the A’s could send him down.

Alcantara throws a hard changeup that clocked 86-87 miles per hour last season. Ideally, Emerson said his splitter would settle in the low 80’s.

Speaking through interpreter Juan Dorado, Alcantara said he’s gradually getting a feel for the new pitch.

“Obviously it’s a little more difficult on the hitters to know that there’s a different pitch,” he said. “They’re used to me throwing a fastball, a cutter and a change, and now implementing a split would just help me out to show them something different.”

CAMP BATTLE: Lefty Ross Detwiler, who re-signed with Oakland in the winter on a minor league deal, offers depth as a potential swing man who can start or relieve. Detwiler went 2-4 with a 6.14 ERA in nine games (seven starts) last season for the A’s. Those numbers look ugly in a short sample size, but Melvin values the veteran beyond what the stats show.

“I think he liked being here and we wanted him back.”

QUOTABLE: “I must be a little behind this year because the guys are hitting me a little harder than they normally do. Healy took me over the batter’s eye three times in a row.” — Melvin, who throws a couple rounds of batting practice every day.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s will hold a pair of two-inning intrasquad games Thursday at the Lew Wolff Training Complex, with both set to start at 11:40 a.m.

Melvin happy that pace-of-play rules changes didn't go further

Melvin happy that pace-of-play rules changes didn't go further

MESA, Ariz. — A’s manager Bob Melvin can live with Major League Baseball’s altered intentional-walk rule. He’s just glad some more drastic changes weren’t implemented for 2017.

It was announced that pitchers no longer will have to toss four pitches outside the strike zone for an intentional walk. Managers will simply signal from the dugout when they want to put an opposing batter on first base.

That change is part of the effort to speed up the pace of play, although it’s debatable how much time will really be saved by eliminating traditional intentional walks. There was just one intentional walk allowed every 2.6 games in 2016.

“I was just worried about any number of new rules coming in,” Melvin said. “If this was just one they’re looking to speed up with, I’m OK with that.”

MLB management reportedly has pushed the idea of a 20-second pitch clock on pitchers — which has been used in the upper minor leagues — and limiting the number of trips managers and coaches can make to the mound, both in an effort to play games faster. Melvin is against the idea of limiting trips to the mound in particular.

“It sounds like there’s a school that thinks that’s not that important, and it really is,” he said. “Unless you’ve been out on the mound and know how quickly the game can go at times, especially in big situations … it’s our job to try to slow it down for the pitcher. For me that would have been a tough one.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke critically of the players’ association for not being more receptive to some rules changes for 2017. Management can change rules without the union’s consent if it gives one-year’s notice, and Manfred reportedly intends to give that notice to the union with an idea of possibly implementing changes for 2018.

One of the more radical ideas tossed about was starting with a runner on second base in extra innings, hoping to avoid games dragging on late. Although that idea will be tried in the World Baseball Classic and possibly in some Single-A leagues, all indications are it’s unlikely to reach the majors.

“I was hoping that never got any traction,” Melvin said. “I mean, it’s just not baseball, for me. It’s like a simulated game — at the most important part of the game.”