Chili Davis takes A's opportunity


Chili Davis takes A's opportunity

PHOENIX -- Bob Melvin has a thing about early. He likes early. A lot. In fact, hes spent each of the last two days raving about the pre-dawn to post-dusk workday of bench coach Chip Hale.But this wont be about Hale and his pre-5 a.m. hauntings, or the fact that Melvin himself arrives before 6. Its the first thing that sprang from Melvins lips when he was asked about his self-selected hitting coach, Chili Davis.Hes here early, and thats with just pitchers and catchers here, he said, once again leading with his alarm clock. Its important that the guys see that the hitting coach is going to be there for them whenever they get to the park.Even Manny Ramirez?Melvin smiled. You know what I mean, he said.When told the story, Davis laughed. With Manny, he said, Im going to watch how he does what he does. And I want the hitters to watch, too.Davis is 52, one-fourth of his life removed from the end of his playing career, and he has his moments of pride and his share of regrets. One of those regrets is that this is his first major league coaching job.Ive had opportunities before this, and if I had it to again, I probably should have taken one of them, he said Wednesday. Colorado, San Diego, they asked, and I dont know why I said no, but I did. I had a chance in Arizona and Seattle with Bo (Melvin), but I was going through a lot of crap then and I didnt think I could devote my full attention to it. I missed some chances, I know that.The closest he came to scratching the baseball-after-baseball itch was when he took a job with the Australian Baseball Federation as its chief hitting coach, but he admitted, That was fun, but it was almost like a paid vacation in some ways. It was good, I went back the second and third time because they have some talent there, but it wasnt like being at the park every day. It wasnt like being in the big leagues.But right about the time he was being told he had turned down too many jobs to be ever asked again, he had an epiphany and one more opportunity with the Dodgers as a hitting coach in instructional league in 2010. That became a job with the Red Sox as the AAA hitting coach at Pawtucket, and he had just signed a deal to go back this year (after turning down yet another job, as Seattles roving hitting instructor) when Bostons player personnel director Ben Crockett told him he had a message from Billy Beane.We talked, and then an hour later I talked with Bo, and he asked, and I didnt hesitate, Davis said. But I asked him, Why me? It hadnt happened twice before, but he came back, and I asked him, and he said, Because I liked your approach and the way youd grind out an at-bat. The way youd come to the plate when I was with the Orioles and Id say hows it goin Chuck, and Id say, not now Bo, I gotta hit.Id heard nothing but raves from the people who saw him at Pawtucket, Melvin said. Hed get there early, hed talk to the hitters and teach them and listen to them too. So I figured Id give it another go.This time, Davis said yes. Thus, when Melvin called this time, Davis was eagerness itself, and his alarm was synced to the atomic clock. A career of being declared done, and not just once but several times, had shown Davis that done is mostly a state of mind, and not a terminal condition but the once. Thats something I want to show these guys the (Chris) Carters and the (Michael) Taylors and the (Jemile) Weekses and the (Daric) Bartons and guys like that, he said. Nobody expects anything from them, but theyve all got talent, and theyve all shown it. Now its just getting them to trust it.Its not about me. I dont want to hit any more. Its about them, and understanding what theyre doing and what theyre looking for, and how to wait until it happens. Its about them knowing who they are, and trusting themselves.Davis needed all of his Giant career and half his Angel and Twins careers to learn what that trust really means. His face is a road map of glories and disappointments, of knowledge gained and then used properly, to the point where he was a de facto assistant hitting coach with the Yankees when actual hitting coach Chris Chambliss could only be in three places at once.I remember Joe Torre telling me I should stay in the game, be a hitting coach, and I said, No, Im done, Davis said, using the D-word again. But my mom liked to tell me, When they say youre through, youre just starting.And 12 years later, she nailed it. After a lot of golf, struggles with civilian life, two continents and two minor league jobs, it's unknown whether Chili Davis can be the new Lou Piniella or Rudy Jaramillo on a team that has gone years without being any kind of offensive force. But we do know this:On a team whose manager is big on early and just as big on late, Davis was on the field working and talking with hitters a good two hours after practice had ended. He walked to the dugout while listening to Weeks talk about his approach, and said, Thats what Im after. Mentality, not philosophy.Then he stayed for an hour more, to explain it. And wonder if he'd talked too much to the players, and whether he should back off the next day. And he left after everyone else.Well, everyone but Chip Hale. Apparently, Hale and Davis are Melvins kind of guys come real early, stay real late. That is to say, part vampire.Ray Ratto is a columnist for

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

MESA, Ariz. — After spending a few days at spring training, A’s president Dave Kaval heads back to the Bay Area on Tuesday to continue work on the team’s search for a ballpark site.

There are so many factors to consider — location, public transportation access, parking, government obligations to be fulfilled, etc. — it’s easy to understand why it’s such an all-encompassing process.

Kaval shared some detailed thoughts on all of the potential sites the A’s are considering during a visit on the A’s Insider Podcast. Here’s some highlights:

The A’s have narrowed down to four locations in Oakland to build a privately financed ballpark: Brooklyn Basin, Howard Terminal, Laney College and the current Coliseum site on which they play.

Are these four all uniquely different from each other or do they share some common traits?

“I think all of them can fulfill our long-term vision of this urban area around the ballpark,” Kaval said. “Think of Fenway, Wrigley … all of them can achieve that vision. We want to make sure with such a big decision that we swing for the fences. … I think the Coliseum is probably the hardest to create kind of an urban village, but I think it’s possible, and we’re not ruling it out.

"But all the other locations can have neighborhoods around the ballpark where people can live and you can just have a really intimate experience around the ballpark.”

There hasn’t been the same buzz about Brooklyn Basin as Howard Terminal. Located close to the water, does it offer similar attributes as Howard Terminal?

“It’s very close. There’s a couple different places the ballpark could go down there,” he said. “You’re closer to the water, which is exciting, and I think being on the water provides the ability to have water taxis, ferries, other transit options that kind of lower the requirement for parking, lower the requirement for walking or biking. And that actually can be a really great thing for the fan experience.”

Howard Terminal offers a big potential payoff with the terrific views available. But there are some substantial hurdles, not the least of which are the government regulations and approvals required to build right along the water.

“If you want to actually develop something in there, you need to have legislation from the state of California. That’s just something that has to happen,” Kaval said. “So when we think about the steps to get the individual sites (approved) and break ground, it’s just another one you have to do at that site. So you have to weigh, is it worth the time, effort, political opposition that might come up to pursue that type of effort? The site is so iconic that we’ve been keeping it in the mix because, wow, it could just be something that is a game changer.”

That’s just a sample of the many topics Kaval touched on over the course of the podcast.