Chili Davis takes A's opportunity

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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 CSNBayArea.com

Pinder's potential 'coming to fruition' in chance with A's

Pinder's potential 'coming to fruition' in chance with A's

OAKLAND — With so much attention focused on who might be the next wave of A’s infielders coming up from the minors, Chad Pinder is making quite a statement in the present.

Pinder enjoyed another big day at the plate Sunday with a two-run homer and a double in the A’s 12-3 loss to Boston. That came on the heels of Saturday’s 460-foot home run that made him just the fifth player to reach the second deck just above the Coliseum’s first level of luxury suites.

For fans around the country who might have seen that mammoth blast on highlight shows, it likely was their first introduction to the 25-year-old Virginia native. However, those within the organization witnessed Pinder’s steady rise through the farm system since he was drafted as a sandwich pick between the second and third rounds of the 2013 draft out of Virginia Tech.

“I don’t think it’s a shock what he’s doing,” said A’s designated hitter Ryon Healy, who was part of that same draft class. “I think he’s always been that caliber of player. He’s always had that potential and it’s coming to fruition right now and it’s really fun to watch.”

Pinder, who made his big league debut in September but began this season with Triple-A Nashville, is hitting .286 over 21 games with Oakland. He’s homered in four of his past eight, and he provided a boost over the weekend as the A’s took three of four from the Red Sox.

The right-handed hitting Pinder was in the lineup all four games — with the Red Sox starting lefties on the mound for the final three contests, the A’s stacked their lineup with righties, giving Pinder a stretch of consistent playing time.

He’s provided enough of a spark that he warrants consideration to remain in the lineup even though the A’s are scheduled to face right-handers during their two-game series with the Miami Marlins that begins Tuesday at the Coliseum.

Granted, it’s not the biggest sample size either way, but Pinder is actually hitting better against righties (.348, 8-for-23) than he is against lefties (.231, 6-for-26). Four of his five home runs also have come against right-handers.

Asked whether Pinder could draw more starts against right-handers, A’s manager Bob Melvin replied: “Potentially, yeah. You want to try to stay consistent with the lineups you have, but if you have a hot hand, you look for ways to get him in there.”

Working in Pinder’s advantage is the versatility he’s shown since being recalled from Nashville on April 16. The A’s always knew Pinder could handle second, shortstop or third as needed, but he’s also shown to be a capable option in right field with a strong arm for the outfield.

Pinder was the Texas League (Double-A) Player of the Year in 2015 and ranked No. 7 on Baseball America’s preseason list of A’s prospects. He’s making the most of his time in the majors.

On the minds of many Oakland fans is when a couple more infield prospects who are impressing at Triple-A — middle infielder Franklin Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman — might get their first crack in the bigs.

Barreto, ranked as the No. 25 overall prospect in the majors in Baseball America’s most recent ratings, is hitting .311 with six homers and is tied with Matt Olson for Nashville’s RBI lead at 27. Chapman, ranked the 95th overall prospect, missed two weeks earlier this season with a wrist injury but has shown signs of heating up offensively. He’s hitting just .237 but has eight homers and 15 RBI.

Two other Nashville players, who have both seen time with the A’s, are putting up noteworthy numbers: Olson, a first baseman/outfielder, is hitting .276 with 10 homers and 27 RBI, and corner infielder/outfielder Renato Nunez is tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with 12 homers to go with a .245 average and 25 RBI.

The A’s are working with Barreto and Chapman to hone their approach at the plate and control the strike zone. General manager David Forst maintains the A’s will be patient with both, noting that Pinder benefited last year from a full season at Triple-A before his promotion.

“The calendar needs to turn over,” Forst said. “They need at-bats. Matt missed a couple weeks with the injury, but they just need more days and more at-bats. We don’t have an ‘X’ on the calendar anywhere where this is the day. We’ll know when it’s time.”

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

OAKLAND — The A’s officially welcomed John Axford back into their bullpen fold Sunday, and they got some encouraging news about another reliever.

Sean Doolittle was expected to only throw a flat-ground session before the series finale against Boston, but he wound up throwing 15 pitches off the mound as well. That’s the first time Doolittle has thrown from the mound since joining the disabled list May 3 with a strained left shoulder. Next up is a 25-pitch session off the mound Wednesday.

The early indications are that Doolittle’s current shoulder woes aren’t as severe as the ailments that sidelined him for major portions of the past two seasons.

Axford was reinstated from the 10-day DL Saturday for his own shoulder strain, but his season debut came Sunday, when he handled the eighth inning and allowed one run. He was sidelined during the season-opening series against the Angels when he hurt his shoulder while warming up in the bullpen.

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All indications are that first baseman Yonder Alonso will be available to return to the lineup Tuesday for the opener of a two-game interleague series against the Miami Marlins. A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Sunday’s game that he considered Alonso as potentially being available off the bench. Given the A’s are off Monday, it’s reasonable to assume Alonso will be ready Tuesday when the Marlins start right-hander Jose Urena on the mound.

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The A’s are plenty familiar with Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland from his days with division rival Texas. But Moreland continues to do damage against Oakland even though he’s out of the AL West. Moreland’s two-run homer in the sixth off Andrew Triggs marked his third homer of the four-game series, and his 19th homer in 80 career games against the A’s. That’s his most homers against any major league club.

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The run Axford allowed in the eighth snapped a streak of 27 scoreless innings at home by the A’s bullpen. Josh Smith allowed five runs in the ninth.