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
Don’t count out top prospect Franklin Barreto as a possibility for the A’s in center field.
It’s long been speculated that the middle infielder might eventually get a look in center, and the idea has at least been discussed in team circles. It’s tied partially to whether the A’s exercise their $6 million club option on Jed Lowrie and bring him back as their regular second baseman in 2018.
Regardless, the battle to be Oakland’s everyday center fielder will be one of the A’s most intriguing storylines next spring. Grady Fuson, a special assistant to general manager David Forst who spends much of the season evaluating the team’s farm system, discussed several of the team’s center field options in the latest A’s Insider Podcast.
So much revolves around the health of 22-year-old Dustin Fowler, one of three prospects the A’s received from the Yankees for Sonny Gray. He’ll spend the winter continuing to rehab from a devastating knee injury suffered in his very first major league game in June while still with New York.
The A’s are hopeful he’ll be ready for spring training and believe he can be a solution in center.
“Fowler certainly is the guy we made this trade for, and I think everybody, top to bottom, in the system is counting on him taking that spot,” Fuson said. “But we all know he’s been hurt. How he comes back, who knows? Boog (Powell’s) been doing a very good job for us. And there’s other options.”
The 21-year-old Barreto, who has split time between second and short this season at Triple-A and with the big club, played some center in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2015. He’s always talked with enthusiasm about the idea.
The A’s experimented with another highly touted young infielder, Yairo Munoz, in center field in the minors this season.
“(We’ve) had discussions about taking Munoz out there, which we’ve done,” Fuson said. “We’ve had discussions about maybe Franklin Barreto, depending on what happens at second here at end of the year, over the winter, and early in camp.”
Lowrie has enjoyed a very strong season with Oakland, and A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has said the team is seriously considering picking up his option. Having Barreto be an option in center could be a way to keep him in the majors in 2018 even if Lowrie returns at second base.
Fuson stressed that the idea of Barreto in center hasn’t advanced past the early-discussion phase. No decisions have been made.
What’s interesting is that, in a short time, the A’s have gone from scarce few center field options to suddenly having several. Powell and Fowler may enter the spring as front runners, but Munoz, Jaycob Brugman, Chad Pinder, Jake Smolinski and, perhaps, Barreto may all have a shot too.
The A’s also used their first-round pick in June on high school center fielder Austin Beck, who represents another option down the road.
A's catcher Bruce Maxwell has a history with foul tips and concussion concerns, so there was cause for concern after he took a direct shot during Wednesday's game against the Tigers.
With one out in the ninth inning, Tigers shortstop fouled a ball square into Maxwell's facemask. The A's catcher immediately fell backwards. As manager Bob Melvin and the team trainer checked on him, he appeared dazed and rubbed his eyes. In an attempt to try to stay in the game, reliever Liam Hendriks tossed two warmup pitches. Maxwell missed the first one, but even after he caught the second one, it was clear he wasn't right and was removed from the game.
Afterwards, Melvin was asked about Maxwell's status.
"He went through all the protocol. It doesn't look like a concussion at this point. We'll probably know more in the next couple of days," Melvin told reporters in Detroit. "Took a pretty good shot. More sore on his face because of where the impact was, which was right in the middle of his face."
Josh Phegley replaced Maxwell for the final two outs of the game. Hendriks managed to close out the 3-2 win for the A's.