Coco Crisp: From goat to hero

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Coco Crisp: From goat to hero

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OAKLAND -- Coco Crisp had a lousy Sunday, so he was delighted to learn that there would be a Monday. Then he hit the lottery on Tuesday, meaning hes pretty much broken even for Wednesday.

Crisp, who double-bobbled a fly ball in Detroit to help speed the Tigers to a 2-0 lead in this American League Division Series, ski-mask-stole Game 3 Tuesday in Oakland, 2-0, with an extraordinary catch of a Prince Fielder home run. Extraordinary, because it became the difference between Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson being on the ropes in the second inning, and getting to pitch the six-inning masterwork he actually threw.

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So just as Crisp violently jerked the series toward Detroit two days earlier, he yanked it part of the way back Tuesday. And life . . . well, it was okay.

Yeah, you do lose some confidence after a play like that, the As center fielder said. It does weigh on you. But to be able to make a play like that and help your team, it kind of resets everything.

Crisp broke with the loud report of Fielders bat on a 1-2 slider and raced toward the Xfinity (reality meets corporate plus) sign just to the right of the center field gate, leaped in stride, caught the ball a good foot over the eight-foot wall, and came down on the warning track, first to nervous silence, and then to an enormous roar from the sellout crowd at Oakland TarpnCarp Coliseum.

It started fading on me at the last moment, Crisp said, but I just felt like I was in stride with it the whole way, and it was one of those all-in-one plays. But I have to say, he hit the (urine) out of that ball.

Whatever effluent the ball may or may not have produced, it was a highlight, to be sure, but what made it more important was the fact that Delmon Young and Jhonny (CQ) Peralta followed with singles that almost certainly would have forced manager Bob Melvin to get his bullpen into action five innings before he ultimately had to. It changed the mood, the tone, and the direction of the game, as surely as his horrific bobble on Miguel Cabreras blooper changed Game 2.

It certainly revivified Anderson, who worked his way out of the YoungPeralta jam and gave up no other hits, leaving the tidying up to the CDB Line (Ryan) Cook, (Sean) Doolittle and (Grant) Balfour.

And despite Oaklands own meager offensive output against Anibal Sanchez (two runs, five hits), they remain in play for Wednesdays all-in with Max Scherzer facing A.J. Griffin.

For that, they can thank Crisp more than anyone else, for he also opened Oaklands scoring with a ground single to right, advancing to second on a Stephen Drew walk and scoring on Yoenis Cespedes single up the spine of the diamond. Between that play and his Fielder-robbing spectacular, the front of his jersey had the equivalent of a preschool sandbox.

And a very happy bearer therein.

Im glad we did have another game, because it would have been very hard to go home with that one as the last thing you did, he said. Im glad I was able to change the game for the good.

Indeed, Crisp changed his season for the good after a hideous start, exacerbated by his reluctance to enjoy the benefits of left field. He had been moved there to accommodate Cespedes, but he did fully embrace the relocation, and when Melvin decided to swap the two, both benefited Crisp almost immediately, Cespedes within a few weeks.

And suddenly the Oakland outfield was one of the best defensive units in the game, which it is today. Fielder, in fact, was robbed at glove point twice, the second time to start the seventh, when Cespedes made a diving catch in front of him to rob the Tiger first baseman of a bloop single that might have changed Cooks inning. Young struck out, but Peralta singled to center, which could have either forced Melvins hand again or turned into a rally that, in a 2-0 game, could have been its own game-changer.

But Crisp needed the heros role more, because he had done his time as the miscreant. That his stay in the pooch hut last barely two days is one more metaphor for a team that takes bad news in stride and turns it into a Happy Fizzies party the next chance it gets.

That doesnt get them out of this particular piece of the forest yet, but this series wont be Coco Crisps to wear. At least not yet.

A’s agree to terms with Gray, Hendriks and Vogt to avoid arbitration

A’s agree to terms with Gray, Hendriks and Vogt to avoid arbitration

The Oakland A’s avoided arbitration with right-handed pitchers Sonny Gray and Liam Hendriks and catcher Stephen Vogt when they agreed to terms on one-year contracts for the 2017 season, the club announced today.

Gray went 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA in 22 starts last year in a season shortened by two stints on the disabled list.  His ERA was more than 2½ runs higher than his previous career high and his five wins follow back-to-back 14-win seasons.  Gray went 33-20 with a 2.88 ERA 76 games over his first three seasons with the A’s and now has a 3.42 ERA in his career, which ranks ninth in Oakland history.

Hendriks compiled a 3.76 ERA and .270 opponents batting average in 53 relief appearances in his first season with the A’s.  He had an 8.27 ERA and .394 opponents batting average in 11 games before going on the disabled list in early May with a strained right triceps.  Hendriks then logged a 2.23 ERA and .222 opponents batting average in 42 games following his return from the DL.

Vogt played in a career-high 137 games last year and hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI.  He also had career bests with 123 hits, 30 doubles and 46 extra base hits.  Vogt was named to his second consecutive American League All-Star team.

The only remaining arbitration eligible player on the A’s roster is Khris Davis.

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Mariners swing pair of trades, bolster rotation with addition of Smyly

Mariners swing pair of trades, bolster rotation with addition of Smyly

SEATTLE -- Jerry Dipoto's 11th trade this offseason rounded out the Seattle Mariners roster with his top target.

"I've probably spent more time through the course of our offseason trying to acquire Drew Smyly than any other thing that we've done," the general manager said Wednesday.

Seattle made pair of deals on Wednesday that ultimately landed Smyly, a pitcher Dipoto thinks will fill out the Mariners starting rotation. Seattle also landed a potential key reliever, getting right-hander Shae Simmons from the Atlanta Braves.

The Mariners acquired outfielder Mallex Smith from Atlanta, then sent him to Tampa Bay along with infielder Carlos Vargas and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough for Smyly. Smith was also an offseason target for the Mariners but when Seattle acquired Jarrod Dyson from Kansas City last week, Smith instead became the conduit in helping to obtain Smyly.

"It became apparent to us over the last two or three days that we were able to access Drew Smyly by making the deal with Atlanta that tapped into Mallex Smith," Dipoto said. "So effectively these were two deals that were interlinked."

Smyly is the centerpiece of what Seattle was trying to accomplish as the Mariners seem to have rounded out a starting rotation that appeared to be a major question at the start of the year. The acquisitions of Smyly and Yovani Gallardo from Baltimore last week appear to have filled out a rotation where Felix HernandezHisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton were the only certainties.

Smyly, 27, made 30 starts last season for Tampa Bay, throwing a career-high 175 1/3 innings and striking out 167. He was 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA, but starting pitching is one of Tampa Bay's strongest assets, and Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Erik Neander felt comfortable making the deal because of the depth the Rays have in that area.

Smyly was 15-15 with a 3.95 ERA in 49 starts for Tampa Bay after being acquired from Detroit in the 2014 trade deadline deal that sent David Price to the Tigers. He is arbitration eligible after winning $3.75 million in an arbitration hearing last season.

"He fits our ballpark particularly well. He's a pretty extreme fly-ball pitcher with the low walks, high strikeouts, who in our ballpark, with what we think is a greatly improved outfield defense fits us like a glove really," Dipoto said. "If as we expect he shows up and does his thing it should fit very well for us in this ballpark."

What Smith may be able to add was attractive to Neander, who said the trade was made to help position the Rays to be competitive in 2017. He stopped short of saying he expects Smith to make the team coming out of spring training.

"We need to get better," Neander said. "To do that, we need more competition" for jobs.

Simmons is also a key acquisition for Seattle, providing another power arm in the bullpen. Simmons, 26, made seven appearances last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and threw just 6 2/3 big league innings. Before elbow issues, Simmons was 1-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 26 appearances during the 2014 season.

"He's had a strong history with striking (batters) out and (we're) really excited to plug him in," Dipoto said.

The cost for Seattle to complete to two deals meant giving up two of its top pitching prospects in Yarbrough and Luiz Gohara. Yarbrough, 25, was named the Southern League pitcher of the year after going 12-4 with a 2.95 ERA at Double-A Jackson last season. Gohara, 20, was 7-2 with a 1.81 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 13 starts at two Class A stops.

Seattle also sent lefty Thomas Burrows to Atlanta and designated right-hander Cody Martin for assignment to make room on its 40-man roster.