Confidence flowing throughout A's lineup during three-game win streak

Confidence flowing throughout A's lineup during three-game win streak

OAKLAND — You have to go back nearly three years, to the days Yoenis Cespedes was still anchoring the batting order, to find the last time the A’s had a better two-game offensive stretch than their current one.

They scored nine runs for the second consecutive day in turning back the Seattle Mariners 9-6 on Thursday. It’s their first time scoring nine or more runs in back-to-back games since July 23-24, 2014, roughly a week before Cespedes was dealt to the Boston Red Sox.

For all of the offense Thursday night, it figures that the first player manager Bob Melvin mentioned in his postgame press conference was … a pitcher?

Melvin credited starter Cesar Valdez for not letting things spin out of control after a rough beginning to Valdez’s first start in the bigs since 2010.

Melvin could have just as easily singled out Ryon Healy for his three hits and two RBI, Trevor Plouffe for a three-run homer that gave the A’s breathing room or any number of relievers that took care of business on a night that Oakland had a lot of people chip in for the team’s third win in a row.

“We’ve got a lot of confident guys right now putting really good swings on the baseball,” center fielder Rajai Davis said. “We’re not missing mistakes, we’re hitting them.”

The one damper on the evening was the news of what Melvin called a mild left hamstring strain for Davis, who was replaced on defense for the top of the ninth. He won’t be in Friday’s lineup, Melvin said, and there should be a better read on his status when he shows up to the ballpark.

Davis said he felt his hamstring grab when he extended to the first-base bag while trying to beat out a sixth-inning grounder. He hobbled down the line in the eighth when he hit into a double play.

“I think I hit first base awkwardly, lunged for it,” Davis said. “I just grabbed it. I don’t think it’s too serious though.”

A better sign for the A’s is the revival of Healy at the plate. He’s 7-for-9 over the past four games and looks more comfortable at the plate after a 6-for-40 stretch that prompted Melvin to sit him for two games.

“It wasn’t a concern,” Melvin said. “Everybody goes through these things. Sometimes it’s a little harder for younger guys to go through them. But he swung the bat really well” Thursday.

Valdez, making a spot start in place of the injured Kendall Graveman, gave up three runs over the first two innings but then delivered two scoreless frames and left with the score tied 3-3.

“Valdez got it under control after giving up 3 quick runs,” Melvin said. “We’re in a tie game and he really does his job.”

The only previous big league experience for the 32-year-old Valdez came back in 2010, when he posted a 7.65 ERA over nine games (two starts) for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since then he’s pitched in the Pirates’ and Astros’ organizations as well as for two teams in the Mexican League to go with a stint in the Venezuelan Winter League. He signed a minor league deal with the A’s this winter, and he had just finished a bullpen session earlier this week when Triple-A Nashville manager Ryan Christenson delivered the unexpected news of his promotion.

“It was something unbelievable, I couldn’t explain it,” Valdez said. “But for me it’s kind of been that road. Ever since my Dad passed away in 2015, I’ve kind of used that strength guiding me to keep moving forward. That has helped me channel all this energy to get to this level.”

**

The A’s received the unfortunate news that minor league right-hander Daulton Jefferies needs Tommy John surgery. Jefferies, who played at Cal, was a sandwich pick (No. 37 overall) between the first and second rounds of last summer’s draft, joining A.J. Puk and Logan Shore as part of a promising trio of college pitchers the A’s took high in the draft. Jefferies had made two appearances for Single-A Stockton this season, one starting and one in relief.

**

The A’s have a private workout scheduled with Cuban outfielder Luis Robert on Friday in the Dominican Republic. The 19-year-old Robert has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and made eligible to sign with any club, according to a tweet Thursday from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. MLB.com reported that May 20 is the earliest Robert can sign.

Baseball America rated Robert one of the five top players coming out of Cuba back in January, and the White Sox also are among several teams expected to go after him. The A’s shelled out $3 million to sign another highly rated Cuban outfielder last summer in Lazaro Armenteros, but their farm system could use a further infusion of outfield talent. Since the A’s have spent more than their allotted bonus pool for signing international players for this signing period, and have already incurred the max penalties for that, they could feel inclined to make a run at Robert.

A's lineup: Young faces throughout as Athletics start series vs White Sox

A's lineup: Young faces throughout as Athletics start series vs White Sox

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Astros-A's coverage begins at 4 p.m. with Pregame Live on NBC Sports California and streaming right here.

The latest A's youth movement embarks on its first road trip when they visit the south side of Chicago and the White Sox. Manager Bob Melvin has issued his lineup for Game 1 of the series.

Chicago White Sox:
1. Melky Cabrera (S) LF
2. Jose Abreu (R) 1B
3. Avisail Garcia (R) RF
4. Todd Frazier (R) 3B
5. Matt Davidson (R) DH
6. Tim Anderson (R) SS
7. Yolmer Sanchez (S) 2B
8. Kevan Smith (R) C
9. Adam Engel (R) CF
RHP -- Mike Pelfrey 

Oakland A's:
1. Matt Joyce (L) LF
2. Matt Olson (L) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) DH
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) 3B
7. Chad Pinder (R) SS
8. Bruce Maxwell (L) C
9. Jaycob Brugman (L) CF
RHP -- Jharel Cotton

 

New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

OAKLAND — The A’s set off for Chicago on Thursday evening to begin their next road trip, and how their dynamic has changed over the course of one week.

They began their most recent homestand by cutting ties with veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe to make room for hotshot prospect Matt Chapman. On Thursday, catcher Stephen Vogt suffered the same fate as Plouffe, getting designated for assignment to make room for another young player in Bruce Maxwell.

The calendar may still read June, with more than half of the season remaining, but the A’s are cleaning house, undergoing a reboot and playing the rest of 2017 with an emphasis on what lies ahead.

Five of the nine position players in their starting lineup for Thursday’s 12-9 loss to the Houston Astros are what you would consider “future” guys — center fielder Jaycob Brugman, third baseman Ryon Healy, second baseman Chad Pinder, Maxwell and right fielder Matt Olson.

They will shuffle around the diamond a bit, and Olson may only stay with the big club until Chapman comes off the disabled list (though Olson’s full-time status in the bigs doesn’t seem far off). Regardless, the plan is crystal clear — the A’s are hitching their wagon to their young core and are prepared to let them develop at the major league level, with whatever successes and failures may come with the growth process.

“We do get excited about giving these guys playing time,” A’s general manager David Forst said before Thursday’s game.

The Astros finished off a four-game sweep of Oakland with their 12-9 victory, jumping out to a 10-0 lead and then holding on after the A’s mounted a late charge. Glance up and down the box score, and those key young players were instrumental in so much that went right for the A’s.

Maxwell went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Olson drove in two runs. Pinder had two hits and an RBI. Brugman chipped in an RBI single and walked twice. That was the silver lining on a day that starting pitcher Jesse Hahn struggled mightily, allowing nine earned runs in just two innings.

“These guys are gonna be important,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The last thing you want to see when you’re down 10-0 is guys just cash it in, and that wasn’t the case. These guys all have something to play for. They’re playing for jobs. And in the future, starting jobs.”

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, middle infielder Franklin Barreto will join the mix from Triple-A Nashville. For now, an immediate storyline is the health of Chapman, who joined the 10-day disabled list with a case of cellulitis (bacterial infection) in his left knee. The A’s checked him into a hospital Wednesday night to get an intravenous antibiotic, after his condition “plateaued” with oral antibiotics, according to Forst.

He said Chapman is likely to leave the hospital Friday, and the A’s are hopeful the rookie third baseman will be able to return when he’s eligible to come off the D.L. His stint can be backdated to Monday, meaning Chapman is eligible to return next Thursday at Houston.

He’s part of the youth movement that resulted in Vogt getting shown the exit. Maxwell sent Vogt a text message wishing him the best Thursday morning, and Vogt quickly responded, wishing him the best. That meant a lot to Maxwell, who didn’t learn until Thursday morning that his roster spot was coming at Vogt’s expense.

But Maxwell said he’s excited to be surrounded by so many players that he’s advanced through the minors with.

“Once we get everybody acclimated to each other and the game up here,” he said, “I feel like we could potentially set up a turning point for this organization for years to come.”