A's digital mailbag: Smiling Cespedes, roster expansion

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A's digital mailbag: Smiling Cespedes, roster expansion

Programming note: Red Sox-A's coverage begins tonight with A's Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!

OAKLAND -- Time for another edition of the A's digital mailbag. Remember, you can E-mail me any time CPratt@ComcastSportsNet.com or Tweet me @CaseyPrattCSN to get your questions answered.@caseyprattcsn Which player's success do you think is most important down the stretch for the A's to make the playoffs? Kevin Urquhart (@UrqMyHeart) August 31, 2012CP: The easy answer would be Yoenis Cespedes. The A's are 61-35 with him in the starting lineup and 12-22 when he doesn't play. We all know how important he is to the team, so I am going to go with a different player. I think Jemile Weeks could be the most important player for the A's during the stretch run. Here is a guy that sparked the A's offense last year. If he can find a way to return to the A's and do anything near what he did in his rookie season when he hit .303 with 22 stolen bases 26 doubles and eight triples in just 97 games -- the offense could be very good. In the seven games he has played with Sacramento since getting sent down he is hitting .419 with a .500 OBP and nine RBI.For the pitchers my pick is Brandon McCarthy. Without Bartolo Colon, the A's need a veteran they can look to in big games and that guy is McCarthy. @caseyprattcsn Do you think the A's are sold on Norris as the answer for the next couple years at catcher or is he a stop gap? Oakfan (@oakfan1108) August 31, 2012CP: The A's were so sold on Derek Norris that they traded Kurt Suzuki. He is the catcher of the immediate future for the A's. He has done a good job handling the pitching staff, and really benefitted from his time working with Suzuki. Now he has to turn the corner. He does have some things to work on -- as he should, he is a rookie after all -- but he has shown the team enough that they have faith in him. The bad: Opponents have been successful in 80.8 of the stolen base attempts against him, and he is only hitting .200 since being recalled on August 3. The good: A's starting pitchers have a 2.99 ERA with him behind the plate. He has seven doubles, five homers, and 23 RBI with the A's, so he is hitting for more power than Suzuki was. He also has five stolen bases which is the most by a rookie catcher in Oakland history. @caseyprattcsn Pennington and Rosales bring better defense to 2B but offense still isn't stellar.Does Weeks just step back in or platoon? Stephen Rosenthal (@srosenthal13) August 31, 2012CP: IF Jemile Weeks returns anytime soon he'd have to be put in the lineup daily. That's my take. Once he is ready to return the A's need to get him consistent playing time. Cliff Pennington and Adam Rosales have done a good job defensively as you noted -- Rosales has 0 errors in nine games at second, Pennington has one error, but has looked very good there. Offensively they are still struggling a bit even with the platoon. Pennington is hitting .200 as the A's second baseman. Rosales is hitting .208. So, if the A's feel Weeks is ready to return he could be an upgrade over the current platoon. Weeks is the future at second base. It is his job if they feel he has done enough in Triple-A. Don't forget Grant Green has also been told to focus on second base, so Weeks is under pressure to earn that spot again. @caseyprattcsn noticed Cespedes smiling a lot more now than a few months ago. Is it cause he fits in more or language barrier is diminishing Claudiu Toma (@cmtoma) August 30, 2012CP: Imagine escaping your homeland of Cuba for the Dominican Republic, getting signed to an American club, getting to Spring Training in Arizona late, getting sent to Japan to open the biggest series of your life, then heading to Oakland to start a career you have dreamed of since you were a child. A bit much, right? That's what Yoenis Cespedes has gone through. He can't see his family, is under intense pressure to perform and live up to his contract, doesn't speak much English, and has to face the best pitchers on the planet. He is smiling a bit more because he is definitely succeeding in the face of all those challenges. The team is succeeding as well. This guy eats, breathes, sleeps, and dreams baseball. He is having fun realizing his dream, and is emerging as a star in the game on a team in a pennant race. He has a lot to smile about. With everything he's gone through, can you believe this guy is playing as well as he is? Scary to think what will happen when he is comfortable. He is also getting a better grasp on the English language. Ariel Prieto has done a great job helping him get through all the unique challenges.@caseyprattcsn Any word on which WWE Superstar theme Reddick will be using tonight? Ramon Silver (@whatandwhy09) August 31, 2012CP: He has been using Daniel Bryan's theme which is a solid choice. With the recent news that his favorite Wrestler Triple-H is calling it a career, I'd expect a tribute to The Game. If it were up to me I'd come out to Shawn Michael's entrance theme as sung by Michaels himself. Why? Because I think it is the funniest song ever made. @caseyprattcsn who gets called up tomorrow? They can add up to 15 right ? Chris (@ChrisSpeer2001) August 31, 2012CP: With the rosters expanding the A's can add some depth. I wouldn't expect them to add 15 more players though. The A's are in contention unlike previous years. They don't have the opportunity in a playoff chase to see what they have in some of their prospects. The River Cats are also in a playoff run. While it won't stop the A's from taking players, it is good to let some of the younger guys get that experience. I'd expect the additions of relievers like Pedro Figueroa, Tyson Ross, and maybe Jesse Chavez first. The position players might not come up right away, but instead later down the stretch run. Guys like Collin Cowgill, Michael Taylor, Jemile Weeks, Brandon Hicks, possibly even Grant Green -- maybe even Daric Barton or Kila Ka'aihue -- to name a few. Really only the A's organization knows the true plan. You can definitely expect a return of A.J. Griffin soon. They will probably keep Dan Straily down to get regular work.

Kaval: A's considering future move into Raiders' locker room

Kaval: A's considering future move into Raiders' locker room

OAKLAND — The Raiders are likely to play at the Coliseum for the next two seasons at least, but the A’s are daydreaming about the time they can finally call the venue their own.

One idea they’re considering is moving their home clubhouse into the space that currently serves as the Raiders locker room, which would more than double the current space they have.

Beyond that, imagine the possibility of the A’s current clubhouse being transformed into a “club” type area for fans to schmooze and enjoy some beverages. Team president Dave Kaval says both ideas are on the table for after the Raiders move to Las Vegas, which they’re planning to do for the 2020 NFL season.

The No. 1 long-term goal for the A’s, obviously, is to find a location in Oakland and build a new baseball-only stadium. The homework continues on that front, with Kaval maintaining the promise for that announcement to come sometime in 2017.

The Raiders have lease options to play at the Coliseum for each of the next two football seasons, with their plans for 2019 uncertain as their Vegas stadium is built.

Regardless, there will be a gap from the time the Raiders execute their move and the time the A’s are ready to move into their potential new digs. They apparently plan to make the most of that time at the Coliseum, which is the only two-sport complex remaining in major North American professional sports.

Kaval addressed the idea of shifting the home clubhouse into the Raiders’ locker room space.

“Well, it’s considerably bigger than our current locker room, and so we could have a more player-friendly area, more lounge space, be more spread out,” he said as the A’s wrapped up a 10-game homestand Sunday. “Even space for training facilities we don’t have now. And so it just provides a lot more flexibility, and a better draw for players if they want to play here in Oakland.”

That last statement shouldn’t be overlooked. As much as current Athletics would appreciate any upgrades to their day-to-day situation at the Coliseum, the improvements might also help a bit when it comes to attracting prospective free agents, who could be sold the idea of better conditions at the Coliseum and the promise of a brand new ballpark to come.

The A’s try to make use of every inch of space available in the current Coliseum set-up, but it’s an antiquated situation to say the least. Players sprawled out on the floor doing stretching exercises outside the A’s weight room often have to deal with reporters stepping around them as they get off the media elevator.

“I think it could be huge,” catcher Stephen Vogt said of possibly shifting the clubhouse to the Raiders’ locker room. “There’s triple the size of what we have. It’s kind of funny to think that we have the smaller locker room but they’re here for (only) 10 days a year basically. That’s just the way it is. If they are truly leaving and they’re not gonna be here, we could really utilize that space.”

Added Kaval: “We do have space in here, but when it’s a multi-purpose stadium it’s always challenging. Everything we’ve had to do over the years has been temporary.”

One consideration regarding the Raiders’ locker room: It’s a farther walk to the entrance of the field, with an extra flight of stairs to climb. That’s something to consider because baseball players tend to make quick trips back to the clubhouse during a game more so than football players do to their locker room.

But Kaval said he’s already talked to A’s manager Bob Melvin about some of the logistical challenges, and he emphasized that any changes wouldn’t happen without positive feedback from the coaching staff and players.

One change the A’s already have implemented this season with players in mind: They’ve dedicated an expanded luxury suite area solely for players’ families during games and also expanded the nanny service they provide for players’ children during games.

As for the A’s ballpark search, Kaval says the four sites the A’s are considering are all “neck and neck” — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, a site near Laney College and one at Brooklyn Basin, on the other side of Highway 880 from Laney.

“We continue to have meetings with all the key stakeholders,” Kaval said. “I think we’re really happy about the acceleration of those meetings. We’re starting to talk more business terms, starting to get into some of the final feasibility (decisions) so we can make that final announcement this year on a location.”

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

OAKLAND — Some 10-9 records are better than others, and so it is that the A’s can hit the road for a nine-game trip feeling pretty good about themselves.

Their just-completed homestand began with Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman leaving a game early and landing on the disabled list. That was coupled with news that shortstop Marcus Semien would be lost for two months or more with a fractured wrist.

The A’s responded to those developments with a five-game winning streak that was halted by Sunday’s 11-1 rout at the hands of the Seattle Mariners.

The A’s went 5-4 on the homestand, holding their ground after a heavy dose of injury misfortune, and now the outlook changes just a bit. The focus shifts from the players joining the D.L. to those that could soon return to provide a boost.

Graveman, who has a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to throw off the mound Monday. If that goes well, expect him to be activated sometime in the early portion of the upcoming trip. Sonny Gray, who has been out since injuring a side muscle early in Cactus League games, is set to throw Thursday for Triple-A Nashville after an encouraging rehab outing Saturday for Single-A Stockton.

If Gray comes out of Thursday’s start well, look for the 2015 All-Star to join the active roster and pitch sometime against Minnesota in the final series of this road trip. Nothing can be taken for granted until both pitchers actually return healthy, but it’s a promising scenario to possibly add two starters of their caliber as April turns to May.

“I think any time you look up and you’re over .500 and you’ve had a great homestand and you’re missing your best two pitchers, that’s something to be pleased about,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Getting Kendall back is huge. And Sonny obviously did great last night, and felt great, which is more important than the results.

“We’re excited to get those two guys back but in the meantime, we’re gonna continue to keep playing the way we are because we’re playing really good baseball and we’ll just keep things rolling.”

It was clear early on Sunday that a five-game winning streak wouldn’t reach six. The Mariners led 2-0 in the third when Andrew Triggs missed location on a 1-0 sinker and Taylor Motter launched a grand slam over the wall in left-center.

Triggs, who excelled at missing the fat part of bats over his first three starts, didn’t have the feel for his cutter Sunday. When he fell behind to Motter, the cutter is normally a pitch he would have gone to had it been working for him.

“I wasn’t commanding well,” he said. “I didn’t wanna go 1-0 to 2-0. I felt better going with the sinker. I got it down, but missed location in and out. In a perfect world, the cutter would have been great to get a groundout.”

But to this point, the A’s rotation has held firm without Gray and with the short-term absence of Graveman. Perhaps the biggest test moving forward is whether an offense that is tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits can continue to produce consistently with Semien’s absence, particularly without anyone having established themselves as the regular leadoff man.

A’s manager Bob Melvin likes what he’s seen from his team in light of the injuries.

“Every game we go out there there’s an expectation to win,” Melvin said, “and when you win multiple games in a row, you get that feeling and it’s a little more significant. So hopefully we can carry that on to the road trip. As a group, we’ve been able to manage these injuries here recently, and once we start getting guys back it’s gonna be a good thing for us.”