A's fall to Angels, top Cubs in split squad action

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A's fall to Angels, top Cubs in split squad action

Angels 9, A's (SS) 1BOX SCORE

PHOENIX (AP) His first time up to bat for the Angels, Albert Pujols hit an RBI double.So far, so good.The new Angels slugger finished 2 for 3, ending his spring debut by popping up with the bases loaded in the third inning of Los Angeles' 9-1 win over an Oakland Athletics split squad Monday."That was fun," Pujols said of batting in each of the first three innings. "Hopefully we get to do that a lot this season."Left-hander C.J. Wilson, the Angels' other big free-agent acquisition, also debuted. He gave up a hit and walk in two innings.Pujols agreed to a 240 million, 10-year deal over the winter, leaving the St. Louis Cardinals after 11 seasons.Now he'll routinely face AL pitchers after hammering the senior circuit for more than a decade."When I made the ballclub in '01 I didn't know anyone in the National League," Pujols said. "You are your own scouting report."Athletics starter Brad Peacock had to leave after getting five outs. He was scheduled for two innings. Pujols helped him reach his pitch count early."I tried not to look at him," Peacock said. "I was trying to hit my spot but left a curveball up for him and he crushed it."Wilson, who came to California from the Texas Rangers, said he used to play fantasy baseball when he was in the minors - and drafted Pujols at least once."It's kind of funny," Wilson said. "He came up there and drive in the run and we all looked at each other in the dugout and said Yep, that's Albert.' That's what he does."I'm happy to be in the Albert Pujols fan club."NOTES: A's DH Manny Ramirez went 0-for-3 and is hitless in five plate appearances. He has seen a total of 11 pitches and had not hit a ball out of the infield until flying out weakly to right in the sixth. . Peacock struggled in his first start in his first major league camp, allowing four runs on four hits and a walk. Peacock was one of four players acquired from Washington for Gio Gonzalez on December 23. . Angels 2B Howie Kendrick homered to straightaway center in the second and C Chris Iannetta added a two-run shot in the third. . Athletics 1B Daric Barton received a second cortisone shot in his right shoulder and will be sidelines for the next three days. . Angels DH Bobby Abreu was slated to bat sixth but was scratched due to an undisclosed illness. He was replaced by Hank Conger, who hit ninth.
A's (SS) 8, Cubs 7
BOX SCORE
MESA, Ariz. (AP) Ryan Dempster got off to a rough start last year and never recovered in one of his worst seasons with the Chicago Cubs.Nothing he can do about it now. He is focused on bouncing back this year.Dempster made his spring debut Monday and pitched two innings in Chicago's 8-7 loss to a split-squad of Oakland Athletics. The right-hander, who went 10-14 with a 4.80 ERA last season, allowed one run and two hits."It's why I've worked really hard this winter," said Dempster, who struck out two and walked none. "Anytime you've had a subpar year, you don't like it a whole lot and you want to try and do a whole lot better the next time out. You work out and do what you can to be prepared."Josh Reddick collected two more hits for Oakland, and Brandon Allen hit a sacrifice fly off Dempster in the second to give him eight RBIs this spring.Non-roster invitee Yordy Cabrera led off the ninth inning with a home run against right-hander Tony Zych, lifting Oakland to the victory.Blake DeWitt hit a three-run homer off A's starter Bartolo Colon in the second inning. Jeff Baker added two hits, including a double, and scored two runs for Chicago.Reddick is off to a fast start after coming over from Boston in the Andrew Bailey trade. He tripled in the second inning and is 5 for 8 this spring.Considering the A's suddenly have a crowded outfield with the signings of Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez to go along with Jonny Gomes, Coco Crisp and Seth Smith, the hot start by Reddick can only help his chances."That's why we are here," Reddick said. "You work all offseason to be ready to go from the start."Reddick only saw three pitches from Dempster but said he could tell that the starter had a good changeup.Working in the off-speed stuff early might be the key to Dempster getting off to a fast start. He was 1-3 with a 9.58 ERA in six April starts last season.Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who expects to announce an opening-day starter within a week, speculated from having conversations with Dempster that the poor opening month might have been because he relied too much on his fastball."He had an unbelievable spring training where he had unbelievable command of his fastball and that might have gotten him into a little bit of trouble because he mentioned he wasn't using his secondary pitches as much because he was so caught up in having great fastball command in spring," Sveum said. "He didn't work on his off-speed stuff in spring training."The bottom line is, he knew he was better than he showed last year and I think he's on a mission to prove that he's the pitcher he was before that."NOTES: Cubs C Geovany Soto (groin) is expected to see his first game action somewhere between Wednesday and Saturday. ... Jeff Baker and Joe Mather had two hits apiece for Chicago. Mather also had two stolen bases.

A's spring training Day 38: Alonso's offense comes to life

A's spring training Day 38: Alonso's offense comes to life

MESA, Ariz. — Yonder Alonso’s value usually gets discussed in terms of his defense, but the A’s first baseman is putting together a very impressive spring with the bat.

The A’s poured it on the Milwaukee Brewers in a 15-5 rout Thursday, and Alonso led the parade with two homers and three RBI. Both shots came off Junior Guerra, and the first would have cleared the right field wall had it been pushed back 30 feet farther.

Alonso is hitting .382 with four homers in Cactus League play. He says the extra work he’s putting in with hitting coach Darren Bush is paying off, and manager Bob Melvin likes what he sees from a player who hit .253 last year and knocked just seven home runs for the entire regular season.

“He’s had a great approach from the minute he got here,” Melvin said. “He and Bushy had a plan. He’s using the whole field a little bit more, which keeps him on breaking balls, which allows him to track fastballs a little bit more. He’s hit a couple balls good to left-center as well.”

The A’s love the defense they get from Alonso at first, but getting more thump from him offensively would be a boost for Oakland, which finished last in the American League in runs last season. His on-base percentage dropped to .316 last season, well below his career average of .334. That’s where a more patient approach could pay off, and that’s another focus with Alonso this season.

Right now, the plan is for the left-handed hitting Alonso to platoon at first with Ryon Healy, who will also see time at DH and third base.

“I think every day I’m coming in with a plan,” Alonso said. “Mentally and physically I feel fine. I’m ready to roll. I’m ready to continue to battle and continue to grind and have solid at-bats.”

CAMP BATTLE: A day after Andrew Triggs looked very sharp, another rotation candidate responded with his best start of the spring. Raul Alcantara gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Brewers, very much keeping his hopes alive for one of Oakland’s two open rotation spots. His outing was easy to overlook on a day the A’s hit four home runs and collected 18 hits total. But it was a timely effort for Alcantara, who is batting Triggs and Jesse Hahn for rotation jobs. Hahn’s next start is Saturday.

“His breaking ball, he struggled throwing it for strikes early and then found it, which is an attribute you want to see,” Melvin said of Alcantara. “It ended up being his best outing for us.”

Melvin said he thinks the battle for the Nos. 4 and 5 starter spots will go down to the wire.

NOTEWORTHY: Lefty Daniel Coulombe, trying to nail down a spot in the bullpen, threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings. After surrendering at least one run in each of his first five appearances, Coulombe has held opponents without a run in each of his last two outings (4 1/3 IP).

ODDS AND ENDS: Trevor Plouffe and Max Schrock hit the A’s other home runs along with Alonso’s two shots. Plouffe’s was an opposite-field blast to right. He’s hitting .361. Schrock was borrowed from minor league camp and went deep to right-center. … Ross Detwiler couldn’t shut the door in the ninth, retiring just two of the eight hitters he faced and allowing two walks and three runs. … Second baseman Joey Wendle, sidelined by a sore right shoulder, was scheduled to play catch for the first time in more than a week Thursday. He underwent an MRI a week ago that he said showed no significant damage. … Outfielder Jaff Decker (oblique) did all activity except take full batting practice. He seems to be progressing well and may still have a chance to battle for a roster spot.

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

MESA, Ariz. — Kendall Graveman feels comfortable with the leadership role that comes with being the A’s Opening Night starter, but he pointed out how all the starters will carry the load together.

“I told BoMel this morning when he told me, I said ‘I’m the No. 1 starter for Opening Night, but then whoever is the second guy is the No. 1 starter for us the next night,’ and that’s the way we have to go about it to be successful,” Graveman said Thursday afternoon.

That’s a message that Graveman says he’s already trying to spread to Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton, the starters who will follow him in the rotation. Oakland’s final two rotation spots are up for grabs.

With Sonny Gray sidelined by injury for what’s expected to be most of April, Graveman — with all of 52 major league starts under his belt — becomes the veteran leader of the A’s staff in the interim. Manager Bob Melvin gave Graveman the official word Thursday morning that he would take the ball April 3 against the Angels at the Coliseum. But shortly after Gray went down with a strained lat muscle March 7, Melvin approached Graveman about being his likely Opening Night guy.

It’s a natural fit. Graveman went 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA last season, and while those aren’t eye-catching numbers, they don’t tell the story of how valuable he was as the A’s lost starter after starter to injury.

Graveman has improved his mental preparation and his physical conditioning since coming over from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. He’s become a meticulous studier to get ready for his starts. He’s picked the brain of veterans such as Gray and Barry Zito, who he played alongside with Triple-A Nashville for part of 2015.

And, not to be overlooked, his stuff and pitch arsenal have improved since he first arrived to the A’s. Though he’s a sinkerballer who relies more on location than velocity, the A’s clocked Graveman as high as 98 miles per hour on the radar gun in his last start.

“He’s kind of on a mission to be one of those guys that pitches at top of the rotation for many years to come,” Melvin said.