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

692490.jpg

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 43: Shore K's Trout in surprise big league start

A's spring training Day 43: Shore K's Trout in surprise big league start

TEMPE, Ariz. — Rather than join his minor league teammates for workouts like usual, Logan Shore got word Tuesday morning he would take the ball for the A’s against the Los Angeles Angels.

A few hours later, Shore was striking out Mike Trout to highlight his impressive four-inning outing. What an experience it was for Shore, a right-hander drafted last summer in the second round out of the University of Florida.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “There’s not really any words to describe that.”

The A’s scratched No. 5 starter Raul Alcantara, opting to throw him in a minor league game rather than let a division opponent get another look at him for scouting-report purposes. That presented Shore with a surprise opportunity.

He responded with four innings of one-run ball, holding the Angels to two hits. The game would take an ugly turn as the A’s bullpen got lit up in a 14-3 loss. But Shore’s outing was a glimpse of what Oakland might have to look forward to with the 22-year-old. The righty didn’t come out of college with the same hype as Florida teammate A.J. Puk, who the A’s drafted sixth overall last June. But he’s thought to be more polished than Puk at this stage.

Shore went 0-2 with a 2.57 ERA in seven starts with short-season Vermont in his pro debut. This spring, he’s been grouped with high Single-A Stockton, but he hasn’t received his official regular-season assignment yet.

“That’s the kind of lineup that gets your attention a little bit,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I thought he threw the ball really well. He had great command of his fastball, a backdoor sinker, good changeup, good slider. He probably got a little bit tired at the end, but he was very impressive. That’s the first time I got to see him throw.”

Shore pitched in relief for the A’s earlier this spring as a minor league extra, so that helped him keep his nerves in check Tuesday. Still, it was a different challenge tackling what closely resembled the Angels’ regular-season lineup, which features Trout and Albert Pujols in the meat of it.

Trout struck out and flied to right against Shore. Pujols flied to right and singled.

“I grew up watching all those guys, so it’s kind of cool to get to pitch against them,” he said.

HEALTH UPDATES: Left fielder Khris Davis and third baseman Trevor Plouffe, both nursing minor injuries, won’t return to the field until the Bay Bridge Series which starts Thursday night at AT&T Park, Melvin said. Plouffe has missed the past few games with a groin injury and Davis has a right quad issue.

“We’ll just bubble wrap them right now and send them home,” Melvin cracked.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt took another step in his Tommy John recovery with a 30-pitch session that included two sets of 15 pitches, simulating two innings with a break in between.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s play their Cactus League finale Wednesday on the road against the Cubs, but most of the game will feature minor leaguers. All of the players who are heading north to face the Giants will be leaving for the airport sometime in the latter stages of the game.

On that topic, the A’s announced the 43 players that will make up their Bay Bridge roster. It includes 30 players from the 40-man roster, six non-roster invitees and seven extras from minor league camp. Oakland officially has 36 players still in camp, with Saturday the deadline to cut down to the final 25-man roster.

ODDS AND ENDS: After Shore left the game, the Angels struck for five runs in the fifth against Liam Hendriks. … The next inning, highly touted prospect Grant Holmes gave up five runs (four earned) in two-thirds of an inning. Holmes was one of three righties acquired from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade. Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas were the others.

 

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

TEMPE, Ariz. — The A’s moving truck has already left the desert, and the team will be bolting for the airport after Wednesday’s Cactus League finale.

Spring training is quickly drawing to a close, with only the three-game Bay Bridge Series remaining before the games start to count. To mark that reality, here’s a look at the five most burning questions Oakland faced back when camp started in mid-February, and what kind of answers have materialized since …

1) Does Sonny Gray return to his old self?
The A’s absorbed their first major injury blow early when Gray, their potential Opening Night starter, went down with a strained lat muscle after a March 7 start. It wasn’t exactly what the right-hander had in mind coming off a 2016 season that sent him to the disabled list twice. Encouraging news came last week when Gray was allowed to start throwing again one week ahead of schedule.

When exactly he returns is tied to how soon he gets back on the mound. He’s been playing catch out to 105 feet, but manager Bob Melvin stressed the A’s aren’t going to rush things with Gray. Until further notice, the assumption is still that Gray will miss most of April.

2) Can a ‘healthy’ outlook be sustained?
Given what you read in the above item, obviously things haven’t gotten off to a great start in this department. Jake Smolinski, a candidate to make the team as an extra outfielder, showed up to camp with a sore right shoulder and required labrum surgery. Second baseman Joey Wendle, who was ticketed for Triple-A to begin with, also has been set back by a shoulder injury. But the focus, from an injury standpoint, is on Gray. If he were to miss just the first month of the regular season, that’s an absence the A’s should be able to cover. Any longer than that, and his presence really will be missed.

After last year’s roster-wide rash of injuries, better health is the most important first step in the A’s escaping the American League West cellar.

3) Who wins the closer’s job?
Six weeks of spring training has yet to reveal an answer here. If Melvin knows who his closer is, he isn’t saying publicly. Lefty Sean Doolittle, one of the veteran anchors of the relief corps, said Melvin hasn’t discussed roles yet with the relievers themselves. Expect more news on that during the Bay Bridge Series, which runs Thursday through Saturday. Of the four assumed ninth-inning candidates — Doolittle, John Axford, Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson — none has been lights-out in Cactus League games.

The guess here is Madson, the A’s main closer last season, gets the first crack at the role this year as well.

“I don’t even think it’s on anybody’s radar,” Doolittle said Tuesday. “That’s one of the things that makes our bullpen effective. We’re not as attached to those roles as people might think.”

4) Where does Ryon Healy fit into the puzzle?
He fits in a little at first base, a little at third base and a little at DH. What we know is that Healy’s bat will be in the lineup regularly, it’s just a matter of where. Melvin spread his time pretty evenly between all three spots. Healy responded with a terrific spring at the plate. Entering Tuesday, he ranked third in the Cactus League with 16 RBI, the most spring RBI by an Athletic since Kevin Kouzmanoff also had 16 in 2010. Healy will play first base against lefties, platooning with Yonder Alonso. He’ll spell Trevor Plouffe at third. But it stands to reason a large chunk of his time will have to come at DH.

“I think he’s handled it well,” Melvin said. “It’s not easy, especially for a younger guy that was originally a first baseman. He worked as hard as anybody last year to make himself a third baseman. Now, it’s a little bit different for him and he knew that coming into camp. I think he’s handled his time wisely, worked hard at both positions, and he knows he has to move around a little bit this year.”

5) Can the A’s get their mojo back?
If a positive clubhouse vibe plays any part in a team turning around its on-field fortunes, the A’s are off to a good start. The early indications are that newcomers Plouffe, Matt Joyce, Casilla and Rajai Davis — those latter two are in their second stints with the A’s — all add some nice leadership qualities and mesh well with the returning vets. True, you can’t really read too much in spring training, when everyone always gets along in the spirit and optimism of a new season. But the A’s do seem to have better components up and down their roster to lead to a healthier season-long chemistry.

Just as you’ve read in the past, getting off to a strong start in the standings is the most effective way to maintain that chemistry.