A's give up five HRs, drop exhibition opener to Mariners

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A's give up five HRs, drop exhibition opener to Mariners

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PHOENIX -- Manny Ramirez saw just three pitches and took two swings in his Oakland debut. He never got the ball out of the infield. Still, just being there seemed enough for now."I feel good," he said afterward. "I make contact."Then he laughed and laughed.The suspended slugger grounded into a double play and bounced out in the Athletics' 8-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners in their spring opener on Friday.

Ramirez will have plenty of opportunities to refine his form. He will have turned 40 by the time he's sat out the first 50 games of the season for violating MLB's substance abuse policy.Jesus Montero, the touted 22-year-old acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees for Michael Pineda, hit one of Seattle's five home runs. But Montero left in the fifth inning after being hit by a foul.Actually, Montero got hit twice in nearly the same place."He's OK," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "He got hit in the jaw a couple of times. I don't know that I've ever seen that happen two times in a row like that. The first one got him pretty good but obviously the second one right on top of that, so we got him out of there."The A's and Mariners play the major league opener on March 28 in Tokyo.Montero, who also had an error when he dropped a foul ball on a windy afternoon, was one of the few regulars the Mariners brought to the Phoenix Municipal Stadium.Seattle got some big hits, a nice sign for an offense that was awful last year. Montero, Michael Saunders and Carlos Peguero each hit two-run homers and Luis Rodriguez and Johermyn Chavez added solo shots.Ramirez, his trademark locks falling below his helmet, drew a loud mix of boos and cheers when he stepped to the plate in the first inning to face Blake Beaven with a runner on first and one out. On the second pitch, he hit a sharp grounder right to the shortstop, who easily converted the double play.Three innings later, Ramirez led off the fourth and grounded out sharply to second on the first pitch.Someone said he probably didn't plan on hard grounders when he returns to the majors this season."You got that right," he said. "It's been a long time since I haven't faced nobody, but tomorrow's another day. Tomorrow I'll do better."Actually, it will be two days before he has a chance to do better. Manager Bob Melvin said his plan is to play Ramirez every other day through the spring. Then Ramirez will have to stay in extended spring training, with some intermittent trips to Oakland to work out with the team, before he regains his eligibility to play.Ramirez had just 17 at-bats at the start of the season last year with Tampa Bay before leaving with a suspension looming.Before Friday's game, Melvin praised Ramirez's efforts this spring."He's been terrific here," Melvin said. "Every day he tells me how lucky he is to be here and how appreciative he is to be here. He's one of the first ones in the cage every day and one of the last ones to leave. As many younger players and the turnover that we have here, to be able to have an example like that with the history and the numbers that he has makes it pretty easy to get guys to work here."That probably wouldn't have been the description for Ramirez in his final days with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and certainly not in his rocky time in Boston. But Ramirez seems to be cherishing this opportunity."He's certainly not getting paid like he used to," Melvin said, "and he knows that each and every day he's got to prove himself to get to the next step of potentially having him around after 50 games. So, so far, so good."Ramirez said that he felt better than he expected."At least I was seeing the ball pretty good," he said.And he said he loves the uniform."I like the white uniform. It's beautiful," he said. "My friends, they'll be calling, Man, you look so good in green.'"

With division rivals dominating rumor mill, how will A's respond?

With division rivals dominating rumor mill, how will A's respond?

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As you ponder what moves the A’s might make in the near future, keep an eye on what’s taking place with the teams they’re trying to chase down in the American League West.

The Astros and Rangers, who look like the division’s top two teams on paper, are in the thick of some of the juiciest rumors circulating on the first day of baseball’s winter meetings.

Houston already has made several impact additions this offseason, including signing former Athletic Josh Reddick to a four-year $52 million contract. The Astros, coming off a disappointing third-place finish in 2016, have also traded for catcher Brian McCann and signed outfielders Carlos Beltran and Nori Aoki, plus right-hander Charlie Morton to fortify their rotation.

Now the Astros are on the hunt for a top-flight starter to complement 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Reportedly they are a major player to land White Sox ace Chris Sale — destined to be the most talked-about name throughout these meetings — but it’s believed Houston doesn’t want to part with young infielder Alex Bregman, which might thwart a trade for the big lefty.

The Rangers, two-time defending AL West champs, also are looking for an ace-type addition to their starting staff with the possibility that Yu Darvish could leave as a free agent following this season. But Texas also has been linked to free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion, and gets mentioned in trade rumors involving outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Billy Hamilton.

It’s no wonder the Rangers are on the lookout for hitters — they’ve already lost Beltran to free agency and could watch fellow outfielders Ian Desmond and Carlos Gomez and first baseman Mitch Moreland walk as well. One way or another, expect Texas’ roster to look drastically different in 2017.

The Seattle Mariners, who made a 10-win improvement last season over 2015, are very much in the market for a rotation upgrade of their own, and they’ve been aggressive with offseason moves under general manager Jerry Dipoto.

Don’t forget about the Angels, who are searching far and wide for a second baseman. If Los Angeles gets better health from its starting rotation this season, that alone could make the Angels more of a division threat.

How does all of this pertain to the A’s?

It demonstrates that climbing the ladder in the AL West won’t be an easy task for a club coming off consecutive seasons in the cellar. The teams expected to fight atop the division are aggressively trying to get better. And surely A’s officials take notice as they weigh whether to make significant moves to improve for 2017 or take a step back, evaluate more of their young talent in the upcoming season and lay groundwork for the future.

To that end, right-hander Sonny Gray’s name figures to surface throughout the four-day winter meetings, taking place just outside the nation’s capital.

The Atlanta Braves, an up-and-coming team that’s been linked to Sale and other top pitchers, have interest in Gray. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Braves and A’s discussed Gray but that Atlanta found the A’s asking price too extravagant, even though it didn’t include stud shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson.

The Braves do have some talented young center fielders — Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith among them — and given the A’s great need at that position, it stands to reason at least one of those players would surface in talks between the clubs. Whether the Braves would part with either is another question.

A's outfielder Khris Davis to play for Mexico in World Baseball Classic

A's outfielder Khris Davis to play for Mexico in World Baseball Classic

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Khris Davis confirmed Monday that he will play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic this spring.

The A’s left fielder, who led Oakland with 42 home runs and 102 RBI last season, was also on a preliminary list for Team USA, and he’d been weighing which country to play for.

“I’m just excited to represent Mexico and felt I should be loyal,” Davis told CSN California in a phone interview. “I’m flattered that Team USA invited me and was considering me, but at the end of the day they weren’t going to guarantee playing time like Mexico was. … (Mexico) has been on me for years, since before I was even a big leaguer.”

Davis was born in Southern California, but his mother, Sonia Alarcon, is from Ensenada, which makes him eligible to play for Mexico. He was exposed to the country’s baseball culture as a youth while traveling with his father, Rodney, who was a scout for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.

“His mom is from Ensenada, I think he was proud to say that,” Team Mexico manager Edgar Gonzalez said. “People didn’t know that, and his mom and his whole family are going to be very proud of him to represent the country that they grew up in.”

Gonzalez’s brother, Dodgers star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, will also play for Mexico, and Edgar has visions of Davis combining with Adrian as part of a potent heart of the order.

“It’s a 42-home run bat in the middle of the lineup, which is pretty impressive,” Gonzalez said. “Those are impressive numbers for somebody in that stadium (The Coliseum).”

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna also is expected to suit up for Mexico, and Davis said he’s hopeful that a good friend of his, Orioles pitcher Yovani Gallardo, also will be a teammate.

Mexico is scheduled to begin first-round play March 9 in Jalisco, so Davis will report to spring training with the A’s before leaving to play in the WBC. Major league clubs can’t prevent their players from participating in the event, although factors are taken into consideration if there is an injury risk. A’s general manager David Forst said early in the offseason that he had no issues with Oakland players taking part in the WBC.