How to draw inspiration from the lowly 24-31 A's

784330.jpg

How to draw inspiration from the lowly 24-31 A's

How can the A's possibly follow up Monday night's performance? They scored a season-high 12 runs. Seth Smith tied a career-high with four hits -- he was a homer shy of the cycle. Brandon Inge went 2 for 2, with a homer and four RBIs -- in the second inning alone! Cliff Pennington snapped a career-long 0 for 29 slump with an RBI double and got another hit later. And Jarrod Parker, well all he did was throw a one-hitter against the top offense in the game today.When a team that has been so bad offensively and struggled so mightily against the American League West-leading Rangers erupts like that, unfortunately there is no where to go but down. Yet, down doesn't have to be that far. Maybe the A's can find a healthy medium between scoring zero runs, then nine, zero again, then 12. With their pitching staff, just three of four runs a night will do them wonders. Maybe the A's find a way to build on this performance. After all the quiet nights in the clubhouse during the nine-game losing streak (they aren't allowed to play music after a loss) it has to feel good when they are blasting Weezy, aka Lil Wayne, at ear piercing decibels like they were last night. The A's haven't been good. There is no sugarcoating that. But their 24-31 record hides the fact that there are still good stories to tell. Take Tuesday's starting pitcher Travis Blackley, for example. Here is a guy that got released from the Giants this season after spending 2011 pitching for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. He was picked up as a long reliever, and has earned himself a spot in the starting rotation. There's Collin Cowgill, a guy that was recalled from Sacramento after getting sent down earlier in the season to fill in at center field while Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes were on the disabled list. Both Crisp and Cespedes have since been reinstated, yet Cowgill remains. He earned playing time and a roster spot, and is currently on a seven-game hitting streak. Kila Ka'aihue was claimed off the scrap heap by the A's. He figured to be the first guy shipped out. Now he is the last man standing at first base. Brandon Allen has been designated for assignment, and Daric Barton was optioned to Triple-A. Ka'aihue launched his fourth homer Monday night. Also on Monday, the A's called up left-handed pitcher Sean Doolittle. Last Tuesday he was brought up to Triple-A and was telling me how excited he was to be there. Less than a week later his dream of being a big-leaguer is realized. He was drafted in 2007 as a first baseman, converted to a pitcher this offseason, and in two months, he went all the way from Single-A, to Double-A, to Triple-A, to the Oakland A's.Then there is Josh Reddick, a guy who is having a career year. It is June and he already has 14 homers and five outfield assists. He should be getting All-Star Game recognition, but I am sure A's fans won't mind keeping him their little secret. Reddick's father lost a hand and was declared dead on three occasions after an electrical accident. Today he is a little league baseball coach and is quick to pick up the phone to give Josh pointers. You think Reddick doesn't have reason to be motivated and happy for what he has? Look at the inspiration he draws from his father, and you will know what he is all about. So how do the A's follow up their performance on Monday night? They don't. They just need to find ways to draw inspiration from it, and from within. Sure, they are eight games in the hole to the Rangers in the A.L. West, but they have a chance to make a dent Tuesday. The Rangers starting pitcher for game two of four is Derek Holland. The A's might be catching him at the right time. On Wednesday, Holland allowed eight runs -- all of which came in the second inning -- to the Seattle Mariners. The final score of the game ended up being 21-8, Mariners. As a result of that start, Holland's ERA shot up from 4.05 to 5.11. It is safe to say the mustachioed lefty might still be a bit shell-shocked.

A's spring training Day 10: Canha doubles off Gray in intrasquad game

A's spring training Day 10: Canha doubles off Gray in intrasquad game

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s had four lineups sketched out for two intrasquad games taking place simultaneously Thursday.

You couldn’t help but notice that one of the lineups in particular was packed with Oakland’s regulars, and there were plenty of highlights delivered by notable names during the two-inning game at the A’s minor league facility.

Sonny Gray gave up a run on Mark Canha’s RBI double to right-center in his inning of work but also struck out Ryon Healy with a good breaking ball. Gray’s stuff earned solid reviews from manager Bob Melvin.

Overall, Melvin was pleasantly surprised with some of the hard contact generated by his hitters, who had seen just two days of live batting practice prior to Thursday.

“Canha hits a pitch down that’s moving all over the place to right-center,” Melvin said.

In the same game, Rajai Davis hit a leadoff triple to center off Kendall Graveman and came home on Stephen Vogt’s single. Graveman got Matt Joyce looking on a fastball but gave up some hard contact in a brief 15-pitch outing. He’ll start Sunday’s game against the Angels, so Thursday’s outing acted like a between-start bullpen session.

In the other game, Sean Manaea got his three outs so quickly that they had to extend the inning a bit for him to get his work in. That game was highlighted by a long home run from infield prospect Yairo Munoz off Daniel Coulombe.

Melvin said bench coach Mark Kotsay handled duties of sketching out the rosters for the two intrasquad games, and while it will be interesting to see how Melvin writes out the lineup for Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Chicago Cubs, keep in mind that the early Cactus League games will only feature a handful of regulars in each of them.

PROSPECT WATCH: Shortstop Franklin Barreto, the A’s top-rated prospect, will also see some time at second base this spring but not in the outfield, Melvin said. Barreto has played some center field in winter ball, but general manager David Forst, during an offseason interview with CSN California, said the team envisions Barreto as an infielder. The A’s have Marcus Semien entrenched at shortstop right now, and there’s been some feeling among scouts that Barreto — whose bat is his biggest strength — is better suited for second base long-term anyway. Another highly touted prospect, Richie Martin, is a possible shortstop of the future as well.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s have expressed optimism that reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive in camp shortly after being delayed by the visa process in the Dominican Republic. But Casilla remains day-to-day, with Melvin not giving a timetable for his arrival.

“We were going to slow-play him this spring anyway. He’ll throw some bullpens and probably throw to some hitters before we get him in a game,” Melvin said. “At this point in time I’m still not that concerned. I’ll start to be a little bit if we get into games (and he’s not in camp), but I still think we’re on a good schedule with him.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Oscar-nominated actor Mahershala Ali, an Oakland native who threw out the first pitch at an A’s game last season, arranged for a screening of his movie “Moonlight” on Thursday night for A’s players at a Scottsdale theatre. Ali is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie, which is also up for Best Picture.

“It’s nice of him to think of that and want to set that up,” reliever John Axford said. “I’ve already seen it and I’ll be there again.”

Axford, a movie fanatic and Film & Television major in college, has created a social media buzz in recent years by doing incredibly well predicting the Oscar winners. He has yet to reveal all of his picks for Sunday’s show, but he gives rave reviews to “Moonlight.”

Patience is A's motto with touted 3B prospect Matt Chapman

Patience is A's motto with touted 3B prospect Matt Chapman

MESA, Ariz. — When the A’s finally sent Matt Chapman to the minors at the end of spring training last year, it seemed his return ticket to Oakland wouldn’t be far off.

So good was the young third baseman during his first big league spring camp, it was easy to assume he’d arrive in the majors shortly. But Chapman, the No. 3 prospect in the A’s system, found the road bumpy during a full campaign with Double-A Midland, even as he put together a season that landed him Texas League Player of the Year honors.

Chapman is back for his second spring with the A’s, a year wiser having discovered what it takes to navigate the peaks and valleys of a full professional season.

“I learned that no matter how high or how low you get, it’s important to maintain an even keel,” said Chapman, who only played 80 games in 2015 due to a wrist injury. “You can have a bad week or a bad couple weeks, and it doesn’t ruin your season.”

The A’s believe they have a potential star on their hands, a Gold Glove-caliber defender who can hit for power and eventually become a fixture at the hot corner. Yet their signing of veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe in the winter shows that they also believe Chapman, 23, still has developing to do.

The power numbers were marvelous last year, as Chapman hit the third-most homers in the minors (36) to go with 96 RBI. But he also struck out 173 times in 135 games, dealing with some timing issues that had him swinging through a ton of pitches.

A’s player development officials rave about Chapman’s work ethic and desire to excel. But his manager at Midland, Ryan Christenson, also said Chapman’s electrifying spring performance last year (he led the A’s with six homers) may have worked against him early on when he arrived at Double-A. The A’s took Chapman north with them for the Bay Bridge Series just before Opening Day, giving him a chance to take the field at the Coliseum and AT&T Park.

“You talked to him, and he thought he was gonna go right to Midland and dominate the league and be in the big leagues by July,” Christenson said. “For sure, he thought that. But that didn’t happen, and he struggled and got his butt handed to him. And he understood there was still some work to be done at that level.”

But Christenson liked how Chapman dealt with the adversity, and he was all the more impressed with Chapman’s final stats given that his season wasn’t marked by numerous hot streaks.

“If you watched him it wasn’t a consistent, successful season to the eye,” Christenson said. “Now, the numbers at the end just shows you what kind of special talent he is.”

Chapman, who played 18 games with Triple-A Nashville in a late-season promotion, will be reunited with Christenson this season as Christenson takes over as Nashville’s manager. The A’s brass will be watching closely, though the comments from A’s GM David Forst all offseason stressed a theme of patience with not only Chapman but the team’s other top position-player prospect, middle infielder Franklin Barreto.

“We’re making sure guys are ready when they get here,” Forst said. “Matt has fewer than 100 at-bats at Triple-A. I don’t know what his timeframe is as far as getting to the big leagues, but it’s clear from a development standpoint he still needs some time at Triple-A.”

Christenson said any struggles Chapman had offensively in 2016 never carried over into his play at third base. And Christenson attests to the defensive talent the A’s saw when they drafted Chapman in the first round in 2014 out of Cal State Fullerton.

“One of the best I’ve ever seen,” Christenson said. “He’s lateral, he can go back on a pop-up and make a play. He’s very adept at coming in to barehand the slow roller. You put him over at shortstop in the shift and he can make the play, and the arm is about as good as you’re ever gonna see at third base.”