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


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.

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.

A's name Kendall Graveman 2017 Opening Day starter

A's name Kendall Graveman 2017 Opening Day starter

MESA, Ariz. -- Kendall Graveman was announced as the A's Opening Night starter, confirmation of a move that had become obvious the more that spring training progressed.

With Sonny Gray set to begin the season on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, Graveman is the veteran presence in the rotation and coming off the best 2016 season of any Oakland starter.

His performance this spring only strengthened his status. In his last outing, he threw six innings and faced just one batter over the minimum in that span.

Manager Bob Melvin said Sean Manaea will be the No. 2 starter followed by Jharel Cotton. The last two rotation spots are still open, though Melvin acknowledged that Andrew Triggs would have the inside track on one if the season began tomorrow.

Jesse Hahn and Raul Alcantara are also competing for those jobs. Alcantara takes the ball against Milwaukee on Thursday.