Let down by 'single most important aspect' of pitching, A's go 0-6 on road trip

Let down by 'single most important aspect' of pitching, A's go 0-6 on road trip

SEATTLE — There are various problems to diagnose over a six-game losing streak, but a glaring issue of late is the inability of A’s starters to work deep into games.

It happened again Sunday, as rookie Daniel Gossett lasted just 3 2/3 innings, the bullpen got taxed and the A’s were pounded 10-2 by the Seattle Mariners. Reflecting on his team’s 0-6 road trip overall, A’s manager Bob Melvin said: “It’s terrible. I can’t remember the last time we went out on a road trip and didn’t come home with a win. And you feel bad for our fans that come and support us here too, because we get some fans here and in Anaheim. And to not get one out of it is pretty disappointing.”

It’s going to be tough for the A’s to stay in games consistently when Melvin is forced to call on his relievers so early in games. Gossett’s issue was simple: An inability to throw enough strikes. He labored through 89 pitches, just 46 of which were strikes.

“It’s the single most important aspect of pitching,” said Gossett, who walked a career-high five. “I wasn’t able to do that and I got exposed. I just gotta be able to locate better, find a way to locate better.”

On Saturday, fellow rookie Jharel Cotton fell behind hitters consistently and went just four-plus innings. A’s starters went four or fewer innings in three of the six games on the just-completed trip.

Oakland’s rotation ranks 10th in the American League in innings pitched. Their relief corps ranks middle-of-the-pack in innings — a manageable workload when viewed from that standpoint. But the earlier the ‘pen gets called upon in games, roles get thrown out of whack and the depth gets strained.

It’s no wonder Melvin said Sunday that pitching reinforcements are on the way once Triple-A Nashville’s season wraps up Monday.

But at some point, it’s on the A’s starters to simply throw more strikes and take some of the burden off the relievers.

“When you’re bouncing some fastballs, it means you’re just not commanding the baseball,” Melvin said, “and you have to at this level or you’re not gonna get away with it. You may get away with it for a little bit, but you won’t sustain it, especially for a starter.”

Could Franklin Barreto get a look in center field for A's?


Could Franklin Barreto get a look in center field for A's?

Don’t count out top prospect Franklin Barreto as a possibility for the A’s in center field.

It’s long been speculated that the middle infielder might eventually get a look in center, and the idea has at least been discussed in team circles. It’s tied partially to whether the A’s exercise their $6 million club option on Jed Lowrie and bring him back as their regular second baseman in 2018.

Regardless, the battle to be Oakland’s everyday center fielder will be one of the A’s most intriguing storylines next spring. Grady Fuson, a special assistant to general manager David Forst who spends much of the season evaluating the team’s farm system, discussed several of the team’s center field options in the latest A’s Insider Podcast.

So much revolves around the health of 22-year-old Dustin Fowler, one of three prospects the A’s received from the Yankees for Sonny Gray. He’ll spend the winter continuing to rehab from a devastating knee injury suffered in his very first major league game in June while still with New York.

The A’s are hopeful he’ll be ready for spring training and believe he can be a solution in center.

“Fowler certainly is the guy we made this trade for, and I think everybody, top to bottom, in the system is counting on him taking that spot,” Fuson said. “But we all know he’s been hurt. How he comes back, who knows? Boog (Powell’s) been doing a very good job for us. And there’s other options.”

The 21-year-old Barreto, who has split time between second and short this season at Triple-A and with the big club, played some center in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2015. He’s always talked with enthusiasm about the idea.

The A’s experimented with another highly touted young infielder, Yairo Munoz, in center field in the minors this season.

“(We’ve) had discussions about taking Munoz out there, which we’ve done,” Fuson said. “We’ve had discussions about maybe Franklin Barreto, depending on what happens at second here at end of the year, over the winter, and early in camp.”

Lowrie has enjoyed a very strong season with Oakland, and A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has said the team is seriously considering picking up his option. Having Barreto be an option in center could be a way to keep him in the majors in 2018 even if Lowrie returns at second base.

Fuson stressed that the idea of Barreto in center hasn’t advanced past the early-discussion phase. No decisions have been made.

What’s interesting is that, in a short time, the A’s have gone from scarce few center field options to suddenly having several. Powell and Fowler may enter the spring as front runners, but Munoz, Jaycob Brugman, Chad Pinder, Jake Smolinski and, perhaps, Barreto may all have a shot too.

The A’s also used their first-round pick in June on high school center fielder Austin Beck, who represents another option down the road.

Bob Melvin provides update on Bruce Maxwell after 'pretty good shot' to face


Bob Melvin provides update on Bruce Maxwell after 'pretty good shot' to face

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell has a history with foul tips and concussion concerns, so there was cause for concern after he took a direct shot during Wednesday's game against the Tigers.

With one out in the ninth inning, Tigers shortstop fouled a ball square into Maxwell's facemask. The A's catcher immediately fell backwards. As manager Bob Melvin and the team trainer checked on him, he appeared dazed and rubbed his eyes. In an attempt to try to stay in the game, reliever Liam Hendriks tossed two warmup pitches. Maxwell missed the first one, but even after he caught the second one, it was clear he wasn't right and was removed from the game.

Afterwards, Melvin was asked about Maxwell's status.

"He went through all the protocol. It doesn't look like a concussion at this point. We'll probably know more in the next couple of days," Melvin told reporters in Detroit. "Took a pretty good shot. More sore on his face because of where the impact was, which was right in the middle of his face."

Josh Phegley replaced Maxwell for the final two outs of the game. Hendriks managed to close out the 3-2 win for the A's.