Manny's personality in midseason form

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Manny's personality in midseason form

Manny Ramirez might be honing his game at the plate, but his personality is in midseason form. Before Monday's game in Sacramento, the veteran slugger emerged unannounced from the clubhouse, wrapped myself and another reporter in his arms and dragged us down the tunnel, saying "Let's go!"Ramirez, who is hitting .258 (8-30), with four RBIs and three walks for Triple-A Sacramento, doesn't appear to be letting the pressures of proving he still belongs in the Major Leagues get to him. He is just enjoying the experience and getting in his at-bats. In his mind, these games don't count anyways. "God gave me the talent, I am just going to go and enjoy it," Ramirez said before Monday's game. "This is a time for me to work. This is a time if I want to hit with two strikes, if I want to swing 3-0, this is the time to do it. Because once you, come up everything changes. "I think that Manny has continued to build on some of his at-bats here," Sacramento outfielder Michael Taylor said. "He's trying to find his rhythm, and his particular swing, and the best version of himself right now. He's tinkering with a few things and rightfully so. He's got time, taking a year and change off is tough to do. It's tough not to play for a few days and hit."
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Manny doesn't seem worried about the statistics. He says he just wants to feel good. Before the interview started he grabbed my voice recorder and proclaimed into the mic, that today he is going to hit a home run. Ramirez is eligible to return to the Major Leagues on May 30, after serving a 50-game drug suspension. He isn't sure if the A's will come calling for him on that day."It's going to take time," Ramirez said. "I am getting there slowly, the only way you are going to get there is going in there and facing pitchers, you know getting yourself out. Something is going to click and then you are there.""It depends on the need for the club up there," Sacramento manager Darren Bush said before the game. "It depends on how he feels. There are a lot of factors and variables that go into that. As far as him being ready offensively, he had a good spring, swung the bat well in spring, he's getting a some hits here. It just depends how he feels really."Some of the young players on the River Cats roster might not want to see Manny rush to the big leagues either. Having the soon-to-be 40 veteran who has 555 career home runs around is a learning experience."I think that guys are watching how he goes about his business, Bush said. "Guys are watching that even though he is loose and relaxed, the guy works. He works extremely hard. He is out in the field running, he is in the cage taking swings. He is watching video he is talking about hitting constantly."When Ramirez isn't training and talking about hitting, he is playing practical jokes that keep the team loose. "Yesterday we had kangaroo court," outfielder Michael Taylor said. "We make fun of some of the Australian guys because when they get fired up we can't really understand what they are saying. So Manny in true Manny fashion, in the middle of the court screams 'speak english' which is pretty funny because sometimes you can confuse what Manny is saying too." Ramirez may give off the vibe that he doesn't care, or that he isn't serious, but in fact he does. Everybody raves about his work ethic. His presence will definitely make an impact in the A's clubhouse behind the scenes. Whether or not he can help the A's on the field remains to be seen. Ramirez hit .059 in 17 at-bats in 2011 for the Rays. Ramirez however, seems to have put the past behind him. "I'm just going out there and swinging and getting my rhythm," Ramirez said. "Have fun, and enjoy the game like I always do and move on."

Despite solid start, Cotton admits to thinking about no-hitter: "It just bit me'

Despite solid start, Cotton admits to thinking about no-hitter: "It just bit me'

NEW YORK — Keep peeling away the layers of Jharel Cotton’s start Saturday, and there are several different ways to view it.

The A’s rookie pitched into the sixth inning despite enduring big-time command issues and giving up a run in the first.

He took a no-hitter into the sixth despite not having the feel for his best pitch, the changeup.

He was on the verge of completing six mostly dominant innings before losing a handle on things in the sixth, allowing a two-out rally that culminated with Matt Holliday’s two-run homer. That blast wound up being the difference in Oakland’s 3-2 loss to the Yankees.

It was an eventful 5 2/3-inning outing for Cotton in his return from the minors. He admitted he was very aware he had a no-hitter going, though it also must have registered that with his pitch count at 88 entering the sixth, he wasn’t going to get a chance to complete history.

“I wanted to just go out there and get (through) the sixth inning with no hits,” Cotton said. “I guess I thought about it too much and it just bit me.”

Taking the mound for his first big league start since being optioned to Triple-A on May 11, Cotton was also making his first start at Yankee Stadium. He couldn’t find the strike zone in the first, allowing a walk, a hit batsman and a wild pitch that led to Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly and an early lead for New York.

But then he settled down and found a groove, retiring 15 out of 16 hitters for a stretch from the first all the way until the sixth. That was all the more impressive given that Cotton did not have the effective changeup that’s usually the centerpiece to his game plan.

Catcher Josh Phegley said he was encouraged by Cotton’s effort in his first start back from Triple-A.

“He was kind of sporadic at the beginning, so I was just calling a lot of cutters because that was our strike pitch,” Phegley said. “You’d like to have the changeup because it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen. But he’s got the stuff to do without one of his pitches and still compete and put us in a good position.”

The game turned when Cotton couldn’t slam the door in the sixth after retiring the first two hitters. He walked Gary Sanchez and then caught too much plate with a 1-0 cutter to Holliday, who signed a one-year $13 million contract with New York in the offseason. He drilled a two-run homer to left-center, and Cotton was lifted after Castro singled on his next batter.

“I didn’t want to walk that guy,” Cotton said. “You don’t wanna put guys on base with free passes and I did that, and it came back to haunt me.”

With Cotton’s pitch count crossing 100 in the sixth, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he had no second thoughts about not going to his bullpen earlier. Cotton was charged with three runs on just two hits with three walks and five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

“I was fine with him to get through the inning. That probably would have been it,” Melvin said. “You don’t take a guy out just because he’s got 100 pitches. He was pitching well.”

Cotton will be an important factor for the A’s moving forward given the injuries to starters Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman, with the former going on the 10-day disabled list Saturday and the latter expected to join him in the next day or two.

 

Tempers boil over as A's strike out 14 times in defeat

Tempers boil over as A's strike out 14 times in defeat

NEW YORK — As their frustration mounted inning after inning, the A’s afternoon seemed destined to end in ugly and disappointing fashion.

So it was that Matt Joyce walked away from home plate visibly baffled after a game-ending strikeout that cemented a 3-2 loss to the Yankees on Saturday. The A’s struck out 14 times in a game that included ejections for manager Bob Melvin and second baseman Jed Lowrie, and lots of puzzled looks over the strike zone of home plate umpire Will Little.

Lowrie was doing a slow burn throughout all of his at-bats. He struck out looking in three of his four plate appearances, and if you go by the location of pitches as presented by the mlb.com Gameday tracker, he had a justifiable gripe.

It came to a head when Little rang him up in the eighth inning, with Lowrie arguing and getting a quick ejection, the first of his 10-year career.

“All I’m gonna say is I got the bat taken out of my hands three times today,” he said afterward.

Later in the eighth, Trevor Plouffe appeared to perhaps hold up on a check swing. It didn’t matter, as Little rang him up on a Dellin Betances slider that appeared high. Melvin got ejected protesting from the dugout and then went out to get a few more words in.

“A lot of frustration, in big situations,” the manager said.

On the game’s final at-bat, Joyce worked the count to 3-1 against Betances and was so sure he’d gotten ball four that he unsnapped his shin guard in anticipation of taking first. But Little called strike two. Joyce swung through the next pitch for the final out.

By the end, the Yankees had pocketed a victory despite collecting just two hits, including Matt Holliday’s two-run homer off Jharel Cotton (3-5) in the sixth that snapped a 1-1 tie. Cotton had a no-hitter going until then.

New York’s odd victory also ended an odd trend between these teams — the road team had won each of the previous eight games they’d played.

Ryon Healy’s RBI double scored Khris Davis from first to tie the game 1-1 in the top of the sixth. Holliday, who spent the first half of 2009 with Oakland before being shipped to St. Louis, homered to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead. Then A’s catcher Josh Phegley came back with a solo shot in the seventh to bring Oakland within a run.

The A’s have split the first two of this three-game series in the Bronx. But you can’t spotlight their dissatisfaction with Saturday’s strike zone without also pointing out they struck out 13 times on Friday night too. They’ll need to make more of their at-bats to take Sunday’s rubber match.

“It is what it is,” Phegley said when asked to sum up the day. “We were no-hitting the Yankees and losing. I think we wanted a little more offensive production but that’s just the way the game went. We just didn’t make the best of the opportunities we had. Obviously I feel like like there were some walks we had, we worked the counts pretty well, and it didn’t go in our favor. That’s just the way it goes.”