A's notebook: McCarthy's the man; quandary at third base

678910.jpg

A's notebook: McCarthy's the man; quandary at third base

News of Day: When the Athletics open the 2012 season in Tokyo, it'll be Brandon McCarthy on the mound."I thought it was natural based on what he accomplished last year," A's manager Bob Melvin said, in officially announcing what we've all been speculating this spring.Melvin cited McCarthy's focus, dependability and natural ability to pound the strike zone as attributes that led to his decision. And when discussing McCarthy's road to recovery, fighting through injuries throughout his career to finally 'arrive' last year, Melvin said, "credit to him.""He's transformed himself in a number of ways ... when you go through injuries, you are aware of your body. He's a smart guy."RELATED: Brandon McCarthy 2011 game logs
McCarthy is also one of the most routine guys you'll come across in the game, which is saying a lot if you know baseball players.The day after he pitches, he's already started his gameplan for his next start. And as Melvin explained, you don't approach the righty on the day of his outing: "He's focused."Melvin compared him to one of his other former pitchers, Curt Schilling (minus the bloody sock...sorry, I had to go there). It's a comparison to be proud of for the 28-year-old McCarthy.And Now There Are Two: Bartolo Colon will be in the 2-spot of the A's rotation.Melvin cited his experience and mechanics, the way they "stand out...he reads hitters really well."If his shoulder rehab continues on course, Dallas Braden will fit into that No. 3 slot come mid-April, early May.The four and five spots, and still that potential third slot, remain up for grabs.'I Don't Know' at third: The A's weren't able to escape their injury plagued ways this spring. Scott Sizemore went down with a left knee injury the first day of full squad workouts. It's now been confirmed he'll miss the entire 2012 season due to an ACL injury. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks, when the swelling goes down, and surgery will be scheduled then.RELATED: A's Sizemore done for the year with torn ACL
"I feel for him," Melvin said, "Scott put in the work for a breakout season."That means the Athletics' utility men Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard will be getting looks at third, while rotating throughout other infield positions.And it's time to hang up the catcher's gear for Josh Donaldson; he will be getting exclusive looks at the hot corner. Melvin has frequently mentioned Donaldson's athleticism over the past week, and hecomplimented his bat this spring.And movie studios, get ready... we could have another heartwarming story of the oldest rookie trying to make his dream come true as 33-year old Wes Timmons might finally get his big break."You look at his numbers and you're puzzled why he hasn't had a shot at the big league level," Melvin explained.More on the journeyman tonight on SportsNet Central.Injury Updates: Brad Peacock was shut down yesterday with back stiffness. But, as Melvin predicted, it's not a serious situation. The righty will face hitters once more, then be worked into game action.Play Ball: Speaking of game action, the A's will play an intrasquad game March 1, noon at Phoenix Municipal. It'll be an 8-pitcher, 4-inning game.

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

OAKLAND — Some 10-9 records are better than others, and so it is that the A’s can hit the road for a nine-game trip feeling pretty good about themselves.

Their just-completed homestand began with Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman leaving a game early and landing on the disabled list. That was coupled with news that shortstop Marcus Semien would be lost for two months or more with a fractured wrist.

The A’s responded to those developments with a five-game winning streak that was halted by Sunday’s 11-1 rout at the hands of the Seattle Mariners.

The A’s went 5-4 on the homestand, holding their ground after a heavy dose of injury misfortune, and now the outlook changes just a bit. The focus shifts from the players joining the D.L. to those that could soon return to provide a boost.

Graveman, who has a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to throw off the mound Monday. If that goes well, expect him to be activated sometime in the early portion of the upcoming trip. Sonny Gray, who has been out since injuring a side muscle early in Cactus League games, is set to throw Thursday for Triple-A Nashville after an encouraging rehab outing Saturday for Single-A Stockton.

If Gray comes out of Thursday’s start well, look for the 2015 All-Star to join the active roster and pitch sometime against Minnesota in the final series of this road trip. Nothing can be taken for granted until both pitchers actually return healthy, but it’s a promising scenario to possibly add two starters of their caliber as April turns to May.

“I think any time you look up and you’re over .500 and you’ve had a great homestand and you’re missing your best two pitchers, that’s something to be pleased about,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Getting Kendall back is huge. And Sonny obviously did great last night, and felt great, which is more important than the results.

“We’re excited to get those two guys back but in the meantime, we’re gonna continue to keep playing the way we are because we’re playing really good baseball and we’ll just keep things rolling.”

It was clear early on Sunday that a five-game winning streak wouldn’t reach six. The Mariners led 2-0 in the third when Andrew Triggs missed location on a 1-0 sinker and Taylor Motter launched a grand slam over the wall in left-center.

Triggs, who excelled at missing the fat part of bats over his first three starts, didn’t have the feel for his cutter Sunday. When he fell behind to Motter, the cutter is normally a pitch he would have gone to had it been working for him.

“I wasn’t commanding well,” he said. “I didn’t wanna go 1-0 to 2-0. I felt better going with the sinker. I got it down, but missed location in and out. In a perfect world, the cutter would have been great to get a groundout.”

But to this point, the A’s rotation has held firm without Gray and with the short-term absence of Graveman. Perhaps the biggest test moving forward is whether an offense that is tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits can continue to produce consistently with Semien’s absence, particularly without anyone having established themselves as the regular leadoff man.

A’s manager Bob Melvin likes what he’s seen from his team in light of the injuries.

“Every game we go out there there’s an expectation to win,” Melvin said, “and when you win multiple games in a row, you get that feeling and it’s a little more significant. So hopefully we can carry that on to the road trip. As a group, we’ve been able to manage these injuries here recently, and once we start getting guys back it’s gonna be a good thing for us.”

Instant Replay: Mariners mash Triggs, A's win streak ends at five

Instant Replay: Mariners mash Triggs, A's win streak ends at five

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – That pristine ERA wasn’t going to last forever for Andrew Triggs, and it was no secret why things took a wayward turn for the A’s right-hander Sunday.

His command deserted him in the top of the third against Seattle, and that led to a disastrous inning that told the story in an 11-1 loss that halted the A’s five-game winning streak.

Triggs, who hadn’t allowed a single earned run in winning his first three starts of 2017, walked Robinson Cano to load the bases in the third, then issued another free pass to Nelson Cruz that forced in a run and put the Mariners up 2-0. After striking out Daniel Vogelbach, Triggs caught too much plate with a 1-0 pitch and Taylor Motter drilled it for a grand slam that made it 6-0 and put this one out of reach with the way Yovani Gallardo was pitching.

Gallardo (1-2) gave up just four hits over 6 1/3 innings as the Mariners prevented the A’s from completing their first home sweep of a four-game series since July 3-6, 2014, when they took four from Toronto.

Seattle turned it into a rout as Nelson Cruz belted a three-run homer in the seventh off Raul Alcantara, who was left in to eat up innings and surrendered two***more runs in the ninth.

Triggs (3-1), in a season-opening rotation for the first time in his major league career, opened the year by throwing 17 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. That was the longest such season-opening streak by a starting pitcher in Oakland history. His ERA went from 0.00 to 2.42 with Sunday’s outing.

The A’s (10-9) finished 5-4 on their nine-game homestand that was shortened by one game due to a rainout Easter Sunday.

Starting pitching report

The first batter of the game was a bad omen for Triggs as he hit Jarrod Dyson to put the speedster on base. Dyson stole second and Cano knocked a run-scoring single to right field that quickly brought Triggs’ earned-run streak to an end. The right-hander was charged with six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits with four strikeouts and the two walks.

Bullpen report

Daniel Coulombe entered in relief of Triggs in the fifth and provided 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Then Alcantara, who was replaced in the rotation by Jesse Hahn on the last road trip, was left in to soak up three innings to save the bullpen any more wear and tear in a lopsided game. He gave up five runs in three innings and walked two.

At the plate

The A’s, after falling behind early, couldn’t muster anything against Gallardo, who the Mariners acquired in an offseason trade from the Orioles. Their only run came in the seventh, when Ryon Healy led off with a double, moved to third on Trevor Plouffe’s single and scored on Matt Joyce’s sacrifice fly off reliever Tony Zych.

In the field

Neither team committed an error, making it five games in a row that the A’s have gone errorless. Gallardo was aided by an outstanding diving snag by third baseman Mike Freeman in the sixth. Matt Olson, drawing a start in right field for the A’s, made a sliding catch that turned into a double play when Daniel Vogelbach wandered too far off first base.

Attendance

The homestand finale drew 24,165 fans.

Up next

The A’s take Monday off and then begin a nine-game road trip against the Angels on Tuesday. The opener pits Jesse Hahn (1-1, 3.00) against J.C. Ramirez (2-2, 6.46). On Wednesday, it’s Sean Manaea (1-1, 4.43) against Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 4.98). Then Jharel Cotton (2-2, 4.76) matches up against Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 4.76) in Thursday’s finale. All three games begin at 7:05 p.m. and air on NBC Sports California.