A's notes: Coliseum staged for playoff atmosphere, etc.

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A's notes: Coliseum staged for playoff atmosphere, etc.

PROGRAMMING ALERT: Coverage of A's-Mariners begins at 6:30, followed by game action at 7:05, exclusively on Comcast SportsNet California!

OAKLAND -- The A's are preparing for their biggest game of the season, but you wouldn't know it in the team clubhouse. Brandon Inge is in the building, drawing smiles from one and all. Brandon Moss is boasting about a new bat he's trying. The team is loose.After 17 of their last 20 games on the road, the A's are back in Oakland for the remainder of the regular season."It feels like we've been gone for a month," manager Bob Melvin said.The A's won 12 of those 20 games, but despite success few thought they'd enjoy this year, the A's head-down approach to grinding out every day will remain."We've done very well," Melvin said. "We got ourselves back here with six games left in a good position. We feel good about it. We got some confidence coming out of Texas, and we'll take it day-by-day."Fresh from meaningful ball in front of 40,000-plus in Texas, the A's are excited to see their fans' support in the Coliseum."I hope they fill it up," relief pitcher Sean Doolittle said."Anytime you're at home and you have that (fan support) on your side, it's definitely an advantage," Seth Smith added. "It's always good to feel the fans supporting us."But at the end of the day, it's the quality of ball put on the field that will define the A's future. And they plan to scratch, claw, battle and compete to the bitter end."Until you have an asterisk," Melvin clarified.An asterisk, of course, would indicate the A's first playoff berth since 2006, and they're a magic number of five wins and AngelsRays losses away from it.Brett Anderson threw the baseball on Thursday as he continues to recover from a right oblique strain."All signs point to him being back," Melvin said. "We'll see when that is."The A's could use him next Tuesday, when the struggling Travis Blackley is scheduled to pitch again, but is a regular season return possible?"No," Melvin said. "I would say that's a bit of a stretch."It's old news that Jordan Norberto won't return for the regular season, but Melvin indicated that -- if the team makes the postseason -- there's a chance he would be ready.
Jonny Gomes is this year's Dave Stewart Community Service Award winner.As a Bay Area native who followed Stewart and the A's through the 80s and 90s, the cool factor is not lost on Gomes."Every day I come through those double doors, it's awesome," said Gomes.Gomes was an avid supporter of his hometown little league team, Petaluma National, whose journey to the Little League World Series left them as the United States runner-up. In addition, Gomes supported TroopsDirect, the Wounded Warrior Project, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Alternative Family Services and David Benzer Torture Cancer Foundation."It should be in the job description or the title of being a pro athlete," Gomes said of giving back.Stewart will present the award to Gomes prior to Saturday's game between the A's and Mariners at 12:53 p.m., approximately.Despite recent struggles, the A's are planning to use Travis Blackley in his upcoming scheduled start next Tuesday.Blackley has lasted just three innings over his last two starts combined, allowing seven earned runs in A's losses to the Yankees and Rangers."Just because he's had a couple tough outings, doesn't mean that we're not still confident in him," manager Bob Melvin said.Melvin reserved the right to make a change, but as it stands Friday, Blackley is the man who will oppose Matt Harrison in the penultimate game of the season.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

MESA, Ariz. — The research and fact-finding continues for the A’s as they work toward deciding where to build their new ballpark in Oakland.

Team president Dave Kaval, in Arizona to briefly soak up the spring training vibe, says the team is still gathering all the information it can on the four locations being considered — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, Laney College and Brooklyn Basin, which like Howard Terminal is a waterfront site.

Place an asterisk next to “four,” because as Kaval explains, there’s multiple spots a ballpark could be built at some of the locations.

For example, “there’s a couple different ways in the Lake Merritt area to orient a ballpark,” he said Sunday. “Each one has to be studied individually, because there’s traffic and parking issues that change depending on where you put it. There’s a couple ways it can work in and around Lake Merritt. So we kind of are looking at it as two different options.”

The research will continue for the “next couple of months,” according to Kaval, meaning it doesn’t seem any decision is forthcoming soon. But he reiterated that an announcement will come during 2017.

Kaval was asked how important it was for a ballpark to be near a BART station.

“I think if you’re in a certain range of a BART station, it doesn’t matter if it’s one block or two blocks,” he said. “But if you start getting a little farther, it does change people’s willingness to actually take that public transportation to the venue.”

Howard Terminal, located just north of Jack London Square, is a 20-25 minute walk to the nearest current BART station (12th Street). There’s been speculation that a new station could be built closer to Howard Terminal if a stadium went up. Kaval also said the A’s would consider some sort of shuttle service were they to build at Howard Terminal, and they’re researching the ferry options for such a location.

Long story short, there’s still plenty of transportation and environmental issues to sort out before the A’s settle on a site to build. In the meantime, fans will be in for a treat in the upcoming season when they arrive at the Coliseum.

The A’s gutted the West Side Club and are rebuilding it as Shibe Park Tavern, named after the franchise’s former home in Philadelphia. It will include bricks and other materials from the old ballpark, obtained from the Philadelphia Historical Society.

The A’s will also launch “Champions Pavilion”, which will include anywhere from eight to 16 local food trucks that will be stationed between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena during most home games. Ticket holders will have in/out privileges, with video monitors outside showing the game.

Nights when there’s a Warriors home game could make it tougher to pull off the full operation — Warriors playoff games will be a particular challenge, Kaval said — but the A’s will work with the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority to smooth things out as much as possible.

According to Kaval, the A’s are spending between $600,000-$700,000 to improve the current in-house concession stands, making it possible to cook inside the stands themselves as opposed to transporting food from the kitchen.

The efforts received a thumbs-up from A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“We’re there until we’re not,” Melvin said of the Coliseum. “We’re gonna be there for a period of time, so I appreciate the fact that he’s trying to spruce it up a little bit for our fans, give them more options for food and just create a better atmosphere in our ballpark.”