Melvin: Cespedes' glove just as important as his bat
The A's went 96-66 this year after going 94-68 last season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
OAKLAND -- After four days off leading into the postseason, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he senses his players’ eagerness to finally get the American League Division Series underway.
He also notices a sense of calm, however, from a group that got some of the playoff jitters out of the way in last year’s ALDS against Detroit.
“It’s a little more, I don’t want to say matter-of-fact, but I think the expectations were different the whole season,” Melvin said before Friday’s Game 1 against the Tigers. “When you continue to play well over the course of the season and you expect to be in the postseason, there’s a little different mindset.”
That doesn’t mean Friday was another typical day at the yard.
Melvin said he showed up to the Coliseum at about 10:20 a.m. for a game that isn’t scheduled to start until 6:37 p.m.
“Just to make sure I got all of my routine stuff in, (because) I do have more to do as far as media sessions,” he explained.
Melvin provided a mild surprise with his batting order, flip-flopping Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie so that Lowrie is batting second and Donaldson third. Dating back to Aug. 26, when the A’s offense kicked it into gear starting with a series at Detroit, Donaldson batted second in all but eight of Oakland’s 33 games the rest of the season. Lowrie hit third in all but four of them.
Melvin wished not to tip his hand on the strategy of why he switched Donaldson and Lowrie for Game 1 against Tigers starter Max Scherzer.
The rest of the lineup offered nothing unexpected. With Yoenis Cespedes healthy enough to play left field, cleanup man Brandon Moss is serving as designated hitter with Daric Barton at first base and Josh Reddick in right field.
With Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera at less than full strength because of a groin injury, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the A’s drop a bunt or two his way to test him. But Melvin said he and his staff would have to evaluate how Cabrera is moving around defensively and perhaps adjust strategy according to that.
Dan Otero pitched his way into a more prominent role in the A’s bullpen as the season progressed, and Melvin said he considers the right-hander a setup option along with Ryan Cook and lefty Sean Doolittle.
“He’s gotten lefties out, he’s gotten righties out,” Melvin said. “He’s put himself in this position to be a guy we rely on, whether it’s one-plus (innings) in an even game, whether someone has a day off and he pitches the seventh, or we can bring him in with guys on base with his sinker.”
Right-hander A.J. Griffin, left off the ALDS roster because of elbow tendinitis, might throw Saturday to test his arm.
ALDS Game 3 is scheduled for a 10:07 a.m. start on Monday (PT), with Game 4 at 2:07 p.m. Tuesday.