Athletics

Notes: A's pitching coach confident Sonny Gray will rebound

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Notes: A's pitching coach confident Sonny Gray will rebound

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A’s pitching coach Curt Young said he doesn’t think Sonny Gray is far from getting his season back on course.

Gray takes the mound in Sunday’s road trip finale against Tampa Bay coming off the poorest three-start stretch of his career. He is 0-3 with a 12.79 ERA and .362 opponents’ batting average in three outings since he beat the Blue Jays on April 22.

A Cy Young finalist last season, Gray hasn’t had the command he typically does lately and has left far too many pitches in the wheelhouse for opposing hitters.

“Executing one pitch at a time. If you keep it as simple as that, that process is going to work for him,” Young said Saturday.

Gray threw his between-start side session Wednesday, and both he and Young said they don’t believe his issues have anything to do with mechanics. Gray also has said he feels just fine physically.

“Nothing mechanically, just executing. That’s his strength,” Young said. “And him being down in the zone with his movement has always been his strength.”

Gray finding his form obviously has big ramifications for the A’s pitching staff. But his fortunes also are a source of great interest across the majors. With next winter’s free agent crop of starting pitchers considered a particularly weak one, there’s thought that contending teams that need a starter might be more aggressive in trying to trade for one before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline (the deadline has been pushed back a day from July 31).

[STIGLICH: Morning After: Looking to change luck, Manaea shaves 'Samo-fro']

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Jim Bowden ranked Gray the No. 2 trade target among starting pitchers, behind only the Miami Marlins’ Jose Fernandez. (Interesting side note: Bowden ranked Rich Hill the fourth-best trade target and considers the lefty the “most likely” pitcher to be dealt between now and Aug. 1).

Take all that speculation for what it’s worth, and it’s important to note that both A’s executive V.P. of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst have repeatedly denied any interest in trading Gray. Where the A’s are in the standings, how he’s pitching, and what kind of tempting offers potential trade suitors might present, will obviously factor heavily into whether the A’s eventually consider dealing Gray.

The immediate focus is on helping Gray rediscover the form that made him an All-Star last season. A’s manager Bob Melvin said after Gray’s last start that this period is a challenge for the 26-year-old pitcher because it’s really the first time in his career that he’s struggled for any semi-extended length of time.

Young believes Gray is equipped to right the ship.

“He understands everybody is going to struggle somewhere along the line,” Young said. “His has come now. It comes down to him sticking with his strengths. He’ll get himself back in line.”

Gray was happy with his side work since his last start and said he feels good going into Sunday.

“I think it’s just trusting the process,” he said. “I don’t think it’s anything mechanical. I feel confident.”

Worth noting: Gray has a 7.01 ERA in five starts with Josh Phegley catching and a 4.05 mark in two starts with Stephen Vogt catching, though that’s a rather small sample size to draw any direct conclusions from. Vogt is expected to be behind the plate Sunday. Phegley has been nursing a sore right knee.

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Melvin, with a smile, came as close as he’s ever come to definitively anointing Ryan Madson as the full-time closer.

“I think at this point in time Madson is probably the guy we’re looking to,” he declared before Saturday’s game against the Rays.

The humor came in the unspoken understanding that Madson has commanded the closer’s role by going 9-for-9 in save opportunities. Melvin had been maintaining all along that he was deciding who to use in the ninth – Madson or Sean Doolittle -- based on matchups.

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

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USATSI

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.

 

Olson's home run streak ends, but Mengden dazzles as A's sweep Tigers

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AP

Olson's home run streak ends, but Mengden dazzles as A's sweep Tigers

BOX SCORE

DETROIT -- Daniel Mengden pitched seven scoreless innings, and Marcus Semien homered and drove in three runs, leading the Oakland Athletics to a 3-2 win and three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.

Mengden (2-1) allowed seven hits and struck out four, extending his scoreless streak to 16 1/3 innings and helping the A's to their fourth consecutive win. The 24-year-old right-hander missed the first two months of the season after undergoing offseason foot surgery and was making his fifth major league start this year.

Liam Hendriks got the final two outs in the ninth to earn his first save.

Anibal Sanchez (3-5) pitched well in a losing effort, allowing three hits and one run in six innings. He struck out eight and walked three.

Semien's double in the third inning brought home Bruce Maxwell, who led off with a double. His two-run homer in the seventh put the A's up 3-0.

Mengden worked out of a few jams. He got Nick Castellanos to fly out to deep right center with two out and runners on the corners in the third.

In the fifth, after allowing two-out singles to Alex Presley and Jeimer Candelario, Mengden induced another deep flyout from Miguel Cabrera.

Castellanos led off the sixth with a single and advanced on a wild pitch. Mengden got a strikeout and two popouts to leave him stranded.

The Tigers threatened in the ninth off Ryan Dull, who allowed a one-out, two-run single to Andrew Romine. Hendriks relieved Dull and got Jose Iglesias to ground into a fielder's choice before striking out Presley.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Athletics: C Bruce Maxwell left in the ninth after taking a foul ball to the mask from Iglesias. Maxwell stayed down for a few minutes and was replaced by Josh Phegley.

STREAKING:
Castellanos extended his career-best hitting streak to 17 games with his single in the sixth. ... Oakland 1B Matt Olson went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk. He had homered in five straight games entering Wednesday, setting an A's rookie record.

UP NEXT:
Athletics: RHP Kendall Graveman (5-4, 4.39 ERA) faces Texas on Friday. The Rangers have not announced their starter.

Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (8-12, 6.18) takes on Minnesota LHP Adalberto Mejia (4-6, 4.62) on Thursday in Detroit.