Notes: Smolinski set for surgery on right shoulder

Notes: Smolinski set for surgery on right shoulder

MESA, Ariz. — Outfielder Jake Smolinski will undergo surgery Friday for an injured right shoulder that hasn’t responded well to a throwing program.

Dr. Doug Freedberg, based in the Phoenix area, will perform the surgery, though A’s manager Bob Melvin said the recovery period won’t be known until Freedberg goes in and finds the extent of the damage.

It’s obviously a tough setback, as Smolinski arrived at spring training seemingly with the inside track to be the fifth outfielder should Oakland keep five on its roster. But Smolinski’s shoulder was already bothering him when he reported, and he had yet to play a single game in the field.

“He’s a guy we really feel has a high ceiling and has not hit his potential yet,” Melvin said. “Last year he did a nice job for us in center field and a guy we were targeting for quite a few at-bats against left-handed pitching.”

With Smolinski sidelined, veteran Alejandro De Aza — in camp as a non-roster invitee — becomes the favorite to make the club if the A’s keep five outfielders. He’s hitting just .238 in nine games but has had several good moments both offensively and defensively.

However, another non-roster outfielder is still in camp and has quietly impressed. Jaff Decker, signed to a minor league deal in November, has caught Melvin’s attention with the bat and glove. He’s hitting .300 (6-for-20) and can handle center field. That’s important as the A’s need someone who can serve as a capable backup to Rajai Davis. They’re getting a glimpse of Mark Canha in center, but they could ultimately decide to keep a fifth outfielder who has more experience at the position.

“Decker’s looked really good, and as comfortable as anybody we’ve had in center field (except for) Raj,” Melvin said. “Center field is obviously a spot, we have Raj and then we’re looking at Mark, but to have somebody else who’s experienced in center and handles it is something we’re looking for.”

The 27-year-old Decker, a left-handed hitter, has appeared in 60 big league games with the Padres, Pirates and Rays, hitting .162 with one homer and four RBI. San Diego drafted him as a sandwich pick (No. 42 overall) in 2008 out of Sunrise Mountain High School in nearby Peoria.

To answer the question on everybody’s mind, Decker’s first name is pronounced “Jeff.”

**

Chris Bassitt, on the mend from Tommy John surgery, threw 30 pitches Tuesday and mixed in changeups for the first time along with his fastball. The session got a big thumbs-up from Melvin, though Bassitt still has a long way to go. It’s still unclear if he’ll be back before the All-Star break or after.

“There’s no timetable but it’s exciting because we really felt like he was on his way to becoming a consistent starter” before the injury, Melvin said. “Really, for me, he’s a guy that at the very least is a middle-of-the-rotation guy with the upside of being even higher than that.

“With the setback he had to go through, I don’t know that I’ve been around a guy that worked harder in his rehab to get to where he is right now.”

Left-hander Felix Doubront, who was reassigned to minor league camp earlier this week, is on a similar rate of recovery from his Tommy John procedure as Bassitt.

A's lineup: Brand new spot for Pinder; Mengden makes first start of 2017

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USATI

A's lineup: Brand new spot for Pinder; Mengden makes first start of 2017

Bob Melvin and Terry Francona issued their lineups for today's series opener in Cleveland.

In addition, the A's placed Kendall Graveman on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain (retroactive to May 26) and recalled Daniel Mengden from Triple-A Nashville.

Mengden will make his first start of 2017 today.

A's (22-27)
1. Rajai Davis (R) CF
2. Chad Pinder (R) SS
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) DH
7. Stephen Vogt (L) C
8. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
9. Matt Joyce (L) RF
P. Daniel Mengden RHP 

Indians (25-23)
1. Jason Kipnis (L) 2B
2. Francisco Lindor (S) SS
3. Michael Brantley (L) LF
4. Carlos Santana (S) 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion (R) DH
6. Jose Ramirez (S) 3B
7. Yan Gomes (R) C
8. Bradley Zimmer (L) CF
9. Austin Jackson (R) RF
P. Carlos Carrasco RHP (4-2, 2.93 ERA)

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

NEW YORK — A weekend that began with promise instead wound up feeling like another lost opportunity for the A’s.

Their defense once again paved the way to their undoing Sunday, and there were plenty of players willing to accept responsibility for a 9-5 loss to the Yankees in the rubber match of a three-game series in the Bronx.

When right fielder Matt Joyce had a catchable fly ball pop out of his glove for a third-inning error that loaded the bases, it seemed inevitable the mistake would come back to haunt the A’s.

On cue, one-time Oakland draft pick Aaron Judge drilled an opposite-field grand slam off Andrew Triggs to a turn a 2-1 A’s lead into a 5-2 deficit. Joyce said he couldn’t stomach to watch the replay of his missed catch afterward.

“It just hit my glove and I dropped it,” Joyce said. “Obviously that’s pretty tough to swallow for me in that situation. For me, I think that’s an easy play. It’s a little embarrassing. It’s obviously really frustrating, especially with what it led to.”

The A’s (22-27) chalked up two more errors, giving them a staggering 49 in 49 games played. When play began Sunday, they had at least 10 more errors than every other big league club. It’s no surprise, therefore, that they also lead the majors with 35 unearned runs, after five of the nine runs they surrendered Sunday were unearned.

That kind of bumbling play in the field is making it difficult for the A’s to maintain leads when they claim one, and tough to mount comebacks when they fall behind. In a factoid that helps explain why the A’s likely find themselves looking at another summer of selling off veterans, they have won just one of the eight road series they’ve played in 2017. Their 7-17 record away from Oakland is second worst in the American League.

The A’s took Friday’s series opener 4-1 but dropped the final two to the AL East leaders.

“I’ve said often, there’s a psychology to it too,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You feel like you have a chance to battle and come back and score some runs, and when your defense is poor, sometimes mentally it’s tough to overcome or get past it. We just have to keep working on it.”

Leading 5-2, New York added to its lead in the fourth with help from a Josh Phegley throwing error on Aaron Hicks’ stolen base. Hicks wound up on third and came home on Chris Carter’s sacrifice fly. The A’s pulled to within 7-5 on Khris Davis’ 15th homer which in the eighth, a two-run shot. But the Yankees answered right back with two more off reliever John Axford, who hurt his cause with two walks.

There were other mishaps that didn’t cost the A’s runs, like Davis making a poor throw to third that allowed a Yankee runner to advance an extra base, and third baseman Ryon Healy losing a foul pop up in the sun.

Regardless of the defensive issues, A’s starter Andrew Triggs wasn’t looking to hand off blame. Just one of the six runs he allowed was earned over his six innings. But Triggs still had a chance to preserve a 2-1 lead in the third if he could have retired Judge with two outs and the bases loaded. Instead he left a 2-1 sinker over the plate and Judge mashed it over the right field wall.

“In my mind it was either sinker away or sinker in, and I thought away was better,” Triggs said. “But you gotta execute the pitch and I didn’t.”

It was the first career grand slam for Judge, who was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by Oakland in 2010 but opted to attend Fresno State. The Yankees took him in the first round in 2013, and in clubbing his 16th homer Sunday (tying him with Mike Trout for the league lead), Judge continued building his strong early case for the Rookie of the Year award.