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.”

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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.

Kaval: A's considering future move into Raiders' locker room

Kaval: A's considering future move into Raiders' locker room

OAKLAND — The Raiders are likely to play at the Coliseum for the next two seasons at least, but the A’s are daydreaming about the time they can finally call the venue their own.

One idea they’re considering is moving their home clubhouse into the space that currently serves as the Raiders locker room, which would more than double the current space they have.

Beyond that, imagine the possibility of the A’s current clubhouse being transformed into a “club” type area for fans to schmooze and enjoy some beverages. Team president Dave Kaval says both ideas are on the table for after the Raiders move to Las Vegas, which they’re planning to do for the 2020 NFL season.

The No. 1 long-term goal for the A’s, obviously, is to find a location in Oakland and build a new baseball-only stadium. The homework continues on that front, with Kaval maintaining the promise for that announcement to come sometime in 2017.

The Raiders have lease options to play at the Coliseum for each of the next two football seasons, with their plans for 2019 uncertain as their Vegas stadium is built.

Regardless, there will be a gap from the time the Raiders execute their move and the time the A’s are ready to move into their potential new digs. They apparently plan to make the most of that time at the Coliseum, which is the only two-sport complex remaining in major North American professional sports.

Kaval addressed the idea of shifting the home clubhouse into the Raiders’ locker room space.

“Well, it’s considerably bigger than our current locker room, and so we could have a more player-friendly area, more lounge space, be more spread out,” he said as the A’s wrapped up a 10-game homestand Sunday. “Even space for training facilities we don’t have now. And so it just provides a lot more flexibility, and a better draw for players if they want to play here in Oakland.”

That last statement shouldn’t be overlooked. As much as current Athletics would appreciate any upgrades to their day-to-day situation at the Coliseum, the improvements might also help a bit when it comes to attracting prospective free agents, who could be sold the idea of better conditions at the Coliseum and the promise of a brand new ballpark to come.

The A’s try to make use of every inch of space available in the current Coliseum set-up, but it’s an antiquated situation to say the least. Players sprawled out on the floor doing stretching exercises outside the A’s weight room often have to deal with reporters stepping around them as they get off the media elevator.

“I think it could be huge,” catcher Stephen Vogt said of possibly shifting the clubhouse to the Raiders’ locker room. “There’s triple the size of what we have. It’s kind of funny to think that we have the smaller locker room but they’re here for (only) 10 days a year basically. That’s just the way it is. If they are truly leaving and they’re not gonna be here, we could really utilize that space.”

Added Kaval: “We do have space in here, but when it’s a multi-purpose stadium it’s always challenging. Everything we’ve had to do over the years has been temporary.”

One consideration regarding the Raiders’ locker room: It’s a farther walk to the entrance of the field, with an extra flight of stairs to climb. That’s something to consider because baseball players tend to make quick trips back to the clubhouse during a game more so than football players do to their locker room.

But Kaval said he’s already talked to A’s manager Bob Melvin about some of the logistical challenges, and he emphasized that any changes wouldn’t happen without positive feedback from the coaching staff and players.

One change the A’s already have implemented this season with players in mind: They’ve dedicated an expanded luxury suite area solely for players’ families during games and also expanded the nanny service they provide for players’ children during games.

As for the A’s ballpark search, Kaval says the four sites the A’s are considering are all “neck and neck” — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, a site near Laney College and one at Brooklyn Basin, on the other side of Highway 880 from Laney.

“We continue to have meetings with all the key stakeholders,” Kaval said. “I think we’re really happy about the acceleration of those meetings. We’re starting to talk more business terms, starting to get into some of the final feasibility (decisions) so we can make that final announcement this year on a location.”

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.”