A's notes: Ynoa, Johnson impress, dual batting cages, etc.

A's notes: Ynoa, Johnson impress, dual batting cages, etc.
February 21, 2014, 7:15 pm
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In 22 minor league appearances in 2013, Michael Ynoa posted a 3-3 record with a 3.69 ERA in 75.2 innings pitched. (USATSI)

PHOENIX – Brandon Moss is a believer in Oakland A’s pitching prospect Michael Ynoa.

That was evident from the swings and misses and looks of bewilderment from Moss as he faced the 6-foot-7 right-hander during batting practice Friday at Papago Park.

“Obviously it’s not the best draw for myself on Day 2 of live pitching,” Moss said afterward. “The ball jumps out of his hand. You can tell he’s got some run and sink on his fastball, and he’s got an absolute hammer of a curve ball.”

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The 22-year-old Ynoa’s path to the majors has hit some speed bumps since the A’s signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. Ynoa, then 16, received a club-record $4.25 million signing bonus. But he’s endured injury problems since then, most notably, reconstructive elbow surgery that sidelined him for part of the 2010 season and all of the 2011 campaign.

Ynoa turned in his first full season in the minor leagues last year, as he went 3-3 with a 3.69 ERA split between low Single-A Beloit and high Single-A Stockton. He’ll begin this season either at Stockton or Double-A Midland. There is some thought among scouts that Ynoa’s future might be as a reliever, though the A’s are still grooming him as a starter.

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New A’s closer Jim Johnson got rave reviews from manager Bob Melvin and hitters who faced him in batting practice.

“It looks like Jim Johnson has a pretty good sinker,” Melvin said with a grin.

The right-hander pairs it with a fastball in the mid-90’s, and that combo has helped him notch a major-league leading 101 saves over the past two seasons. He’s being counted on to replace Grant Balfour, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent over the offseason.

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It was a wild scene on one of the diamonds at Papago Park, as the A’s set up two batting cages side by side on the same field and conducted dual batting practice sessions.

The idea was spurred by the team’s 2012 trip to Tokyo, when the A’s watched in amazement as Japanese squads conducted dual batting practice inside the Tokyo Dome.

The crack of the bat was heard, one after the other, as hitters sent balls flying every which way Friday. The idea is to get more work in for more players in less time.

“We were looking forward to this today,” Melvin said. “… Chalk it up to (bench coach) Chip (Hale) and the coaches. We got all four fields going, a half field, double time on one field. A lot of work in basically 2 ½ hours today.”

First baseman Nate Freiman got a kick out of it.

“This is crazy,” he said. “I wish I had a camera.”

**

Former A’s infielder Shooty Babitt will join the CSN California broadcast team as a color analyst alongside Glen Kuiper for 20 games this season. Babitt’s debut is May 5 against Seattle. Ray Fosse remains the A’s primary color man and will be in the booth for 126 games. Babitt is still a regular on the A’s pregame and postgame TV shows as well.

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