Only one things matters in Oakland: 'Play hard tomorrow'


Only one things matters in Oakland: 'Play hard tomorrow'


OAKLAND -- Two days ago, Coco Crisp couldn't make out faces in the crowd from the dugout. Less than 72 hours later, he's the man of the clubhouse after his 3-for-5 performance left little doubt that he belongs in the starting lineup -- with or without perfect vision.

"He's something," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It starts with him, all the way around."

Fighting through an eye infection that doctors tell him could last up to three months, Crisp's active red blood cells are still causing some blurry vision in his eyes, but he saw his first-inning shot travel over the right-field wall clear as day.

"The leadoff homer was huge," Sean Doolittle said. "He's such a spark for our offense."

Crisp's goals for the game were considerable lower than his output.

"More than I was expecting," Crisp said. "I was just trying to have quality at-bats. With just six games left, I wanted to get some kind of rhythm to be able to help the team."

He did. But playing in a day game Saturday after Friday's night game, Crisp is wary that his sensitive-to-light eyes will be ready.

"We'll see," Crisp said. "I'm just hoping that each day they get better. If that's the case, then I shouldn't have any problems."

Crisp wasn't the only outfielder to put together an impressive and complete game.

Yoenis Cespedes' stats belie his impact on the A's 8-2 win over Seattle Friday night. He finished 0-for-3, but Melvin is convinced his scorched shot in the hole -- ruled an error -- deserved a hit.

"That's a quality shortstop and that ball just ate him up it got on him so fast," Melvin said. "So I don't agree with that call."

Cespedes' next at-bat came against flamethrower Stephen Pryor. After swinging through the first two strikes, Cespedes showed veteran discipline on pitches touching 97 miles per hour, working a bases-loaded walk that put the game out of reach.

"One of the key at-bats of the game was that walk," Melvin said. "He's down two strikes, lays off a pitch, gets to 3-2 and takes a walk and we score some runs. "

And his full-extension catch in the eighth inning was a Golden Great all the way. Making it look easy, Cespedes has come a long way from the beginning of the season when he was regularly misplaying balls in center field. The growth registers with his manager.

"Now, all of a sudden, he's just a good left fielder," Melvin said. "He's a natural out there."

The stout defense helped the A's bullpen preserve rookie A.J. Griffin's seventh win in 14 starts as he bounced back from two previous rough outings. While he was happy to get back on track, he is well aware that his next slated start lands on the final day of the season. He's been thinking about it, too.

"Not going to lie, yeah," Griffin acknowledged. "But that's the fun part of this business. You get to go out there and pitch in games that matter. I just want to give us a good chance to win ballgames."

Griffin's admission that his next start has already entered his thoughts should come as no surprise. The A's are locked in a tight playoff race with four other teams, and they are making a serious attempt at focusing on only the things they can control, which means no scoreboard watching.

"We're trying not to pay attention to what other teams are doing," Doolittle said. "It's tough this time of year. But we're really trying to focus on everything in here. If we take care of business, it doesn't matter what anybody else does. That's our only goal at this point -- staying focused."

Doolittle and his teammates are buying into Melvin's only goal for the final five games: "Playing hard tomorrow." After watching the A's go all out on the field and commit to the team-first attitude in the clubhouse, even Coco Crisp can see that clearly.

A's spring training Day 42: Roster longshot Decker could claim outfield spot

A's spring training Day 42: Roster longshot Decker could claim outfield spot

MESA, Ariz. — As the pieces are beginning to fit for the A’s 25-man roster, Jaff Decker may be an unlikely feel-good story come Opening Night.

A non-roster invitee this spring, the journeyman has impressed with his all-around game to the point that he might make Oakland’s club as a fifth outfielder.

There’s other factors that play into it — how many relievers the A’s carry will determine whether they keep five outfielders — but things are breaking right for the 27-year-old Decker, who’s with his fourth organization and has never made an Opening Night roster.

When Jake Smolinski went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery, it thrust Decker into the competition. Then Monday, the A’s released veteran Alejandro De Aza, who had impressed this spring but had an opt-out clause in his minor league deal. The A’s think enough of Decker that they cut De Aza loose. On Monday, Decker returned from a minor oblique issue and started in left field, going 1-for-3 in a 10-3 loss to Kansas City.

“I’m super excited,” Decker said. “I feel like I fit in well here, and I get along with the guys really well. It’s a good group of baseball minds, baseball guys. I hope I have done enough and shown I’m healthy enough to land that spot.”

De Aza hit .300 in 19 games and displayed the veteran savvy that seemed to make him a possible fit on the A’s bench. Manager Bob Melvin expressed hope that De Aza might re-sign with the A’s if he doesn’t find a big league opportunity elsewhere.

But Decker, who bats left-handed as does De Aza, is hitting .308 and has his own attributes, including a strong arm and the ability to play all three outfield spots. It’s a nice package of skills for a player who, at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, doesn’t appear the prototypical big league outfielder at first glance.

If the A’s keep seven relievers, they will take five outfielders into the regular season. The decision on a seventh reliever appears to be between lefty Daniel Coulombe and right-hander Frankie Montas. But the A’s could hang on to both and only keep four outfielders, with Mark Canha being the fourth.

Decker fun fact: His first name is pronounced “Jeff.” He’s named after his uncle, whose first name was misspelled on his birth certificate. Decker’s uncle kept the spelling.

MELVIN ON RAIDERS: Melvin, a Bay Area native who is quite tuned in to the history of local teams, weighed in on the Raiders announcing a move to Las Vegas. That news has a direct impact on the A’s, obviously, as a co-tenant of the Coliseum with the Raiders.

“It’s too bad,” Melvin said. “Like us, they have a rich tradition and unbelievable fan base. They’re well supported in the Bay Area. It’s tough to have to deal with it.”

NOTEWORTHY: In his first start since being named part of the rotation, Andrew Triggs struggled mightily against the Royals, getting tagged for eight runs and three homers in 3 2/3 innings. While stressing that now is no time for complacency in his position, Triggs also said he was approaching the game differently than if it were the regular season. He kept throwing his changeup, his fourth best pitch, in an effort to get more comfortable with it.

“If this were (the regular season), we probably would have said in the first or second inning, this wasn’t so great, and gone out there and started back-dooring cutters and working off the sinker,” he said. “But we made a concerted effort to work on a pitch, it wasn’t very good, and the results showed that.”

FAMILIAR FACE: One of the homers off Triggs came from former Athletic Brandon Moss, who connected for a two-run shot in the fourth. The outfielder signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Royals in the offseason.

ODDS AND ENDS: Coulombe had a great day, tossing three scoreless innings. That’s three outings in a row without allowing a run for the lefty after a rough patch before that. Melvin pointed out that the ability to throw multiple innings will be important if Coulombe makes the team. … Matt Chapman homered in the fifth, his third long ball of the spring. He’s hitting .261 and playing stellar defense. “He’s got a lot of enthusiasm and it rubs off on guys,” Melvin said.


A's statement on Raiders: 'We would be sorry to see them leave'

A's statement on Raiders: 'We would be sorry to see them leave'

MESA, Ariz. — The Raiders’ approval to leave Oakland and relocate to Las Vegas comes as the A’s are contemplating where to build their own ballpark in Oakland, with the Coliseum site one of the options.

The A’s issued this statement Monday after the Raiders got the green light from NFL owners to bolt for Vegas:

“We understand the Raiders’ need for a new stadium. Oakland is an incredible sports town and we would be sorry to see them leave. We commend the city’s and county’s efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland. The Mayor and her team have worked incredibly hard to save the franchise. We are focused on, and excited about, our efforts to build a new ballpark in Oakland and look forward to announcing a location this year.”

The Raiders have one-year options to continue playing at the Coliseum for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and they plan to do so.

The A’s, meanwhile, are choosing between four different locations in Oakland to build a new venue — the Coliseum, Howard Terminal, a site near Laney College and one near Brooklyn Basin.

The Raiders’ decision to leave doesn’t necessarily mean the Coliseum moves into the lead for possible options for the A’s to build. The site is viable, and there’s great BART and freeway access. The Coliseum could be considered the safest option, perhaps, because it’s a tried-and-true site that has hosted three professional sports teams for decades. The A’s know what they’re dealing with there.

But the A’s also want a thriving entertainment area around their new ballpark, wherever that might be. That sort of “neighborhood” would have to be built from scratch at the current Coliseum site, which is isolated from the multitude of restaurants and bars that exist around AT&T Park, for example.