Parker falters in fifth as rookie can't match Greinke in A's loss


Parker falters in fifth as rookie can't match Greinke in A's loss


OAKLAND For four innings, rookie Jarrod Parker tradedzeroes with a former Cy Young Award winner in Zack Greinke.But the fifth inning has spelled doom for Parker in many previous starts, andTuesday was no different. Parker allowed the games first run in the fifth,gave up a second in the sixth, and the As bullpen didnt do him any favors, asthe Angels added four insurance runs to roll to a 6-1 win.Parker gave up his fifth-inning run on three singles and has now allowed 20 ofhis 61 runs in that fateful frame. That means 32.8 of the runs opponents scoreagainst Parker come in the fifth.As manager Bob Melvin said he was unaware of the numbers, but wasnt ready tocall it a trend.I dont see a trend there, Melvin said. Maybe the numbers would suggestthat, but I havent seen anything that would suggest a fifth-inning problem forhim.What about Parker? His explanation:Its just probably the hitters making an adjustment and mebeing a little bit behind and not making a quick enough adjustment.Fifth-inning blemishes aside, Parker put together an impressive outing. Melvinwill take two runs in seven innings, especially from a rookie in September, anyday.He threw the ball well, Melvin said. Weve got to scoresome runs to win the game. But all in all I thought he threw really well.Unfortunately for Melvin, Parker and the As, Greinke threw better. Greinkegave up a solo shot to Brandon Moss, a double to Seth Smith and two duck-snortsingles in his seven innings of work. The As looked lost at the plate the restof the time. Obviously hes got great stuff and you know that when anyof those guys over there go out to the mound, you have to be on your game andbasically go blow for blow, Parker said. And we tried to do that and we did apretty good job of it early.The As struggled against Greinke less than a month aftertagging him for four runs in five innings in his third start as an Angel onAugust 8. They worked five walks off him in the second inning alone. He was adifferent pitcher Tuesday.A lot better than we saw him last time, Melvin said. He had better commandof his fastball, you know, speed you up, slow you down. He just had us offbalance all night. Other than Moss home run, we didnt get too many goodswings.Moss home run to lead off the seventh made the score 2-1and brought some life to the sparse Coliseum crowd, but the As bullpen allowedtwo runs in both the eighth and ninth innings to put the game essentially outof reach.The two eighth-inning runs were charged to Sean Doolittle, who was welcomed tothe game with a sharp line drive off his shin. To add insult to injury, theshin burger ricocheted into the outfield for a leadoff single for AlbertPujols. Melvin and the As trainers checked on Doolittle, but determined he wasfine to remain in the game. Doolittle may have been better off icing his leg onthe bench, as he gave up a double and another single before handing the ballover to Melvin with the As trailing 4-1.Hes a little sore, Melvin said. It got him pretty good.He was alright to pitch, certainly with the adrenaline and everything. Wellsee how he is tomorrow.Tomorrow, the As wrap up their series with the Angels andwill look to avoid their first sweep since falling to the Diamondbacks in threestraight contests in Arizona from June 8-10. Salvaging a win in the home seriesis especially important considering the As play 16 of their next 19 games awayfrom Oakland.We dont want to get swept by these guys at home, Melvinsaid. I think each and every game is important here in September. But theycome in and take the first two games from us; I think its just as important towin the game tomorrow to not get swept by them, let alone a homeroad issue.A dejected Parker stood at his locker in the clubhouse after the game and tooksolace in the fact that the As have Brandon McCarthy on the mound for thematinee series finale on Wednesday. We dont want to be on the losing end of anything, Parkersaid. And I think when we send Mac out tomorrow, we have a pretty good chanceof taking a game. And every game is important at this point.

Patience is A's motto with touted 3B prospect Matt Chapman

Patience is A's motto with touted 3B prospect Matt Chapman

MESA, Ariz. — When the A’s finally sent Matt Chapman to the minors at the end of spring training last year, it seemed his return ticket to Oakland wouldn’t be far off.

So good was the young third baseman during his first big league spring camp, it was easy to assume he’d arrive in the majors shortly. But Chapman, the No. 3 prospect in the A’s system, found the road bumpy during a full campaign with Double-A Midland, even as he put together a season that landed him Texas League Player of the Year honors.

Chapman is back for his second spring with the A’s, a year wiser having discovered what it takes to navigate the peaks and valleys of a full professional season.

“I learned that no matter how high or how low you get, it’s important to maintain an even keel,” said Chapman, who only played 80 games in 2015 due to a wrist injury. “You can have a bad week or a bad couple weeks, and it doesn’t ruin your season.”

The A’s believe they have a potential star on their hands, a Gold Glove-caliber defender who can hit for power and eventually become a fixture at the hot corner. Yet their signing of veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe in the winter shows that they also believe Chapman, 23, still has developing to do.

The power numbers were marvelous last year, as Chapman hit the third-most homers in the minors (36) to go with 96 RBI. But he also struck out 173 times in 135 games, dealing with some timing issues that had him swinging through a ton of pitches.

A’s player development officials rave about Chapman’s work ethic and desire to excel. But his manager at Midland, Ryan Christenson, also said Chapman’s electrifying spring performance last year (he led the A’s with six homers) may have worked against him early on when he arrived at Double-A. The A’s took Chapman north with them for the Bay Bridge Series just before Opening Day, giving him a chance to take the field at the Coliseum and AT&T Park.

“You talked to him, and he thought he was gonna go right to Midland and dominate the league and be in the big leagues by July,” Christenson said. “For sure, he thought that. But that didn’t happen, and he struggled and got his butt handed to him. And he understood there was still some work to be done at that level.”

But Christenson liked how Chapman dealt with the adversity, and he was all the more impressed with Chapman’s final stats given that his season wasn’t marked by numerous hot streaks.

“If you watched him it wasn’t a consistent, successful season to the eye,” Christenson said. “Now, the numbers at the end just shows you what kind of special talent he is.”

Chapman, who played 18 games with Triple-A Nashville in a late-season promotion, will be reunited with Christenson this season as Christenson takes over as Nashville’s manager. The A’s brass will be watching closely, though the comments from A’s GM David Forst all offseason stressed a theme of patience with not only Chapman but the team’s other top position-player prospect, middle infielder Franklin Barreto.

“We’re making sure guys are ready when they get here,” Forst said. “Matt has fewer than 100 at-bats at Triple-A. I don’t know what his timeframe is as far as getting to the big leagues, but it’s clear from a development standpoint he still needs some time at Triple-A.”

Christenson said any struggles Chapman had offensively in 2016 never carried over into his play at third base. And Christenson attests to the defensive talent the A’s saw when they drafted Chapman in the first round in 2014 out of Cal State Fullerton.

“One of the best I’ve ever seen,” Christenson said. “He’s lateral, he can go back on a pop-up and make a play. He’s very adept at coming in to barehand the slow roller. You put him over at shortstop in the shift and he can make the play, and the arm is about as good as you’re ever gonna see at third base.”

A's spring training Day 9: Alcantara trying to add new wrinkle

A's spring training Day 9: Alcantara trying to add new wrinkle

MESA, Ariz. — Right-hander Raul Alcantara, who could factor in as a starting or long relief option for the A’s, is experimenting with a split-finger fastball this spring.

Alcantara, who made five late-season starts last season in his first big league call-up, threw the pitch for the first time to hitters Tuesday, so he’s still in the infant stages with it. The A’s would like Alcantara to develop a solid third pitch to go with his fastball and changeup, though he does dabble with a curve and cutter too.

“In general, we’re looking for a ball that’s gonna dive, something where the bottom’s gonna fall out,” Oakland bullpen coach Scott Emerson said.

Alcantara, 24, faces crowded competition for the No. 5 starter spot with Jesse Hahn, Andrew Triggs and Paul Blackburn among those also going for it. Claiming the last spot in a seven-man bullpen is a possibility, though the A’s could surely utilize a second left-hander to go along with Sean Doolittle.

Making Alcantara’s case more interesting is that he’s out of minor league options, meaning he would need to make it through waivers unclaimed before the A’s could send him down.

Alcantara throws a hard changeup that clocked 86-87 miles per hour last season. Ideally, Emerson said his splitter would settle in the low 80’s.

Speaking through interpreter Juan Dorado, Alcantara said he’s gradually getting a feel for the new pitch.

“Obviously it’s a little more difficult on the hitters to know that there’s a different pitch,” he said. “They’re used to me throwing a fastball, a cutter and a change, and now implementing a split would just help me out to show them something different.”

CAMP BATTLE: Lefty Ross Detwiler, who re-signed with Oakland in the winter on a minor league deal, offers depth as a potential swing man who can start or relieve. Detwiler went 2-4 with a 6.14 ERA in nine games (seven starts) last season for the A’s. Those numbers look ugly in a short sample size, but Melvin values the veteran beyond what the stats show.

“I think he liked being here and we wanted him back.”

QUOTABLE: “I must be a little behind this year because the guys are hitting me a little harder than they normally do. Healy took me over the batter’s eye three times in a row.” — Melvin, who throws a couple rounds of batting practice every day.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s will hold a pair of two-inning intrasquad games Thursday at the Lew Wolff Training Complex, with both set to start at 11:40 a.m.