A's pregame notes: A's contingency plans, Scherzer limited?

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A's pregame notes: A's contingency plans, Scherzer limited?

OAKLAND -- The first question asked of A's manager Bob Melvin in Wednesday's pregame press conference was about his plan for Justin Verlander in Game Five. "We'll have to get there first," Melvin quickly replied. First the A's have to contend with Max Scherzer, who at times this season has been a better pitcher than Verlander. Scherzer might be slightly limited on the mound in Oakland on Wednesday. Last time he faced the A's he left after two innings with right shoulder fatigue. He also sprained his right ankle celebrating the Tigers American League Central title. He only threw 75 pitches in his final start of the season. If he is on a pitch count the A's could run up his pitch total and possibly get into the Tigers bullpen early. "If you go in trying to forecast something and it doesn't happen that way then you get surprised," Melvin said. "So I think we are just going to go out there with the mindset that he's going to be out there as long as he normally is." On Tuesday, Scherzer assured everyone in his press conference that he was 100 percent healthy. Jim Leyland reiterated that point on Wednesday. Usually when you have to assure the media that you are 100 percent -- it means you aren't. When you already have contingency plans going in it just confirms that assumption. "We've got Drew Smiley to go if something happens to Scherzer," Leyland said. "We'll be prepared for anything."Smiley is a lefty. If he enters the game then righties Jonny Gomes and Chris Carter may finally see some ALDS action. Of course, if Scherzer is indeed healthy, then none of this becomes a factor.

The A's have a contingency plan too. A.J. Griffin has been struggling lately and if he gets into trouble early Melvin won't hesitate to go with left-handed pitcher Travis Blackley, or right-handed pitcher Evan Scribner.
When Griffin left after just two and two-thirds innings in his final start of the season, Scribner came in and pitched three innings of scoreless relief and the A's ended up beating the Rangers and winning the AL West. "Our bullpen is in pretty good shape," Melvin said. "Scribner has done a nice job for us coming in and shutting some stuff down at times and moving us farther in the game." Griffin is 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA but is 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in his last four starts. His only loss was against the Tigers and he allowed a career-high five runs on a career-high tying eight hits in that start.
The A's will be the only team in Major League history to start three rookie starting pitchers in a playoff series when Griffin takes the mound. The A's young pitchers have taken a mature approach to their preparation and it has worked so far. Every starting pitcher in this series so far has thrown a quality start."We're a young staff and we try to bounce as many things off of each other as we can," Game One and potential Game Five starting pitcher Jarrod Parker said."We try to learn from each other and try to do as much as we can to learn and take the knowledge that we have, one guy throws a game and does something, I'm going to ask him what he's doing to get this guy out and vice versa."
The A's have done a good job limiting the damage done by the Tigers' big hitters in this series. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are a combined .185 (5 for 27) in the first three games of the postseason. The A's defense made a ding in their collective batting average on Tuesday. Fielder was robbed of a home run in the second inning, robbed of a hit up the middle by Stephen Drew, and robbed of a hit in the seventh when Yoenis Cespedes made a diving catch. The A's fielders aren't treating him like a prince.
"I think it more gets into a poor hitter's head when he gets hits taken away from him rather than a good hitter," Melvin said. "I don't think it's going to effect Prince Fielder. A guy like me, if I had a chance to get three hits and they were taken from me it would put me in a rubber room somewhere." Melvin also said he is crazy about what Cespedes has been doing in this playoff series. "We've seen Yoenis make huge strides in left field, now all of a sudden he is just a plus left fielder," Melvin said. "Before it was a struggle for him both mentally and physically. We're reaping some serious rewards with what he is doing right now."
The A's snapped their six-game postseason losing streak on Tuesday with the 2-0 win over the Tigers. Coincidentally all six of their losses were at the hands of Detroit. The Tigers swept the A's in the 2006 American League Championship Series and won the first two games of the ALDS. If the A's can win on Wednesday the series will be all evened up with a win-or-go-home Game Five taking place at the Oakland Coliseum.
Oakland native and WBCWBA Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward will throw out tonight's ceremonial first pitch

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

MESA, Ariz. — After spending a few days at spring training, A’s president Dave Kaval heads back to the Bay Area on Tuesday to continue work on the team’s search for a ballpark site.

There are so many factors to consider — location, public transportation access, parking, government obligations to be fulfilled, etc. — it’s easy to understand why it’s such an all-encompassing process.

Kaval shared some detailed thoughts on all of the potential sites the A’s are considering during a visit on the A’s Insider Podcast. Here’s some highlights:

The A’s have narrowed down to four locations in Oakland to build a privately financed ballpark: Brooklyn Basin, Howard Terminal, Laney College and the current Coliseum site on which they play.

Are these four all uniquely different from each other or do they share some common traits?

“I think all of them can fulfill our long-term vision of this urban area around the ballpark,” Kaval said. “Think of Fenway, Wrigley … all of them can achieve that vision. We want to make sure with such a big decision that we swing for the fences. … I think the Coliseum is probably the hardest to create kind of an urban village, but I think it’s possible, and we’re not ruling it out.

"But all the other locations can have neighborhoods around the ballpark where people can live and you can just have a really intimate experience around the ballpark.”

There hasn’t been the same buzz about Brooklyn Basin as Howard Terminal. Located close to the water, does it offer similar attributes as Howard Terminal?

“It’s very close. There’s a couple different places the ballpark could go down there,” he said. “You’re closer to the water, which is exciting, and I think being on the water provides the ability to have water taxis, ferries, other transit options that kind of lower the requirement for parking, lower the requirement for walking or biking. And that actually can be a really great thing for the fan experience.”

Howard Terminal offers a big potential payoff with the terrific views available. But there are some substantial hurdles, not the least of which are the government regulations and approvals required to build right along the water.

“If you want to actually develop something in there, you need to have legislation from the state of California. That’s just something that has to happen,” Kaval said. “So when we think about the steps to get the individual sites (approved) and break ground, it’s just another one you have to do at that site. So you have to weigh, is it worth the time, effort, political opposition that might come up to pursue that type of effort? The site is so iconic that we’ve been keeping it in the mix because, wow, it could just be something that is a game changer.”

That’s just a sample of the many topics Kaval touched on over the course of the podcast.