OAKLAND -- A's players found out they had a new teammate during the seventh inning of their Monday game against the Minnesota Twins when it was announced over the public address system. Before shortstop Adam Rosales stepped to the plate it was announced over the in-stadium speakers that Stephen Drew had been acquired by the Oakland Athletics from the Diamondbacks for Single-A infielder Sean Jamieson. Rosales popped out. This season A's shortstops are hitting an MLB-worst .187. Oakland had been actively trying to upgrade at the shortstop position. They finally got their man. Drew will be reporting to the A's on Tuesday and a corresponding roster move will be made prior to the game. "We've been looking for a few weeks since before the deadline to see if there was a chance to get this team some added help," A's assistant general manager David Forst said. "It worked out with the Diamondbacks because Stephen Drew was available." How much of an upgrade Drew actually is remains a huge question. Drew, 29, is batting .069 (2 for 29) in his last nine games. He is batting .193 in 40 games this season after returning from a fractured ankle sustained on July 20, 2011. He missed a total of 137 games with the injury."At times and certainly before his injury he was a pretty good offensive player," Forst said. "He's shown that occasionally since he's been back this year. Hopefully coming here gives him a little added boost and gives us a boost as well."Drew is a career .266 hitter with 72 home runs and 333 RBIs in 773 games. He has a .328 career on-base percentage. His best year was in 2008 when he batted .291 with 44 doubles, 11 triples, 21 homers, and 67 RBIs. He was named the Diamondbacks player of the year that season. His manager at the time was Bob Melvin. Melvin managed Arizona from 2005-2009. He didn't want to talk much about the addition of Drew after the team's 7-2 loss to the Twins. "I think in fairness to everyone in the clubhouse I'd prefer not to get into it too much," Melvin said. "I do know Stephen. He is a good player, he will be a good fit here and lets just kind of leave it at that."The A's had scouts watching Drew before and after the trade deadline. Forst says they feel good about what they know about Drew because Melvin and bench coach Chip Hale have a history with him. "Anytime you are trading for a player that you don't know it helps when you've had somebody that's been around him." Forst said. "He's struggled a little bit as of late, but we think that player is still in there."The A's will eat the remainder of Drew's 2012 salary. He has a mutual option for 2013 worth 10 million dollars and a 1.35 M opt-out clause. Forst says they will see how he performs for the remainder of the season before making any determinations about if they want to keep their new shortstop around in 2013. The timing of the move to acquire Drew came as a surprise to the A's players. Especially to the team's longest tenured shortstop Cliff Pennington. "He plays the same position, so I guess we'll see what happens," Pennington said. Pennington was reinstated from the disabled list on August 7. He is batting .207 in nine games since his return. The addition of Drew sends a message that the A's are attempting to upgrade. "Hopefully he is a guy that comes in and fits in well and helps us win," A's starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy said. "But I think we are past the point of needing a spark. We just need to keep playing well.""I guess they are trying to make a push," second baseman Jemile Weeks said. "They're trying to improve where they feel they need to improve."The way the move was announced and that it happened at this late stage of the season may caught the players slightly off guard, but they understand that baseball is a business.."It's like anything where there's a new person coming in," McCarthy said. "Something has to happen to somebody you know and like. That's never a fun thing. That's why you hope someone comes in and plays well right away and you sort of smooth that transition." The A's shortstop position has been a revolving door this season. They have started Pennington, Rosales, Eric Sogard, and Brandon Hicks at that position. Weeks has had to adjust to a lot of double play partners. He says he is ready to adjust to one more. "He's a good player," Weeks said. "If he comes along and fits in and helps us win we are all for it."
MESA, Ariz. — Something flipped a switch inside Sean Manaea in the third inning Saturday, and the A’s left-hander pitched with the aggressiveness he’s shown most of spring training.
It was a different story before that, as Manaea issued five walks, two of them forcing in runs, against the Cincinnati Reds. His final Cactus League outing ended after just three innings, his pitch count at more than 70, and he was charged with five earned runs.
“I was trying to nibble at the corners too much,” Manaea said. “The third inning I finally just said, ‘Throw it right down the middle and let them hit it.’”
The plan was to get Manaea close to 90 pitches, so he went to the bullpen and threw 10 more after he was pulled from the game. He entered the day with a 2.81 ERA in his first five outings, walking just one in each of those games.
He downplayed his struggles Saturday in Oakland’s 11-6 split-squad defeat at Hohokam Stadium, and manager Bob Melvin wasn’t expressing major concern either.
“He was just out of sync,” Melvin said. “Typically you don’t see him walk guys like that, let alone multiple guys in a row. It was just a tough day for him. We wanted to try to get him close to 90 pitches. But when you’re throwing that many pitches in three innings, I just couldn’t risk sending him back out there.”
Manaea was stressing the positives of his camp afterward. As he preps for one final tune-up start at AT&T Park against the Giants in the Bay Bridge Series, he particularly likes the way his slider has rounded into form.
“Just being able to have that confidence to throw it for a strike and get weak ground balls and swings and misses, it’s huge,” he said.
CAMP BATTLE: The A’s lost their other split-squad matchup by an identical 11-6 score to the Dodgers in Glendale. Jesse Hahn took the hill and struggled for the second consecutive outing, allowing two homers — including a grand slam by Andrew Toles — and surrendering seven runs (five earned) over 3 1/3 innings. Competing for one of two open rotation spots, Hahn hasn’t shown his best in the Cactus League stretch run. He gave up seven runs against Colorado in his previous start.
PROSPECT WATCH:Lazaro Armenteros, the A’s 17-year-old stud outfield prospect better known as “Lazarito”, is believed to have become the youngest player in franchise history to appear in a Cactus League game. Armenteros entered at the DH spot in the eighth against the Dodgers and went 0-for-2, flying out to right-center and popping up to shallow center. With the A’s short on position players, Armenteros was brought over from minor league camp and got a little exposure to the big league environment. He’ll stay in Arizona through extended spring training and then head to play in the Dominican Summer League.
ODDS AND ENDS: Third baseman Trevor Plouffe had two more hits against the Reds to raise his average to .425 but left the game after tweaking an abductor muscle in his lower body. “He felt like he’s OK. We just didn’t wanna risk that,” Melvin said. … Rajai Davis connected for his first spring home run and scored three runs. … Sean Doolittle gave up two runs in his inning of work but struck out three. He sported his new eyeglasses for the first time in a major league game. … Matt Chapman hit a three-run homer off former Athletic Rich Hill in the game at Glendale.
MESA, Ariz. — Ryan Madson goes about his business getting ready for the season, without much clarity on what his bullpen role will be and hardly wringing his hands over the mystery.
A’s manager Bob Melvin has four veteran relievers with closer experience to choose from to be his ninth-inning man. He said Saturday morning he likely won’t announce that decision until the Bay Bridge Series that leads into Opening Day.
Madson, who rang up 30 saves as Oakland’s primary closer last season, prepares the same during the spring regardless of what inning he might pitch. He sees the numerous closer options as being a benefit for whoever ultimately gets picked for the ninth.
“If I’m doing it and I don’t get it done, there’s guys that will,” Madson said. “It’s not just a one-man show, so that takes the pressure off actually. People would think maybe it adds pressure — you gotta do good so you can have it. To me, it does the exact opposite. That helps me, knowing the more guys you’ve got that can do the job, the easier that job becomes.”
It wouldn’t be a shock if Melvin goes with the 36-year-old Madson as closer to begin the season. He’s the incumbent, and, though he had a 7.50 spring ERA before throwing a scoreless inning Saturday, no one among the trio of John Axford, Santiago Casilla and Sean Doolittle has made an emphatic statement for the job with their Cactus League performance. Axford’s 5.06 ERA is the lowest of those four.
From his comments so far this spring, Melvin seems inclined to use Ryan Dull as an escape artist to enter with men on base, a situation that he excelled in last season.
Regardless of how Melvin lines up his bullpen for the regular season, he’s said that he’s likely to utilize multiple guys in save situations depending on who’s available and who needs rest on a given day.
At this time last year, Madson was assumed to be the eighth-inning setup man with Doolittle handling closer duties. Melvin wound up flip-flopping them for the start of the regular season, and Madson got off to a strong start and remained the closer for most of the year. In his first extended ninth-inning duty since 2011, he notched his second 30-save season but also had seven blown saves, tied for second most in the American League.
“The emotions are different” in the ninth inning, Madson said. “They’re heightened, and so I had to adjust that way. … As long as I can navigate those emotions and put them in the right place, I usually do well when I can do that.”
Entering the second year of a three-year, $22 million contract, Madson said he likes the way he’s rounding into form on the mound despite less-than-glittering numbers.
“When I have good angle on the ball, good deception and good movement, then I get outs and I get ground balls,” he said. “I get strikeouts with the changeup. So if I focus on that, everything else falls in where it needs to.”