Rosales' home run hustle sparks A's as they halt losing streak

Rosales' home run hustle sparks A's as they halt losing streak

OAKLAND — Running at first base, Trevor Plouffe watched Adam Rosales’ home run play out right in front of him Tuesday night.

Then Plouffe shifted his attention to what was happening behind him.

Rosales is famous for his all-out sprint around the bases after a homer, so as Plouffe leisurely circled the bases on the game-tying two-run blast, he noticed his teammate hot on his trail.

“All of a sudden l’m looking back and he’s sprinting,” Plouffe said. “I tried to hold him up but there was no stopping that guy.”

Rosales isn’t the first guy you'd predict to ignite a struggling offense against Rangers ace Yu Darvish. But with one swing at a 3-1 slider in the sixth, he sent a jolt of energy through the A’s dugout that powered a 4-2 victory and snapped Oakland’s four-game losing streak.

The A’s, trailing 2-0 before the homer, scored all four of their runs in that sixth-inning rally.

“Up to that point, we weren’t even getting good swings let alone driving balls,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Now all of a sudden, it’s 2-2 and momentum’s in our dugout.”

For Rosales, the No. 9 hitter, it was his first homer of 2017 and his first hit in eight at-bats against right-handers this season.

He may have been an unlikely candidate to play hero, but there’s no one the A’s needed more to have a big moment. With Marcus Semien likely lost for two months, at least, after having wrist surgery Tuesday, Rosales goes from jack-of-all-trades utility man to everyday shortstop.

One stroke of injury misfortune, and he goes from playing a supporting role to a starring one. It’s not like he carries a heavy burden to be a big run producer. But Tuesday’s game was a nice way for Rosales to assert himself as a contributor to the A’s after signing a one-year, $1.25 million deal in the offseason.

“Marcus is such a huge part of our team,” the 33-year-old Rosales said. “I know he’s gonna be all right, be back soon. (But) that’s why I’m here, right? To fill that role, and I’m going to do my best at it.”

He’ll do it while displaying the passion and zest for the game that’s marked his 10-year career. It’s a style that Plouffe, playing alongside Rosales for the first time, was well aware of even while in the opposing dugout.

“He’s one of those guys I think everybody knows,” Plouffe said. “That’s his M.O., he’s a hustler. He’s always got a smile on his face. He looks like a kid on a sandlot. That’s not a dig at him. That’s a compliment.”

Even Rosales gets a kick out of it when asked about his home run “trot,” during which it looks like someone triggered a fast-forward button somewhere on his body. As he rounded second Tuesday night, he really began gaining ground on Plouffe, who looked over his shoulder twice and gestured for Rosales to slow down.

“Can you imagine if I hit a grand slam?” Rosales wondered aloud. “They always like to joke around with me, tell me to slow down. Obviously my game won’t let me do that.”

For anyone wondering if Rosales might be in danger of actually passing a teammate on the bases — a runner who passes a teammate ahead of him is ruled out — he says not to worry.

“I always keep at least 10 feet,” Rosales said. “I think that’s the buffer zone.”

 

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

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Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

ANAHEIM — As Yonder Alonso was preparing for the 2017 season last winter, he was tackling another challenge too.

Over the course of three months, the A’s first baseman gathered his thoughts and pieced together a fascinating first-person account for The Players’ Tribune about his childhood experience defecting from Cuba with his parents and younger sister.

Alonso framed the article as him penning a letter to his 8-year-old self, describing the grueling struggle he and his family would go through while reassuring his younger self that it would all be worth it when he finally made it as a major leaguer. Alonso describes in vivid detail the hardships he went through, caring for his sister, Yainee, at night as they dined on meals of microwaved hot dogs and microwaved eggs, while his parents were away from home working multiple jobs to support their family.

Alonso goes on to describe how he would return from college baseball road trips, while he was attending the University of Miami, and immediately head to a night job to help his father clean warehouses and scrub bathrooms.

The story struck a chord within the A’s clubhouse but also among so many people from the Miami area, where Alonso’s family settled after they defected. Alonso said he’s received text messages from many of them.

“I think everybody in this locker room, or any locker room, they definitely have a story to tell,” Alonso said. “And I think it’s awesome when you see a guy just kind of open up a little bit. I’m (usually) not one to open up.”

Athletes are used to reporters peppering them with questions and trying to draw stories out of them. Seldom do athletes take to penning their own story.

Representatives from The Players’ Tribune, an online publication started by Derek Jeter in 2014, reached out to Alonso in early December about writing something. Alonso had a trip planned to Cuba for later that month, before any request for an article came, and his return visit to his native country helped persuade him to go through with it.

“I saw a lot of people,” he said. “For me it was very touching. For my wife as well.”

Alonso met with an editor from The Players’ Tribune during spring training, and they began hashing out ideas. Alonso said he wrote the story himself with assistance from the editor.

“We had ideas, different ways of going about it,” he said. “I think from day one I knew the way I wanted to write it and how I wanted it to come out, which is a letter to my younger self.”

Even after finishing the project three weeks ago, Alonso said he wasn’t sure he wanted to share it publicly. He showed the article to some friends and teammates, including A’s reliever Sean Doolittle and outfielder Matt Joyce. After reading the piece, Joyce strongly persuaded Alonso to carry through with it.

“I told him it was awesome,” Joyce said. “From my perspective, you don’t really get a good sense of what those guys go through, coming over to the States. You just see them later. So to kind of read it in his own words, it was a really cool perspective and a good story to see what a kid across the water, from a different country, goes through to get to this point. I think it’s a very powerful story and message.”

Alonso said his motivation was simple.

“Just letting my family know, and people in this world know, that if you want to strive for something, it can be tough at times. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

ANAHEIM — Sean Manaea is hopeful his left shoulder injury isn’t serious, but the A’s likely won’t have a full read on the starter’s condition for a couple days.

As of Wednesday night, no MRI was scheduled after Manaea left after just two innings of an eventual 8-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels with tightness in his shoulder.

“I felt it a little bit in the bullpen,” Manaea said. “I thought it was just one of those days where it took me longer to warm up, and that just wasn’t the case. It’s just really unfortunate.”

Just as the A’s are about to welcome Kendall Graveman back to the active roster Thursday, when he starts the series finale at Angel Stadium, and just as it appears Sonny Gray might be ready to come off the disabled list following one more rehab start, the A’s are hoping they don’t see Manaea subtracted from their rotation for any period of time.

Manager Bob Melvin said it was the top of Manaea’s shoulder that was bothering him.

“The velo was down, and it didn’t make sense to have him keep pitching,” Melvin said. “But we won’t know anything probably for a day or two, how he feels.”

Once he started throwing in the game, Manaea said he felt “kind of a little sharp pain. I mean, it’s nothing serious. I’ve dealt with it before and it only took me a few days to get back on the mound. To me, I’m not really worried about it.”

The pitcher added that he experienced a similar situation with his shoulder while a minor leaguer in Kansas City’s organization, toward the end of spring training, and he missed minimal time.

Things didn’t get better for the A’s (10-11) after Manaea exited, as they struck out 13 times and played sloppy defensively in dropping their third in a row. Catcher Stephen Vogt couldn’t handle Ryan Dull’s glove flip to the plate on a seventh-inning squeeze play, ending a streak of six errorless games for Oakland, but Melvin can live with occasional physical misplays. More problematic were occasions when right fielder Matt Joyce and center fielder Jaff Decker both seemed caught by surprise to see Angels runners take off for an extra base. Whether it was a lack of communication from infielders or the outfielders themselves needing to be more aware, the A’s can’t afford those kinds of mistakes.

“As a group, we can’t let that happen,” Melvin said. “We talk about it in advance meetings the way these guys run the bases. It’s not something we can do and expect to beat this team.”

Added Vogt: “We were on our heels quite a bit. This was obviously not the prettiest baseball game we’ve played.”