A's shut out by Duffy, Royals, rain

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A's shut out by Duffy, Royals, rain

The Oakland Athletics couldn't contain a brief fourth-inning Royals rally, nor could they touch Kansas City pitching as rain halted their efforts at comeback six A's outs shy of a full game.

The tarp wasn't stowed until 7:25 p.m., 20 minutes after the scheduled start time. But baseball would not be denied, as Oakland avoided it's first rain-out of the millennium by forcing seven-plus innings in on the misty Oakland evening.

After a 43 minute rain delay to kick off the festivities, Graham Godfrey pumped a first-pitch strike. He induced fly balls from Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, escaped the first inning with only 11 pitches thrown and so began his first full season in the majors.

A's manager Bob Melvin was encouraged by the outing. "For what Godfrey gave us -- 80-some pitches and six innings based on a shortened spring for him -- I thought he did fine."

"I was pretty satisfied with it," Godfrey said. "I caught a couple bad breaks, but you know, that's part of it."

Godfrey cruised until the fourth inning, when Billy Butler turned on afastball and trotted into second base with a leadoff double.

Those bad breaks he referred to led to the Royals' first runs.

First, Graham forced Jeff Francoeur into an off-balanced swing, but Francoeur managed to flare a single to right field.

Then, with runners on first and third, Mike Moustakas hammered a ball to dead center field. Yoenis Cespedes looked to have a beat on it, sprinting directly back towards the 400-foot sign. But when it came time to record the out, Cespedes' could not secure the catch as the bobbled ball fell safely to the warning track. Butler scored easily and the Royals were sitting pretty with runners on second and third and no outs.

It was a difficult play, especially given the weather, but it's the second time Cespedes has been unable to corral a deep fly to center in the young season. It's not a trend you want to see from the man who displaced last year's plus-defensive center fielder to left and who A's manager Bob Melvin recently referred to as "a true center fielder."

After the game, Melvin was quick to impress upon Cespedes' ability to get himself in position to make the play, rather than his inability to complete it.

Meanwhile, Godfrey's counterpart Danny Duffy loves pitching in Oakland. Three of his five career wins have come at the Coliseum.

Melvin entered the game with plenty of respect for the Royals' young hurler. "He's a talented pitcher, downhill plane, tall guy that throws up to 95-, 96-mph, plus curveball, good change-up as well. I know Duffy is a guy they're excited about."

He's not a guy the A's hitters are excited about after he allowed one hit and struck out eight.

"I have a gameplan that I'm going to follow regardless of what the other guy does," Godfrey said from the clubhouse. "But at the same time, you see what he's doing, how well he's throwing."

And he was throwing well. There were only two moments when the A's posed an offensive threat, and each ended in momentum for the Royals.

When the ball jumped off Daric Barton's bat in the second inning with Collin Cowgill on base, it looked like the A's would be on the board. But Lorenzo Cain made an athletic play to reel in the drive at the warning track and relay the ball to first base for the threat- and inning-ending double play.

"That ended up being a big play in the game," Melvin said. "I think the momentum shifts if that ball drops."

It didn't, and the A's only other threat came in the next frame when Pennington doubled with one out. He was promptly picked off by the wheeling Duffy.

Seven of the final 12 A's that came to the plate took the lonely walk from the batter's box back to the dugout after fanning.

"We just couldn't get it going offensively," Melvin said.

Cowgill played well in his busy debut for the A's. He recorded eight putouts, none more impressive than his run-saving over-the-shoulder catch to end the second after Chris Getz gave one a ride with two on.

Cowgill looked good at the plate too, working walks in each of his first two at-bats before firing a well-hit line drive to the right fielder.

The rain never completely stopped Tuesday evening in Oakland, and the A's and Royals are scheduled to be back out on the wet but covered Coliseum field Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. in the series' rubber match.

A's spring training Day 37: Triggs strengthens his bid for rotation spot

A's spring training Day 37: Triggs strengthens his bid for rotation spot

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Last year Andrew Triggs was one of an assembly line of starting pitchers the A’s ran out to the mound after injuries took their toll.

This spring, Triggs looks ready to assume a more instrumental role. On Wednesday, he stepped up with his best effort of the spring in Oakland’s 5-3 victory over the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

He fared well against a Chicago lineup saturated with left-handed hitters. He commanded his fastball. His curve had bite to it. And with his cutter lacking, Triggs kept hitters off-balance with his changeup and threw five innings of three-hit ball. He gave up two runs, struck out four and didn’t issue a walk.

In short, it was everything manager Bob Melvin needed to see as he evaluates whether this late-blooming right-hander is ready for the starting rotation.

“This was his best outing so far,” Melvin said. “His best command, sharpest breaking ball. He had good movement on his fastball. Once you’re getting out there to 75-80 pitches, you’ve got a chance to not only evaluate performance, there’s endurance involved. Everything.”

Triggs, 28, had surrendered six runs in just 3 2/3 innings his last time out against Cleveland. He was much more efficient Wednesday.

“I felt like I had a pretty good feel for most everything in the arsenal,” he said.

Most of Triggs’ major league work last season, in his first taste of the bigs, came in relief. If he’s to pitch every fifth day in 2017, he needs to show he can retire lefties consistently, and remain effective two and three times through a batting order.

Catcher Stephen Vogt believes Triggs has the repertoire to do that.

“The nice part about a four-pitch mix is very rarely are you gonna have all four on any given night. So if two go away, you've got two more to back it up,” Vogt said. “Today his cutter, usually one of his better pitches, wasn’t that great. He needed to rely more on the changeup and he did.

“Then he gets those swings and misses with the big breaking ball. It’s fun to make the crowd kind of ‘woo.’ It’s always a good sign.”

STOCK RISING: Another pitcher who helped his cause Wednesday was Frankie Montas, who struck out four over two scoreless innings to seal the victory.

“He continues to do what he continues to do,” Melvin said. “He’s throwing more and more breaking balls too.”

In Montas’ four outings, he’s allowed just one earned run over eight innings for a 1.13 ERA. He’s struck out nine and walked one. In light of Melvin saying his bullpen could use a reliever that can handle multiple innings, Montas has positioned himself squarely in the conversation for a 25-man roster spot.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s have collected 10 doubles over their last two games, and Wednesday they jumped ahead with big offense early once again. Ryon Healy went 2-for-3 with an RBI and is hitting .359. Vogt is also swinging it well. He doubled home two runs in the first and is batting .324.

FAMILIAR FACE: : Tyler Ladendorf, who spent the previous seven-plus seasons in the A’s organization, entered mid-game at shortstop for the Sox and struck out in his only at-bat. Ladendorf signed with Chicago on a minor league deal earlier this spring.

ODDS AND ENDS: With their 13th victory, the A’s (13-10) eclipsed their win total from all of last spring with 11 games still to go. … Sonny Gray (strained lat muscle) felt good a day after playing catch for the first time in two weeks. He was set to do so again Wednesday. … Rajai Davis (1-for-3) scored two runs and notched his fifth stolen base. … Ryan Madson gave up a run in his one inning of work. His ERA is 7.50 through six outings. He’s allowed 10 hits over six innings. … Santiago Casilla, in his fourth appearance, threw a scoreless inning with one hit and one walk.

Mailbag: How would Raiders' move affect A's ballpark search?

Mailbag: How would Raiders' move affect A's ballpark search?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With one week to go until the A’s break camp and head north, there are still some roster issues to be cleared up.

The big-picture question regarding this team, obviously, is where it might be building a future ballpark.

With all this in mind, we try to provide some clarity on questions submitted via Twitter:

From @Cjkittrell: If the Raiders move to Vegas, does the Coliseum site jump to the top of the list of possible ballpark sites by default?

That’s not necessarily the case. You have to remember what the A’s crave more than anything in a ballpark location: A thriving surrounding area — with restaurants, bars, shops, etc. — that will make the ballpark an attraction beyond the baseball game itself. Team president Dave Kaval has talked of wanting a “ballpark village” around a new venue. A downside of the Coliseum is that there is nothing around the area right now that would attract fans besides the baseball. Other sites, including Howard Terminal, appear to have more potential as far as surrounding attractions.

This doesn’t count out the Coliseum as an option. As Kaval has said, it’s the only site of four being considered that the A’s know is truly viable. There’s comfort in that. And the BART station, freeway access and available parking are big plusses. But something else I’ll mention in regard to the Raiders: Even if they announce a move to Las Vegas, they have lease agreements that would keep them playing football at the Coliseum at least through the 2018 season while their Vegas stadium is under construction. With the Raiders likely to be on the property for that period, it could complicate the A’s own hypothetical construction plans for the Coliseum site.

From @44BWells: With the emergence of Franklin Barrreto and the contract of Jed Lowrie, what's Joey Wendle's present and future?

They appear murky, don’t they? First and foremost, Wendle has to recover from a sore right shoulder that’s kept him out of exhibitions for a while. But the acquisition of utility man Adam Rosales meant Wendle probably wasn’t going to make the club out of spring training anyway. He’s got a fan in manager Bob Melvin, who was impressed with Wendle defensively last September. It was Wendle’s glove that was the question mark when he arrived from the Cleveland Indians. Barreto has the star-caliber upside and the hype. Once the A’s deem him ready, Lowrie becomes a trade possibility. But Wendle’s advantage is that, to a degree, he’s already proven himself in the majors. He’s a known quantity at this level. If a second baseman is needed early in the season, Wendle could get a call-up before Barreto if Barreto gets off to a slow start.

As for Wendle’s future beyond 2017, it would serve him well to be able to handle as many positions as possible. He realizes this. That’s why he volunteered to play winter ball in Mexico this past offseason, where he played lots of shortstop. His role moving forward could be as more of a utility guy, because I see Barreto growing roots at second base.

@ONChristy: Do the A's have the pieces, both in the majors and minors, to make a run in 2018-2020?

Well, it’s definitely tough to look down the road and forecast a three-year block. Here’s a short answer for you: They better! All of the trades of the past couple seasons have been made with an eye toward stockpiling young talent — especially on the pitching side. Contending this year will be a tall order. But by the end of this season, I’d expect Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman to have gotten their feet wet in the big leagues. There’s a strong chance you’ll also see young pitchers such as Frankie Montas and Daniel Gossett up. There’s a large core of young players who are on the cusp of being major league ready.

Add to that some core veterans such as Khris Davis, Kendall Graveman Marcus Semien and (if he’s not traded) Sonny Gray— who will all be under team control through 2019 at least — and the A’s have a solid foundation for contending in that timeframe you mention. But let’s face it, there’s a lot that can and usually does happen over any three-year span that completely changes what we think we know going in.