Sogard lifts A's to 6-4 win over Rockies

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Sogard lifts A's to 6-4 win over Rockies

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SCOTTSDALE -- Juan Nicasio needs no reminders of the frightening line drive last summer that fractured his skull, broke his neck and nearly killed him.The Colorado Rockies' stocky right-hander got one anyway.In his first start since that game on Aug. 5, when Washington's Ian Desmond scorched a fastball off his right temple, Oakland's second hitter, Eric Sogard, sent a heater whizzing by Nicasio's head in the first inning of the Athletics' 6-4 win Friday."It was close. I said, Oh (shoot)!" Nicasio recounted. "Oh my God, it was close to me. But I don't think about it."After wiping his brow and taking a deep breath, Nicasio got back on the mound and seemed unfazed by the close call. He threw three impressive innings, scattering five singles, allowing one unearned run, walking none and striking out two.Nicasio threw in an intrasquad game earlier in the week, his first action without an "L" screen to protect him, and the Rockies were eager to see if he'd be shy Friday, recoiling or cutting off his follow through to protect himself because of what happened to him."I see no sign of that whatsoever," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "That's so encouraging to see."Tracy, himself, cringed at the comebacker, though."I can't really tell you how I felt about the baptism by fire, if you will, when I saw that one line drive go back through the middle. I mean, it didn't take very long for that to happen," Tracy said. "But, actually, maybe a good thing as we move forward. But I can tell you this, the ball was coming out of his hand big-time. The slider, it's there."RELATED: Cespedes to make A's debut on CSN California Saturday
He threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 13 batters he faced, and his fastball topped out at 94 mph.Nicasio, who went 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA and 58 strikeouts with 18 walks as a rookie last year before he got hurt, is trying to make the Rockies' rotation just eight months after the accident that landed him in the hospital for 11 days and had doctors - who usually see fractures of the C-1 vertebra in diving or auto accident patients - wondering if he'd ever walk again, much less pitch in the majors.Nicasio, who never lost consciousness when he got hurt last summer, said he had no flashbacks, even when Sogard sent the screamer whizzing past him."Yeah, I'm not thinking about what happened last year," Nicasio said. "I'm not thinking nothing about that. Now, it's a new season, you know? I don't think about last year."Everyone around him still does."I think I'm thinking about it way more than him," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "It seems like he's past it and moved on. It is a good story. I mean, it's crazy to me.""It was amazing, it's nice to see that guy going back to the mound after all that stuff that he went through," slugger Carlos Gonzalez said. "This guy's a tough guy. It's not easy to do what he's doing right now. He's a competitor. He's unbelievable."Tulowitzki said he was awed by Nicasio even before the game."Today we started off with what we call rag-smash, it's basically pitchers fielding comebackers, and he made it to the finals," Tulowitzki said. "That was impressive to me. I was thinking for a guy to be last year on the field just laid out on the mound from a line-drive comebacker ... it speaks volumes about how fearless of a kid he really is."And then to see him take the mound today, there was some balls hit hard back up the middle. Just to see him attack the strike zone even after those things happened is pretty impressive," Tulowitzki added.Brandon McCarthy allowed two earned runs on four hits in 4 2-3 innings for Oakland, and Jerry Blevins picked up the win by retiring the only batter he faced.Tulowitzki hit two doubles and scored twice off McCarthy to put the Rockies ahead 2-1 before the Athletics rallied for four runs off Tyler Chatwood in three innings.Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes will make his first start Saturday against Cincinnati. He'll bat second and play center field in his spring training debut."We're just looking forward to seeing him out there and being part of the team and doing some things in the game," Melvin said. "That's all part of the camaraderie and chemistry. So, I think he's looking forward to that, too."Notes: DH Manny Ramirez will also return to the Athletics' lineup Saturday. ... This was the only meeting between Oakland and Colorado this spring. ... Rockies new closer Rafael Betancourt returned from a stiff neck that had sidelined him for a few days by throwing a 1-2-3 ninth.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

MESA, Ariz. — The research and fact-finding continues for the A’s as they work toward deciding where to build their new ballpark in Oakland.

Team president Dave Kaval, in Arizona to briefly soak up the spring training vibe, says the team is still gathering all the information it can on the four locations being considered — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, Laney College and Brooklyn Basin, which like Howard Terminal is a waterfront site.

Place an asterisk next to “four,” because as Kaval explains, there’s multiple spots a ballpark could be built at some of the locations.

For example, “there’s a couple different ways in the Lake Merritt area to orient a ballpark,” he said Sunday. “Each one has to be studied individually, because there’s traffic and parking issues that change depending on where you put it. There’s a couple ways it can work in and around Lake Merritt. So we kind of are looking at it as two different options.”

The research will continue for the “next couple of months,” according to Kaval, meaning it doesn’t seem any decision is forthcoming soon. But he reiterated that an announcement will come during 2017.

Kaval was asked how important it was for a ballpark to be near a BART station.

“I think if you’re in a certain range of a BART station, it doesn’t matter if it’s one block or two blocks,” he said. “But if you start getting a little farther, it does change people’s willingness to actually take that public transportation to the venue.”

Howard Terminal, located just north of Jack London Square, is a 20-25 minute walk to the nearest current BART station (12th Street). There’s been speculation that a new station could be built closer to Howard Terminal if a stadium went up. Kaval also said the A’s would consider some sort of shuttle service were they to build at Howard Terminal, and they’re researching the ferry options for such a location.

Long story short, there’s still plenty of transportation and environmental issues to sort out before the A’s settle on a site to build. In the meantime, fans will be in for a treat in the upcoming season when they arrive at the Coliseum.

The A’s gutted the West Side Club and are rebuilding it as Shibe Park Tavern, named after the franchise’s former home in Philadelphia. It will include bricks and other materials from the old ballpark, obtained from the Philadelphia Historical Society.

The A’s will also launch “Champions Pavilion”, which will include anywhere from eight to 16 local food trucks that will be stationed between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena during most home games. Ticket holders will have in/out privileges, with video monitors outside showing the game.

Nights when there’s a Warriors home game could make it tougher to pull off the full operation — Warriors playoff games will be a particular challenge, Kaval said — but the A’s will work with the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority to smooth things out as much as possible.

According to Kaval, the A’s are spending between $600,000-$700,000 to improve the current in-house concession stands, making it possible to cook inside the stands themselves as opposed to transporting food from the kitchen.

The efforts received a thumbs-up from A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“We’re there until we’re not,” Melvin said of the Coliseum. “We’re gonna be there for a period of time, so I appreciate the fact that he’s trying to spruce it up a little bit for our fans, give them more options for food and just create a better atmosphere in our ballpark.”