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


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

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 coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

Ryan Christenson has a reason to follow the World Series even more so than most years.

Christenson, who manages the A’s Double-A Midland squad, is also skippering the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. One of his players happened to be Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, if only for the briefest of periods.

Schwarber, as is well-documented, played in two AFL games as a quick tune-up before joining the Cubs’ active roster for the Fall Classic. It’s an unprecedented path, as Schwarber hadn’t appeared in a game for Chicago since April 7, when he tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.

When he crushed a double off the right field wall in Game 1 against the Indians’ Corey Kluber, Schwarber became the first position player in major league history to get a hit in the World Series after recording zero hits during the regular season.

His preparations for the grand stage took place in the relative anonymity of the Arizona Fall League, and it presented some unique conditions for Christenson to manage under.

“It’s such a unique situation to see someone thrust into that after missing so much season,” Christenson said in a phone interview before Game 1. “To have a chance to be activated this time of year, it’s something special if he can pull this off. If he (sparks the Cubs), literally the guy can be a legend.”

Schwarber appeared in just two games for the Solar Sox, going 1-for-6 as a designated hitter. Christenson didn’t have much hands-on interaction with Schwarber — the Cubs had their own staff members on site helping him with treatment — but Christenson saw Schwarber’s swing rounding into form even in his brief time in the batter’s box.

“The bat speed is there,” said Christenson, who hadn’t met Schwarber previously. “I love watching him work in the cage. He’s got a great swing. I don’t think it would take someone of his caliber long to get his timing and pick up where he left off. It’s a simple swing.”

The Cubs asked Christenson to work Schwarber into the top of the batting order with the Solar Sox so as to maximize his number of plate appearances. They also asked one other favor.

“The only request they had was that I took it easy with him on the bases … not trying to score him from first base on a gapper.”

Schwarber’s mere presence in the Arizona Fall League created a delicate dynamic. The league is geared toward up-and-coming prospects who have yet to break into the majors, and Christenson said AFL officials were concerned about Schwarber dropping in and taking playing time away from those players.

Each major league organization sends at least six players to the AFL. Of those six, one is designated a “priority player,” meaning they must play at least four days a week, so innings can be tricky to spread around.

Adding to the sensitivity of the situation, the Solar Sox’s roster includes not only Cubs prospects but also those of the Cleveland Indians. Christenson needed to avoid a situation where Schwarber was stealing at-bats away from prospects of the American League champs — the team that Schwarber was training to try to help the Cubs beat.

But things unfolded smoothly, and Schwarber showed appreciation for getting the chance to drop in for a couple games.

“I’ll definitely be pulling for him,” Christenson said.

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

CLEVELAND — Left-hander Giovanni Soto has been claimed by the Oakland Athletics off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.

Soto was designated for assignment Saturday to open a spot on the 40-man roster for slugger Kyle Schwarber, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list following knee surgery in April. Schwarber was put on the World Series roster Tuesday and went 1 for 3 with a double, walk and two strikeouts in the opening 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Soto was traded to the Cubs from Cleveland on April 11 and was 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Triple-A Iowa. He made his big league debut with the Indians in 2015 and appeared in six games and 3 1/3 innings.

Oakland claimed him Wednesday.