A's spring training Day 31: Pinder will get a look in the outfield

A's spring training Day 31: Pinder will get a look in the outfield

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — He’s played all over the infield in his career.

Now Chad Pinder will have his duties expanded even more.

The A’s will look to give the utility man some time in the outfield, trying to pave an easier path to a full-time spot in the majors. Oakland is stocked with young players at third base and second base. Marcus Semien is entrenched at shortstop, with 2015 first-round pick Richie Martin progressing through the pipeline too.

The A’s think highly of Pinder’s bat. He got his first taste of the majors in September, but it’s tough to envision how he fits into the current major league mix.

So the A’s will utilize the “V” word — versatility — that they love so much.

“I think if you’re looking at the next ‘Rosie’ type guy in our organization, it could be Pinder,” manager Bob Melvin said, referencing jack-of-all-positions player Adam Rosales.

Given the surplus of infielders — and relative lack of prime outfield prospects — in the A’s farm sytem, it makes sense to experiment. Renato Nunez, a young third baseman whose bat is ahead of his glove, will see time in left field now that he’s been sent to minor league camp.

HEALTH UPDATE: Stephen Vogt was back behind the plate for the first time in a week after being hindered by right heel soreness. His mobility got tested very early, when he hustled out a double in the top of the first.

“It was a good day,” Vogt said. “It felt very good. I had to work a little bit behind the plate too.”

NOTEWORTHY: Ryon Healy smoked a two-run homer deep on the grass in left-center at Goodyear Ballpark, the most impressive blast of the three home runs the A’s hit in a 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians. It was the third spring homer for Healy, who leads the A’s with 12 RBI.

Franklin Barreto and Rosales also went deep.

CAMP BATTLE: Andrew Triggs started on the hill for Oakland and labored through a three-run first that included lots of hard contact. He steadied himself over the next two innings but got touched for three more runs in the fourth and was done after 3 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on five hits and two walks.

“Obviously I wasn’t happy with the results,” Triggs said. “Once we settled, the fastball command was better. … You work yourself into lousy counts, you can’t expect to have a whole lot of success. My goal coming in was to get to the fifth and I didn’t do that, so that’s what I was frustrated about.”

On the bright side, Triggs faced the dangerous Edwin Encarnacion twice and struck him out both times. The A’s made a big-time run at Encarnacion in the winter but lost out to Cleveland for the slugging first baseman.

Triggs, trying to win a rotation spot, hadn’t given up more than one earned run in any of his previous three outings.

FAMILIAR FACE: Former A’s reliever Dan Otero threw a scoreless inning against his old team. It was Otero’s first time facing Vogt since he joined the Indians’ bullpen last season. He coaxed a pop out.

“We were smiling, texting back and forth last night saying ‘I hope we get it out of the way during spring training,’” Vogt said. “He’s one of my best friends in all of baseball.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Lefty Ross Detwiler, who got knocked around in his previous outing, rebounded with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. … Jharel Cotton threw in a Triple-A game Wednesday as the A’s were off. He went four-plus innings and allowed a run, getting his pitch count up over 70.

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

OAKLAND — Stephen Vogt made an unexpected appearance in left field Wednesday night, and his performance got approval from a pretty good outfield authority.

Former A’s teammate Josh Reddick was watching from the Houston Astros’ dugout and thought the catcher-by-trade handled himself very well.

“I was talking to (Houston manager) A.J. (Hinch) and I said, ‘It’s gonna be interesting because you know at least one ball’s gonna get to him,’” Reddick said. “You start laughing because four of the five that were hit that inning were hit to him.”

With the A’s bench short-handed, manager Bob Melvin sent Vogt to left after he pinch-hit for Rajai Davis, and indeed Vogt got a workout throughout the top of the eighth. That added a bit of levity to a 5-1 loss that otherwise provided the A’s very little to cheer about.

They were bottled up by Astros right-hander Mike Fiers and four relievers as the Astros won their ninth in a row at the Coliseum and their third straight in this four-game series. A’s starter Sean Manaea was rolling through five scoreless innings before Houston blitzed him for three runs in the sixth. The Astros tacked on a couple more late runs against Oakland’s bullpen and that was enough on a night the A’s mustered just four hits total.

After Vogt delivered an RBI groundout that scored the A’s only run in the seventh, Melvin wanted to keep Vogt’s left-handed bat in the lineup, so he asked the veteran catcher if he could handle left.

“I said yeah, absolutely,” Vogt said.

It’s easy to forget that Vogt came up through the Tampa Bay Rays’ system playing a lot of outfield, and he played more than a dozen games in the outfield in 2014 for the A’s, mostly in right.

He sure got tested. The Astros’ first four hitters of the eighth all hit balls in Vogt’s direction. He got a routine fly from Brian McCann, a difficult low liner off the bat of Yuli Gurriel that he smothered for a single, a double from Alex Bregman that he did a good job cutting off and a sacrifice fly to the warning track from Jake Marisnick.

“I had the adrenaline shot run up and I was loose and ready to go,” Vogt said. “Obviously I was a little more focused than probably your average outfielder out there. I’m glad the first one came to me, otherwise I would have been sweatin’ it for a while.”

Vogt has lost time recently behind the plate against right-handers to Josh Phegley, who has done an effective job controlling the running game. And though you shouldn’t by any means expect to see Melvin running Vogt to the outfield often, you also shouldn’t assume it won’t happen at all.

At some point, the A’s figure to call up catcher Bruce Maxwell as part of the crop of young players they’re trying to give more time too. If the left-handed hitting Maxwell were to share catching duties with Phegley, and if the A’s were to trade Yonder Alonso (again, we’re talking ‘ifs’ here), it’s conceivable Vogt’s left-handed bat could be put to use at spots other than catcher, perhaps at first base or, in a pinch, even the outfield.

His old teammate thinks he could pull it off.

“I remember him playing in right in ’14 when I was (injured),” Reddick said. “He did a pretty good job out there, it’s not like he’s foreign to it. He knows what he’s doing.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's third straight loss to Astros

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's third straight loss to Astros

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — As swiftly as the A’s appeared to grab some momentum by sweeping the Yankees, it was snatched from their grasp.

The Houston Astros have taken the first three games of this mid-week four-gamer at the Coliseum, and the A’s will have to win Thursday afternoon’s finale to avoid being on the other end of a sweep.

They generated barely a whisper offensively in a 5-1 loss Wednesday night, advancing just one runner as far as third base. Mike Fiers (5-2), who’s come on strong for an Astros rotation that’s been decimated by injuries, held Oakland to three hits over six innings. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four June starts.

Sean Manaea (6-4) was rolling along for the A’s until the sixth, when the Astros broke a scoreless tie with five hits and three runs off the lefty. Manaea wound up taking his first loss since May 15.

Striking quick: It was 0-0 when the Astros opened the sixth with three consecutive singles. Jose Altuve got things going, then Carlos Correa singled to center and advanced to second on Jaycob Brugman’s throw that went through to third, putting two runners in scoring position. Evan Gattis drove both home with a single to center, and he would score on Jake Marisnick’s single. That was all the offense Houston would need.

Alonso provides a spark: Yonder Alonso, in a fierce fight to win the All-Star vote and be the American League’s starting first baseman, doubled in the seventh and scored on Stephen Vogt’s groundout for the A’s only run.

Outfield arms: The A’s started Rajai Davis in left and Matt Joyce returned to the lineup in right after missing Tuesday with back tightness. Joyce did well to hold Brian McCann to a single in the fourth, retreaving his drive to the right field corner and firing it back to the infield. Davis kept a run from scoring in the third when he fielded Nori Aoki’s single and fired it back to the infield to keep Marisnick from scoring. That sequence was noteworthy given how often opponents have been taking the extra base on Khris Davis when he plays left.

Chapman still day-to-day: As the A’s look to avoid a four-game sweep Thursday, it’s unclear if they’ll have third baseman Matt Chapman back in the lineup. The rookie missed his third game in a row with an infection in his left knee. Manager Bob Melvin said the swelling in Chapman’s knee has gone down, but Melvin was non-specific on Chapman’s return.

“If it’s not tomorrow, hopefully it’s (the) Chicago (series this weekend).”

Stephen Vogt, Mr. Utility: The A’s were working with a two-man bench with Chapman out, which led to catcher Stephen Vogt making his first appearance in the outfield in three seasons. After pinch-hitting for left fielder Rajai Davis in the seventh, Vogt assumed left field duties in the top of the eighth and was immediately put through a workout. The first four Houston batters of the inning all hit balls toward left field, and Vogt more than held his own, including retreating to the warning track to haul in Jake Marisnick’s sacrifice fly and cutting off Alex Bregman’s double.