A's spring training Day 35: Canha hoping to get tested in center field

A's spring training Day 35: Canha hoping to get tested in center field

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are running Mark Canha out to center field in exhibitions, but they can’t control how busy that keeps him.

“The last two times I’ve started out there, I’ve gotten like two balls in two games,” Canha said.

Manager Bob Melvin hopes that changes Tuesday night, when he’ll pencil Canha in as his center fielder again versus the Seattle Mariners in Peoria. The A’s are trying to decipher whether Canha can be a capable backup center fielder, which would potentially allow them to go with four outfielders and an extra reliever when they begin the regular season.

“It seems like you won’t get something for a while, then you get (a game) where everything comes into play,” Melvin said. “We’re hoping one of those games happens for him pretty soon.”

Canha is game for chipping in wherever needed. He missed all but 16 games last season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. Healthy now, he is moving well and says he’s up for the challenge of manning center when starter Rajai Davis isn’t playing.

“I feel like I can contribute and be a producer on this team,” Canha said. “I’ve been waiting to say that for six months now. I’m ecstatic about where I’m at right now.”

As the roster projects, Canha would play right field against lefties in a platoon with Matt Joyce. He could also see time at designated hitter. But with exactly two weeks left before Opening Night, the A’s want to know how well Canha can hold down center. Because of the lack of action in games so far, Canha is taking extra fly balls in center during pregame workouts.

He and outfield coach Mike Aldrete also are working on his throws from center.

“I’ve said all along the biggest difference is throws, different angles and longer throws in general,” Canha said. “But I think the biggest thing for me is just remember, be an athlete out there, be aggressive. Trust yourself. That’s where you get in trouble in the outfield, when you get tentative.”

HEALTH UPDATES: Melvin said he might have more information Tuesday on Sonny Gray, who traveled to Chicago to visit a specialist concerning his strained lat muscle.

Outfielder Jaff Decker, bothered by a sore oblique, was examined by a doctor Monday and might start swinging the bat as early as Tuesday. His timetable for return still isn’t known.

NOTEWORTHY: The Diamondbacks scored five runs in the eighth to take control and won 10-6 on Monday in the A’s only night game at Hohokam Stadium this spring. All five runs were charged to left-hander Ross Detwiler, who’s trying to win a job with Oakland either in the rotation or bullpen. Detwiler hurt his cause with two walks and two wild pitches.

Arizona, which trailed 5-1 entering the seventh, began its comeback with Kevin Cron’s two-run homer off Sean Doolittle.

ICYMI: Outfielder Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros, a 17-year-old Cuban phenom who the A’s signed last summer for $3 million, gave his first interview of the spring to CSNCalifornia.com on Sunday. Read here about his adjustment to the United States and what the A’s have planned for him this season.

ODDS AND ENDS: Sean Manaea was sharp over five innings, allowing just three hits and one unearned run. He threw 76 pitches, then went down to the bullpen and tossed 10 more to get his pitch count up. The plan is to get the lefty up to around 100 in his next start. … Khris Davis had a two-run double to dead center in the first to give the A’s an early lead.

 

New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

OAKLAND — The A’s set off for Chicago on Thursday evening to begin their next road trip, and how their dynamic has changed over the course of one week.

They began their most recent homestand by cutting ties with veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe to make room for hotshot prospect Matt Chapman. On Thursday, catcher Stephen Vogt suffered the same fate as Plouffe, getting designated for assignment to make room for another young player in Bruce Maxwell.

The calendar may still read June, with more than half of the season remaining, but the A’s are cleaning house, undergoing a reboot and playing the rest of 2017 with an emphasis on what lies ahead.

Five of the nine position players in their starting lineup for Thursday’s 12-9 loss to the Houston Astros are what you would consider “future” guys — center fielder Jaycob Brugman, third baseman Ryon Healy, second baseman Chad Pinder, Maxwell and right fielder Matt Olson.

They will shuffle around the diamond a bit, and Olson may only stay with the big club until Chapman comes off the disabled list (though Olson’s full-time status in the bigs doesn’t seem far off). Regardless, the plan is crystal clear — the A’s are hitching their wagon to their young core and are prepared to let them develop at the major league level, with whatever successes and failures may come with the growth process.

“We do get excited about giving these guys playing time,” A’s general manager David Forst said before Thursday’s game.

The Astros finished off a four-game sweep of Oakland with their 12-9 victory, jumping out to a 10-0 lead and then holding on after the A’s mounted a late charge. Glance up and down the box score, and those key young players were instrumental in so much that went right for the A’s.

Maxwell went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Olson drove in two runs. Pinder had two hits and an RBI. Brugman chipped in an RBI single and walked twice. That was the silver lining on a day that starting pitcher Jesse Hahn struggled mightily, allowing nine earned runs in just two innings.

“These guys are gonna be important,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The last thing you want to see when you’re down 10-0 is guys just cash it in, and that wasn’t the case. These guys all have something to play for. They’re playing for jobs. And in the future, starting jobs.”

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, middle infielder Franklin Barreto will join the mix from Triple-A Nashville. For now, an immediate storyline is the health of Chapman, who joined the 10-day disabled list with a case of cellulitis (bacterial infection) in his left knee. The A’s checked him into a hospital Wednesday night to get an intravenous antibiotic, after his condition “plateaued” with oral antibiotics, according to Forst.

He said Chapman is likely to leave the hospital Friday, and the A’s are hopeful the rookie third baseman will be able to return when he’s eligible to come off the D.L. His stint can be backdated to Monday, meaning Chapman is eligible to return next Thursday at Houston.

He’s part of the youth movement that resulted in Vogt getting shown the exit. Maxwell sent Vogt a text message wishing him the best Thursday morning, and Vogt quickly responded, wishing him the best. That meant a lot to Maxwell, who didn’t learn until Thursday morning that his roster spot was coming at Vogt’s expense.

But Maxwell said he’s excited to be surrounded by so many players that he’s advanced through the minors with.

“Once we get everybody acclimated to each other and the game up here,” he said, “I feel like we could potentially set up a turning point for this organization for years to come.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Astros' sweep of once-hot A's

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Astros' sweep of once-hot A's

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — Under some circumstances, a 4-4 homestand against the Yankees and Astros wouldn’t seem so bad for the A’s.

This wasn’t the way they would have preferred it however.

After sweeping New York in four at the Coliseum, the A’s proceeded to drop four in a row to Houston, including Thursday's 12-9 loss, making this an historic stay at home whether they wanted it that way or not. Only one other time in the past 106 years had the A’s played back-to-back four-game series and swept the first while being swept in the second.

The first time it happened was in September 1977, when they were swept by Texas before taking the broom to Kansas City.

Thursday’s contest got out of hand early, with the Astros jumping out to a 10-0 lead by the second inning before Oakland came roaring back late.

Jesse Hahn (3-5) was out of whack from his first batter and lasted just two innings, getting hammered for a career-high 10 runs (nine earned) and allowing two home runs.

On the same day Oakland designated Stephen Vogt for assignment, another noteworthy former Athletic enjoyed a huge day against his old team as Josh Reddick finished just a single short of the cycle and scored four runs.

But the A’s came alive for a six-run rally in the eighth to close to within 12-9 and make the Astros sweat it.

But Oakland wound up falling a season high-tying 11 games under .500 at 31-42. A six-game road trip is up next to play the White Sox and, once again, the Astros, who ran their winning streak at the Coliseum to 10 and have won 15 of their past 16 against the A’s.

Short day for Hahn: It was clear early that Hahn didn’t have his ‘A’ game. He hit George Springer with a 3-1 pitch to begin the game — Springer exited with a left hand contusion — then walked the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. He limited the damage to two runs in the first, but the Astros poured it on for eight runs in the second, including three-run homers from Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez.

Maxwell returns with strong game: With Vogt designated for assignment, Bruce Maxwell was promoted to assume catching duties alongside Josh Phegley, and Maxwell enjoyed a 3-for-4 day, including an RBI double as the A’s rallied in the eighth.

The other new arrival also shines: Matt Olson, also called up Thursday as Matt Chapman went on the 10-day disabled list, went 2-for-3 with two RBI.

Reddick has big day: Reddick doubled in the second, homered in the sixth and tripled in the eighth, but didn’t get a chance to complete the cycle against his former club.

Smith steadies things on mound: : Josh Smith took over after Hahn left the game and threw three scoreless innings, striking out four and keeping manager Bob Melvin from having to empty his bullpen.