Colon: 'I feel stronger right now. My velocity is coming back.'
The A's magic number sits at two after Friday night’s 11-0 thrashing of the Minnesota Twins. (AP IMAGES)
OAKLAND – The sign is posted on the office window of Oakland A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich for all to see.
“We don’t know yet,” it reads simply.
It refers to a potential division-clinching team celebration Saturday night, but your guess is as good as anyone’s as to how the A’s might mark the event.
Their magic number sits at two after Friday night’s 11-0 thrashing of the Minnesota Twins. A victory Saturday coupled with a Texas Rangers loss equals a second straight American League West championship for Oakland.
[Instant Replay: A's magic number at two after pounding Twins]
Only problem is, the Rangers won’t start their game until 4:10 p.m. (PT), probably around the time the A’s and Twins wrap up. Will A’s players stick around the Coliseum to watch Texas play? Will there be an off-site rendezvous?
It seemed the furthest thing from everyone’s mind inside the clubhouse after Friday’s win.
“I haven’t thought about it,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
“I haven’t given it any thought,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I know we play (Saturday) , and then we’ll consider whatever the options are after that.”
Fitting, isn’t it?
The A’s have kept it business-like through this torrid hot streak of recent weeks, refusing to look too far ahead or take anything for granted before it becomes reality. Was there any reason to believe they’d have the party mapped out already?
All that’s for certain is that many players will savor the inevitable celebration for different reasons.
Take Bartolo Colon, who threw six masterful innings Friday night to register his 17th victory. Colon was on a 50-game suspension for PED use last season when the A’s pulled off a fairy tale finish, overtaking the Rangers on the final day of the regular season to win their first division title since 2006.
He is thankful he’s looking at another potential chance to rejoice with his teammates at age 40.
“I’ll try to enjoy it all I can,” he said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “You don’t know what happens next year.”
Surely Alberto Callaspo will count his blessings. He was languishing on an underachieving Angels team until he was traded to Oakland on July 30 for infielder Grant Green. Callaspo has since settled into a second base platoon with Eric Sogard, playing regularly against left-handed pitchers.
The switch hitter had a big night Friday, collecting two RBI singles and making a diving stop at second base to retire Alex Presley in the fifth. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, the eight-year veteran figures to play a key role in the postseason.
“I just try to do my job here,” Callaspo said. “They bring me here for a reason, and I’m just gonna keep doing my job.”
Jed Lowrie spent last season with a 107-loss Houston team before the A’s traded for him in February and made him their starting shortstop. Lowrie had postseason experience with Boston but surely he’s happy to be in green and gold rather than the cellar-dwelling Astros.
Not that Lowrie had any more idea than his teammates how he might spend Saturday night should the A’s win in the afternoon.
“Everybody knows the situation in the clubhouse,” Lowrie said of potentially clinching Saturday. “No one’s hiding from it, but I also think it’s important to maintain focus on the task ahead.”
Vucinich, the A’s equipment manager who has been with the team since 1968, doesn’t recall a situation where the team hung in limbo before knowing if they can celebrate, as could be the case Saturday.
In 1992, the team was off the day they clinched, but many players gathered at a Bay Area restaurant to watch the Twins lose that day and clinch the division for Oakland.
Who knows how Saturday might play out?
True to form, the A’s plan is to take care of business on the field and let the rest take care of itself.
“We’ll see,” Lowrie said. (If) you’re going to the playoffs, it doesn’t matter when you celebrate.”