A's surge as rest of division simply tries to heal

A's surge as rest of division simply tries to heal
April 17, 2014, 4:15 pm
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Adrian Beltre after being placed on the DL with a strained left quad: "I did not agree with the decision. It was out of my hands." (USATSI)

The A’s have darted out of the starting gate quickly, which obviously does a lot for their confidence.

Now put that fast start into context with what’s happening around the American League West, and it might be even more important for Oakland.

Injuries were a spring training storyline as it seemed every team in the division, including the A’s, was searching for ways to plug holes. Since the start of the regular season, the teams considered to be Oakland’s biggest challengers have taken more hits.

The Texas Rangers put four-time Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre on the 15-day disabled list earlier this week with a strained quadriceps. The earliest he can return to the lineup is April 25. And Beltre’s injury is considered minor compared to Texas’ other key losses. Left-hander Derek Holland, second baseman Jurickson Profar and catcher Geovany Soto all began the season on the 60-day DL.

[RELATED: Beltre didn't want to go on DL]

The Los Angeles Angels, whom the A’s just took two of three from in Anaheim, have lost both of their corner outfielders recently. Left fielder Josh Hamilton, a former AL MVP, had surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament and is expected to miss another five to seven weeks. In Tuesday’s loss to Oakland, right fielder Kole Calhoun sprained a ligament in his ankle and will be sidelined four to six weeks.

[RELATED: Cahoun placed on DL]

How does this affect the A’s? They generally claim to plug their ears and cover their eyes to such news, saying it doesn’t affect their day-to-day approach. But players watch TV. They check their smartphones. They’re aware of the injury issues plaguing their rivals.

“We don’t pay too close attention to it, but you can’t help but notice a couple of the big guys, like the Angels losing Hamilton,” A’s starting pitcher Tommy Milone said. “You pay attention to it, but it’s not something you’re jumping up and down about because they lost their best guys. (These other teams) have got guys who can jump in and fill the gaps, and so do we.”

[RELATED: Angels' Hamilton out 6-8 weeks with torn thumb ligament]

Indeed, the A’s lost two-fifths of their starting rotation to injury late in spring training but have compensated well for it, with Milone and, in particular, Jesse Chavez filling in quite capably. The A’s, who were off Thursday, entered the day leading the AL with a 2.57 ERA despite losing projected Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker to a season-ending elbow injury and A.J. Griffin indefinitely to a strained flexor muscle in his forearm.

As the season unfolds, whether the A’s can continue to hold it together in the rotation will play a large part in their chances for a third consecutive division championship.

Their quality bullpen depth allowed them to make up for Ryan Cook missing the first week of the season as he came back from shoulder trouble. Outfielder Craig Gentry returned from a back injury on the just-completed road trip and has filled in for Coco Crisp, who missed time on the trip for wrist and hamstring ailments. Crisp’s status for Friday’s homestand opener against Houston is unknown.

[RELATED: Disappointing finish doesn't take away from A's 7-2 road trip]

There’s a lot that Oakland did right on its 7-2 road trip. For catcher Derek Norris, the important thing wasn’t so much what the A’s did right, but how many players got in on the act.

“Guys came up with big hits, clutch hits, pinch-hit home runs, you name it,” Norris said. “At any given moment across the road trip, every facet of our club was clicking on some cylinder.”


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