Walkoff hero Norris discovers sour taste of victory

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Walkoff hero Norris discovers sour taste of victory

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OAKLAND -- A concoction of shaving cream, water, and gatorade has never tasted so good. Just ask Derek Norris. Down to their final out, the A's rookie catcher hit his first career home run with a full count -- a three run walkoff shot that defeated the San Francisco Giants 4-2."It was surreal at first," Norris said. "Once I got punched in the back of the ribs a couple of times it kicked in. Then the pie in the face really set it in.""I didn't realize I got him as good as I did," a shaving cream pie-wielding Josh Reddick said. "Hopefully it comes as a good thing for him to get it in his face."At least Jonny Gomes and Brandon Inge had the decency to rinse him down with gatorade and water. They also greeted Norris with a round of applause when he entered the clubhouse. The A's win was a much needed twist of fate. Having already endured two tough losses at the hands of their cross-bay rivals, Oakland looked like it was staring in the face of a crushing sweep. Then Norris launched former Oakland pitcher Santiago Casilla's final offering into the left field bleachers.Ever wonder what a big-league manager is thinking in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and his team down a run? "That if there is justice in the world he would hit the ball out of the ballpark," A's manager Bob Melvin admitted. "As soon as he hit it I knew it was gone." Melvin later clarified that his "justice" comment had nothing to do with the injustice that could have occurred in the sixth inning. With two runners aboard, Seth Smith appeared to have hit a double down the right field line. First base umpire Todd Tichenor ruled it a foul ball. Replays showed that the ball kicked up chalk from the foul line when it landed. The play would have scored at least one run for the A's. Instead, Smith ended up fouling out, stranding two runners.It appeared the A's had missed out on their chance to win the game. Apparently the baseball gods thought otherwise. Norris wasn't even supposed to be in the starting lineup. Kurt Suzuki was supposed to be catching Brandon McCarthy, who was scratched from his start. As a result, the A's called up A.J. Griffin to take the mound. Norris, who is familiar with Griffin since they played together in Triple-A, was asked to catch him. The rest is history. Griffin impressed in his Major League debut, throwing 104 pitches over six innings of work -- 71 one of them were strikes. He gave up three hits and allowed two earned runs. He had to oppose Giants ace Matt Cain. "You can't really let outside influences get to you too much," Griffin said. "You just go out there and pitch your game. I have no control over what Mr. Cain does."Griffin's only mistake came on a changeup in the first inning to Buster Posey, who deposited the ball into the left field seats for a two-run homer. After Posey's home run, Griffin only allowed two more baserunners. At one point he retired 13 Giants batters in a row. It is safe to say Griffin will be staying in the A's rotation for now. "Spectacular first outing," Melvin said. "If you can throw the ball where you want to and you have a secondary pitch you can pitch up here."The now have a little momentum as they embark on a seven game road trip. They will start in Seattle for three games and then play four games in Texas against the AL West-leading Rangers.

A's spring training Day 42: Roster longshot Decker could claim outfield spot

A's spring training Day 42: Roster longshot Decker could claim outfield spot

MESA, Ariz. — As the pieces are beginning to fit for the A’s 25-man roster, Jaff Decker may be an unlikely feel-good story come Opening Night.

A non-roster invitee this spring, the journeyman has impressed with his all-around game to the point that he might make Oakland’s club as a fifth outfielder.

There’s other factors that play into it — how many relievers the A’s carry will determine whether they keep five outfielders — but things are breaking right for the 27-year-old Decker, who’s with his fourth organization and has never made an Opening Night roster.

When Jake Smolinski went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery, it thrust Decker into the competition. Then Monday, the A’s released veteran Alejandro De Aza, who had impressed this spring but had an opt-out clause in his minor league deal. The A’s think enough of Decker that they cut De Aza loose. On Monday, Decker returned from a minor oblique issue and started in left field, going 1-for-3 in a 10-3 loss to Kansas City.

“I’m super excited,” Decker said. “I feel like I fit in well here, and I get along with the guys really well. It’s a good group of baseball minds, baseball guys. I hope I have done enough and shown I’m healthy enough to land that spot.”

De Aza hit .300 in 19 games and displayed the veteran savvy that seemed to make him a possible fit on the A’s bench. Manager Bob Melvin expressed hope that De Aza might re-sign with the A’s if he doesn’t find a big league opportunity elsewhere.

But Decker, who bats left-handed as does De Aza, is hitting .308 and has his own attributes, including a strong arm and the ability to play all three outfield spots. It’s a nice package of skills for a player who, at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, doesn’t appear the prototypical big league outfielder at first glance.

If the A’s keep seven relievers, they will take five outfielders into the regular season. The decision on a seventh reliever appears to be between lefty Daniel Coulombe and right-hander Frankie Montas. But the A’s could hang on to both and only keep four outfielders, with Mark Canha being the fourth.

Decker fun fact: His first name is pronounced “Jeff.” He’s named after his uncle, whose first name was misspelled on his birth certificate. Decker’s uncle kept the spelling.

MELVIN ON RAIDERS: Melvin, a Bay Area native who is quite tuned in to the history of local teams, weighed in on the Raiders announcing a move to Las Vegas. That news has a direct impact on the A’s, obviously, as a co-tenant of the Coliseum with the Raiders.

“It’s too bad,” Melvin said. “Like us, they have a rich tradition and unbelievable fan base. They’re well supported in the Bay Area. It’s tough to have to deal with it.”

NOTEWORTHY: In his first start since being named part of the rotation, Andrew Triggs struggled mightily against the Royals, getting tagged for eight runs and three homers in 3 2/3 innings. While stressing that now is no time for complacency in his position, Triggs also said he was approaching the game differently than if it were the regular season. He kept throwing his changeup, his fourth best pitch, in an effort to get more comfortable with it.

“If this were (the regular season), we probably would have said in the first or second inning, this wasn’t so great, and gone out there and started back-dooring cutters and working off the sinker,” he said. “But we made a concerted effort to work on a pitch, it wasn’t very good, and the results showed that.”

FAMILIAR FACE: One of the homers off Triggs came from former Athletic Brandon Moss, who connected for a two-run shot in the fourth. The outfielder signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Royals in the offseason.

ODDS AND ENDS: Coulombe had a great day, tossing three scoreless innings. That’s three outings in a row without allowing a run for the lefty after a rough patch before that. Melvin pointed out that the ability to throw multiple innings will be important if Coulombe makes the team. … Matt Chapman homered in the fifth, his third long ball of the spring. He’s hitting .261 and playing stellar defense. “He’s got a lot of enthusiasm and it rubs off on guys,” Melvin said.

 

A's statement on Raiders: 'We would be sorry to see them leave'

A's statement on Raiders: 'We would be sorry to see them leave'

MESA, Ariz. — The Raiders’ approval to leave Oakland and relocate to Las Vegas comes as the A’s are contemplating where to build their own ballpark in Oakland, with the Coliseum site one of the options.

The A’s issued this statement Monday after the Raiders got the green light from NFL owners to bolt for Vegas:

“We understand the Raiders’ need for a new stadium. Oakland is an incredible sports town and we would be sorry to see them leave. We commend the city’s and county’s efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland. The Mayor and her team have worked incredibly hard to save the franchise. We are focused on, and excited about, our efforts to build a new ballpark in Oakland and look forward to announcing a location this year.”

The Raiders have one-year options to continue playing at the Coliseum for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and they plan to do so.

The A’s, meanwhile, are choosing between four different locations in Oakland to build a new venue — the Coliseum, Howard Terminal, a site near Laney College and one near Brooklyn Basin.

The Raiders’ decision to leave doesn’t necessarily mean the Coliseum moves into the lead for possible options for the A’s to build. The site is viable, and there’s great BART and freeway access. The Coliseum could be considered the safest option, perhaps, because it’s a tried-and-true site that has hosted three professional sports teams for decades. The A’s know what they’re dealing with there.

But the A’s also want a thriving entertainment area around their new ballpark, wherever that might be. That sort of “neighborhood” would have to be built from scratch at the current Coliseum site, which is isolated from the multitude of restaurants and bars that exist around AT&T Park, for example.