The A's defy odds and do it again, defeat Yanks 2-1

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The A's defy odds and do it again, defeat Yanks 2-1

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OAKLAND -- Three well traveled rookies and a wily veteran helped topple the best team in baseball 2-1 on Saturday night at the Oakland Coliseum. Each of those four players' stories are so unlikely that you'd think we made them up. We'll start where it ended on Saturday night. With 25-year-old rookie reliever Sean Doolittle -- who notched his first career save. Doolittle was drafted as a first baseman, struggled with injuries and was converted to a pitcher. Nearly as quick as his 95-mph fastball rips through the strike zone, Doolittle blasted through the Minor Leagues in just 16 games.
As he stepped on the mound seeking his first career save Saturday night, the rookie first-baseman-turned-pitcher was asked to stare down four hitters with a combined 25 All-Star appearances, who account for 67.5M of the Yankees payroll. Alex Rodriguez hit a leadoff single, and then the left-handed pitcher responded by striking out the side.
RECAP: Pratt's Instant Replay -- A's, Yankees 1
The legend of Sean Doolittle continues."That's really impressive, talk about coming along way," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "And now he closes a game out against the Yankees, that's a goose-bump type of thing."Doolittle pitched the ninth inning because closer Ryan Cook -- also a rookie -- had worked in three consecutive days. He got Robinson Cano swinging on a 94-mph fastball, Mark Teixeira looking on a 94-mph fastball, and Andruw Jones swinging on a 94-mph fastball. "Wow," Doolittle said in reflection of what transpired. "It still hasn't sunk in yet. It was mentioned to me before I even got back up here that at this time last year I wasn't, like, pitching to hitters." "Looking back on where I've been and where I am now, it makes it that much more special," he said. Speaking of unlikely success stories, there's A's starting pitcher Jarrod Parker who got his seventh win tonight. Parker had "Tommy John" surgery in 2009 and missed the entire 2010 season. He had to battle his way back to the Major Leagues and he has undoubtedly arrived in Oakland. He held the team with the best record in baseball to one run over eight innings of work. "Boy, Jarrod was so good," Melvin said. "Changeup really good. Only walked one guy. That's really the way you have to pitch against the Yankees."
RATTO: Hollywood, take notice of the 2012 Oakland A's
What makes the three wins the A's have in this series even more remarkable is the fact all three games were started by rookie pitchers. The three rookies allowed a combined three runs and just one walk over those three games. "Every time out we are trying to one up each other," Parker said. "It sets the tone as the starting staff." As Parker finished the eighth inning the game was tied at one. Then another unbelievable thing happened. Third baseman Brandon Inge made a bold prediction."Inge told me I'm going to get you one here," Parker said. "And he did it." Inge stepped to the plate and clubbed the go-ahead home run off Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes. The shot hit the concrete facing of the bleachers over the high wall in right center. Inge was released by the Detroit Tigers this year. The A's essentially picked him up off the scrap heap and here he is helping the team win. "In this clubhouse we're having a blast right now," Inge said. "I think that's leading to a lot of the way we are playing on the field." Inge is only hitting .200, but when he does get hits -- they are important ones. He has nine homers and 42 RBIs in 64 games this year. "Just when I think about maybe a bunt or doing something different with him he gets a hit like that," Melvin said. Then there's the story of Yoenis Cespedes. A Cuban-born phenom that escaped his home country of Cuba to chase his dream of playing Major League Baseball. In the last year he has gone from Cuba, to the Dominican Republic, to Phoenix, Arizona, to Tokyo, to Oakland.After all of that, he is hitting .306 against the best competition in the world. His fourth-inning home run was launched like a missile and landed like an asteroid deep in the left field bleachers -- coincidentally, it landed right under a Cuban flag."The most important thing is to be concentrated in what you have to do," Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "In Cuba it was the same thing. We traveled a lot over there too. But not so long like this year. I try to work, be concentrated all the time and do the best that I can do." Cespedes by the way is also a rookie. He has a career-high nine-game hitting streak and is 7 for 10 with two homers and three RBIs in this series against the Yankees. If anyone was overlooking Cespedes on the national landscape it's safe to say the secret is out."He's a terrific talent and a great hitter," Melvin said. "I don't want to say he's getting more confident because he is about as confident as you can get. I think he's just understanding the league more and making adjustments quicker." The stories of the A's key contributors seem like they've leaped out of the pages of a Hollywood screenplay. They are almost too good to be true. Fans can't wait to flip the pages as the the story is unfolding. It sounds corny, but studios love a good sequel and it feels like we are watching Moneyball 2. With the A's 13-2 July record they are pacing Major League Baseball. At 50-44 they are a season-high six games over .500. They've already taken three games of a four game set with the New York Yankees. Stay tuned.

A's holiday shopping focuses on a center fielder

A's holiday shopping focuses on a center fielder

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The A’s didn’t add any players during the four-day winter meetings, but they did wave goodbye to one.

Minor league right-hander Dylan Covey was scooped up by the Chicago White Sox in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. The Sox pay the A’s $50,000 for his rights, and he must either remain on their 25-man roster for the entire 2017 season or be offered back to Oakland for $25,000.

The 25-year-old Covey, ranked the A’s No. 20 prospect by mlb.com, was an Arizona Fall League standout this offseason after working his way back from an oblique injury that wiped out most of his 2016 season.

“We’ll see what happens,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “He certainly was as deserving as anybody of being protected (on the A’s 40-man roster), we just ran out of spots. Good for him to get this opportunity.”

As for ways Oakland might supplement its own roster, that task continues.

The A’s held plenty of discussions over four days spent at the sprawling Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, but those talks didn’t bear fruit in their search for a center fielder. They had trade dialogue with the Kansas City Royals regarding Jarrod Dyson, a blazing runner and potential leadoff man, but couldn’t find common ground.

As the holidays approach, the A’s will continue to scan the free agent market and explore trade opportunities.

“My guess is there are plenty of things we talked about this week that have legs, and those conversations will continue over the next few weeks,” Forst said. “We’ve got two months until pitchers and catchers report, four months until the season. We’re not the only ones leaving here without actually consummating something.”

The Orioles are another team reportedly trying to pry Dyson from the Royals. Another center fielder mentioned as being available is Reds speedster Billy Hamilton, although reports suggest Cincinnati isn’t in a rush to move him.

Dexter Fowler is the best free agent center fielder still on the market, although Austin Jackson and Rajai Davis seem to fall more in the A’s price range.

Forst was asked how much urgency there is to the center field search.

“I’m not confident they’re gonna be there all winter, there’s only a certain number of guys,” he said. “We’re not going to risk anything to jump out (and do something) we wouldn’t otherwise do. But we think we’re being diligent.

“We cast a wide net, and we continue to. We have to keep doing that just to make sure — free agents, trades, different kinds of players, platoons, whatever. I think we have to keep our toes in every option.”

As for other areas the A’s can improve, they may look to add a veteran starting pitcher. Just speculation, but Doug Fister is one free agent whose price tag figures to be reasonable, and he’s a Northern California native. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the A’s simply invited a veteran to camp on a minor league contract to see if they can find a diamond in the rough, or at least someone to provide competition.

A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane mentioned second base as an area of concern because of injury issues (Jed Lowrie) and inexperience (Joey Wendle, Chad Pinder), but it’s very possible the A’s stick with their in-house options.
 

Notes: A's likely to leave winter meetings with unfinished business

Notes: A's likely to leave winter meetings with unfinished business

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A’s general manager David Forst flies home Thursday afternoon, and unless there’s a drastic change in the final stages of the winter meetings, he’ll still be searching for a center fielder.

Wednesday’s events included some discussion between Oakland and other parties, but no concrete progress toward landing a center fielder. That’s despite the late-breaking news Tuesday that the A’s and Royals were talking trade for fleet-footed Kansas City outfielder Jarrod Dyson.

“It’s a two-way street with a free agent or a team, a function of the other side’s pace,” Forst said. “It’s unlikely (they complete a deal at the meetings), and not for lack of conversations or lack of ideas. Just things move at different speeds.”

It doesn’t necessarily mean the chance of landing Dyson is done. Forst pointed out talks which transpire at the winter meetings sometimes materialize into a deal down the road. But it’s also worth noting that the Baltimore Orioles are pursuing Dyson too. FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported that Baltimore and Kansas City have discussed him.

Therefore, consider the A’s as players in the free agent as well as trade markets.

“We’ve cast a wide net,” Forst said.

Two free agent center fielders came off the board Wednesday as the Rockies agreed to a five-year $70 million contract with Ian Desmond and the Rangers re-signed Carlos Gomez to a one-year $11.5 million deal. Desmond was assumed to be out of the A’s price range, but Gomez was thought to be a realistic target. He opted to return to Texas, which needed to do some outfield re-stocking after losing Desmond and Carlos Beltran, who like Gomez was an in-season acquisition for the Rangers in 2016.

The three most enticing free agents left now at the position appear to be Dexter Fowler — like Desmond, expected to command a pricey multi-year deal — former Athletic Rajai Davis and Austin Jackson.

As for other needs, the A’s would add a veteran starting pitcher at the right price and could look to upgrade at second base, though neither of those is as high a priority as landing someone to anchor the middle of their outfield.

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Manager Bob Melvin addressed reporters at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Though A’s top baseball official Billy Beane said Tuesday the organizational focus was on the future, aiming for a strong team to be in place by the time the A’s potentially move into a new ballpark, Melvin’s attention is solely on the upcoming season.

“In 2012, we had I don't know how many rookies on that team. It was all rookie starters, and we ended up winning the division,” Melvin said. “Once you start the season, the focus is all about winning.”

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Should the A’s not bring in a center fielder who can also lead off, the first in-house candidate Melvin mentioned as perhaps hitting atop the order was Joey Wendle. He gave a nice showing of himself in a September call-up and hit leadoff for a stretch, but there’s no guarantee that Wendle even starts at second base next season, especially if veteran Jed Lowrie is healthy after foot surgery.

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Former Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale has rejoined Oakland’s staff as Melvin’s third-base coach, and Melvin has plenty of confidence that Hale will capably fill Ron Washington’s shoes as the infield instructor. Washington was popular with A’s infielders and had particular success working with shortstop Marcus Semien.

Hale served as Melvin’s bench coach before getting hired by Arizona before the 2015 season.

“Obviously we've talked a lot about Wash and what he's meant to some of these younger guys,” Melvin said. “We feel like if anybody can replace Wash, it's Chip Hale.”

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Forst said John Axford will pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Fellow reliever Liam Hendriks has not yet committed to Team Australia.

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Right-hander Chris Bassitt, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May, was examined by A’s head trainer Nick Paparesta on Wednesday and his recovery is going very well. He’s between throwing programs right now. Forst added that lefty Felix Doubront is also coming back well from the same procedure.