A's escape Rule 5 Draft relatively unscathed


A's escape Rule 5 Draft relatively unscathed

NASHVILLE -- The A's escaped the Rule 5 Draft relatively unscathed on Thursday morning at the Winter Meetings. No A's players were taken in the Major League portion of the draft. Not surprisingly, Oakland also didn't pick any players during that phase.

A player taken in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the team's active roster the entire season, and the picks cost $50,000. If the player doesn't remain on the active roster they go back to their original team in exchange for $25,000.

In the Minor League portion of the draft Oakland picked up two players, third baseman Tommy Mendonca from the Rangers organization, and catcher Steven Hill from the Cardinals farm system.

Mendonca, who attended college at Fresno State, hit a combined .229 with 12 homers, 51 RBI, and a .278 on-base percentage in Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. The third baseman won the 2008 College World Series Most Outstanding Player award.

Hill, 27, actually saw some time in the Major Leagues with the Cardinals last season. He went 2 for 10 with a double in nine games at first base. He played one game in 2010 for the Cardinals and hit a home run. Hill hit .266 with 17 homers and 52 RBI in Triple-A last season.

The A's lost outfielder Eliezer Mesa to Detroit, and shortstop Michael Gilmartin to Cincinnati during the minor league portion of the draft.

Players that were protected on the A's 40-man roster were not eligible for the draft. One player that could have been swiped from the A's system was pitcher James Simmons, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game this year.

Simmons, 26, was a first round pick in 2007 and he appeared in 30 games for Double-A Midland, and nine games for Triple-A Sacramento in 2012. He had a 2.98 ERA, 50 strikeouts and 22 walks last season with the RockHounds and River Cats.

It is a bit of a surprise no one took him. Especially when considering 23 of the 42 total players taken were pitchers.

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A’s general manager David Forst says he has a stack of strongly worded letters from fans who grow frustrated with many of the team’s personnel moves.

That comes with the territory of running a major league front office. But Forst also said, during a wide-ranging interview on the latest A’s Insider Podcast, that honest critiquing must come from within office walls.

“You do want to do some self-evaluation and self-assessing,” Forst said. “What I don’t do, I don’t go back and second-guess decisions, whether it’s a trade or a signing. I don’t sort of hypothetically think, ‘Well, what if we hadn’t done this,’ because it’s not a good use of anybody’s time. What you do have to do is make sure the process that led to that decision is sound and a good one.”

Certainly one of the most scrutinized A’s moves of recent history was their signing of designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year $30 million contract in November 2014. That turned out to be a costly mistake, with Butler being released in September with one year left on his deal and the A’s still on the hook for roughly $10 million. Forst acknowledged how poorly that decision worked out but sticks by the initial motivation to sign Butler.

“Look, Billy Butler didn’t go the way we expected, and that’s one that gets brought up a lot,” Forst said. “But I think back to the time when we made that decision to sign him, and what we were projecting Billy to do. It was very clear what our team needed. Again, going into 2015, coming off the wild card that year, we still felt like this was a team that could compete for a division title. So all the things that went into the decision, ultimately I will stand by.”

Forst spoke frankly about several other topics during the podcast. Regarding fans’ frustration about seeing so many high-profile players traded:

“I’ve got a stack of letters on my desk, the substance of which I can’t repeat on the air,” he said with a smile. “… But there’s passion. And I know we have a fan base that cares, and that’s really a good place to be.”

Forst said the A’s definitely will pursue starting pitching this offseason, despite the fact that 1) he’s very optimistic about the crop of young pitching Oakland has developed, and 2) he believes Sonny Gray will bounce back from a poor 2016 season. The GM takes encouragement that Gray made a full physical recovery from a strained forearm.

“Am I going to get the Cy Young (caliber pitcher) from Day 1? I don’t know. But I think there’s a confidence that this was an aberration, this whole year, more than anything else.”

Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


TORONTO -- A most unlikely pitching performance helped put a most unexpected team into the World Series.

Rookie Ryan Merritt coolly delivered a lead to the Andrew Miller-led bullpen and the Cleveland Indians won their first pennant since 1997, blanking Toronto 3-0 Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Indians will try to boost what's already been a magical year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first sports championship since 1964. The Indians' title drought dates to 1948.

The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn't play either team this season.

With all of 11 major league innings under his belt, Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The 24-year-old lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed only two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.

Then it was up to Cleveland's tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead.

Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, pitching 2 2/3 innings, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for the save. Winner Bryan Shaw worked an inning before Miller came in.

Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.