How to draw inspiration from the lowly 24-31 A's

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How to draw inspiration from the lowly 24-31 A's

How can the A's possibly follow up Monday night's performance? They scored a season-high 12 runs. Seth Smith tied a career-high with four hits -- he was a homer shy of the cycle. Brandon Inge went 2 for 2, with a homer and four RBIs -- in the second inning alone! Cliff Pennington snapped a career-long 0 for 29 slump with an RBI double and got another hit later. And Jarrod Parker, well all he did was throw a one-hitter against the top offense in the game today.When a team that has been so bad offensively and struggled so mightily against the American League West-leading Rangers erupts like that, unfortunately there is no where to go but down. Yet, down doesn't have to be that far. Maybe the A's can find a healthy medium between scoring zero runs, then nine, zero again, then 12. With their pitching staff, just three of four runs a night will do them wonders. Maybe the A's find a way to build on this performance. After all the quiet nights in the clubhouse during the nine-game losing streak (they aren't allowed to play music after a loss) it has to feel good when they are blasting Weezy, aka Lil Wayne, at ear piercing decibels like they were last night. The A's haven't been good. There is no sugarcoating that. But their 24-31 record hides the fact that there are still good stories to tell. Take Tuesday's starting pitcher Travis Blackley, for example. Here is a guy that got released from the Giants this season after spending 2011 pitching for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. He was picked up as a long reliever, and has earned himself a spot in the starting rotation. There's Collin Cowgill, a guy that was recalled from Sacramento after getting sent down earlier in the season to fill in at center field while Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes were on the disabled list. Both Crisp and Cespedes have since been reinstated, yet Cowgill remains. He earned playing time and a roster spot, and is currently on a seven-game hitting streak. Kila Ka'aihue was claimed off the scrap heap by the A's. He figured to be the first guy shipped out. Now he is the last man standing at first base. Brandon Allen has been designated for assignment, and Daric Barton was optioned to Triple-A. Ka'aihue launched his fourth homer Monday night. Also on Monday, the A's called up left-handed pitcher Sean Doolittle. Last Tuesday he was brought up to Triple-A and was telling me how excited he was to be there. Less than a week later his dream of being a big-leaguer is realized. He was drafted in 2007 as a first baseman, converted to a pitcher this offseason, and in two months, he went all the way from Single-A, to Double-A, to Triple-A, to the Oakland A's.Then there is Josh Reddick, a guy who is having a career year. It is June and he already has 14 homers and five outfield assists. He should be getting All-Star Game recognition, but I am sure A's fans won't mind keeping him their little secret. Reddick's father lost a hand and was declared dead on three occasions after an electrical accident. Today he is a little league baseball coach and is quick to pick up the phone to give Josh pointers. You think Reddick doesn't have reason to be motivated and happy for what he has? Look at the inspiration he draws from his father, and you will know what he is all about. So how do the A's follow up their performance on Monday night? They don't. They just need to find ways to draw inspiration from it, and from within. Sure, they are eight games in the hole to the Rangers in the A.L. West, but they have a chance to make a dent Tuesday. The Rangers starting pitcher for game two of four is Derek Holland. The A's might be catching him at the right time. On Wednesday, Holland allowed eight runs -- all of which came in the second inning -- to the Seattle Mariners. The final score of the game ended up being 21-8, Mariners. As a result of that start, Holland's ERA shot up from 4.05 to 5.11. It is safe to say the mustachioed lefty might still be a bit shell-shocked.

With division rivals dominating rumor mill, how will A's respond?

With division rivals dominating rumor mill, how will A's respond?

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As you ponder what moves the A’s might make in the near future, keep an eye on what’s taking place with the teams they’re trying to chase down in the American League West.

The Astros and Rangers, who look like the division’s top two teams on paper, are in the thick of some of the juiciest rumors circulating on the first day of baseball’s winter meetings.

Houston already has made several impact additions this offseason, including signing former Athletic Josh Reddick to a four-year $52 million contract. The Astros, coming off a disappointing third-place finish in 2016, have also traded for catcher Brian McCann and signed outfielders Carlos Beltran and Nori Aoki, plus right-hander Charlie Morton to fortify their rotation.

Now the Astros are on the hunt for a top-flight starter to complement 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Reportedly they are a major player to land White Sox ace Chris Sale — destined to be the most talked-about name throughout these meetings — but it’s believed Houston doesn’t want to part with young infielder Alex Bregman, which might thwart a trade for the big lefty.

The Rangers, two-time defending AL West champs, also are looking for an ace-type addition to their starting staff with the possibility that Yu Darvish could leave as a free agent following this season. But Texas also has been linked to free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion, and gets mentioned in trade rumors involving outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Billy Hamilton.

It’s no wonder the Rangers are on the lookout for hitters — they’ve already lost Beltran to free agency and could watch fellow outfielders Ian Desmond and Carlos Gomez and first baseman Mitch Moreland walk as well. One way or another, expect Texas’ roster to look drastically different in 2017.

The Seattle Mariners, who made a 10-win improvement last season over 2015, are very much in the market for a rotation upgrade of their own, and they’ve been aggressive with offseason moves under general manager Jerry Dipoto.

Don’t forget about the Angels, who are searching far and wide for a second baseman. If Los Angeles gets better health from its starting rotation this season, that alone could make the Angels more of a division threat.

How does all of this pertain to the A’s?

It demonstrates that climbing the ladder in the AL West won’t be an easy task for a club coming off consecutive seasons in the cellar. The teams expected to fight atop the division are aggressively trying to get better. And surely A’s officials take notice as they weigh whether to make significant moves to improve for 2017 or take a step back, evaluate more of their young talent in the upcoming season and lay groundwork for the future.

To that end, right-hander Sonny Gray’s name figures to surface throughout the four-day winter meetings, taking place just outside the nation’s capital.

The Atlanta Braves, an up-and-coming team that’s been linked to Sale and other top pitchers, have interest in Gray. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Braves and A’s discussed Gray but that Atlanta found the A’s asking price too extravagant, even though it didn’t include stud shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson.

The Braves do have some talented young center fielders — Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith among them — and given the A’s great need at that position, it stands to reason at least one of those players would surface in talks between the clubs. Whether the Braves would part with either is another question.

A's outfielder Khris Davis to play for Mexico in World Baseball Classic

A's outfielder Khris Davis to play for Mexico in World Baseball Classic

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Khris Davis confirmed Monday that he will play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic this spring.

The A’s left fielder, who led Oakland with 42 home runs and 102 RBI last season, was also on a preliminary list for Team USA, and he’d been weighing which country to play for.

“I’m just excited to represent Mexico and felt I should be loyal,” Davis told CSN California in a phone interview. “I’m flattered that Team USA invited me and was considering me, but at the end of the day they weren’t going to guarantee playing time like Mexico was. … (Mexico) has been on me for years, since before I was even a big leaguer.”

Davis was born in Southern California, but his mother, Sonia Alarcon, is from Ensenada, which makes him eligible to play for Mexico. He was exposed to the country’s baseball culture as a youth while traveling with his father, Rodney, who was a scout for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.

“His mom is from Ensenada, I think he was proud to say that,” Team Mexico manager Edgar Gonzalez said. “People didn’t know that, and his mom and his whole family are going to be very proud of him to represent the country that they grew up in.”

Gonzalez’s brother, Dodgers star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, will also play for Mexico, and Edgar has visions of Davis combining with Adrian as part of a potent heart of the order.

“It’s a 42-home run bat in the middle of the lineup, which is pretty impressive,” Gonzalez said. “Those are impressive numbers for somebody in that stadium (The Coliseum).”

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna also is expected to suit up for Mexico, and Davis said he’s hopeful that a good friend of his, Orioles pitcher Yovani Gallardo, also will be a teammate.

Mexico is scheduled to begin first-round play March 9 in Jalisco, so Davis will report to spring training with the A’s before leaving to play in the WBC. Major league clubs can’t prevent their players from participating in the event, although factors are taken into consideration if there is an injury risk. A’s general manager David Forst said early in the offseason that he had no issues with Oakland players taking part in the WBC.