A's look to keep champagne out of visiting clubhouse

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A's look to keep champagne out of visiting clubhouse

OAKLAND -- The champagne that was sprayed with unbridled elation is dried and sticky. The plastic sheets that acted as a clubhouse splashguard have been wadded into a huge ball and hauled away. The cigar butts that littered the floor are now swept out and disposed of. Today is a new day, and the 2012 Oakland Athletics live their lives one game at a time.

As a result, it's time for them to hide their grey American League Playoffs shirts and hats, stow away the goggles, and file away the memories of Monday night in order to focus on staying alive in the division. "We've got one thing on our mind," Jonny Gomes said. "And this is definitely a stepping stone to what we are trying to do." Sure, the Wild Card is a nice ace up their sleeve, a guaranteed spot in the postseason, but it isn't the most desirable route. If the A's can keep defying the odds and win their next two games against the division-leading Rangers they will be the American League West champions and will be assured at least a full series."We're still shooting for something," Reddick said. "We still got a lot of work to do."
RATTO: A's celebrate before it's back to business
The A's took advantage of the opportunity to celebrate -- and it was a pretty wild one for a while. As they let loose they acknowledged that it could be a small taste of what could be ahead if they handle their business the next two days. The champagne is much more effervescent when it is division-winning bubbly. If they lose just one game, it will be the Rangers that get to party like animals instead. The A's will be sending Travis Blackley to the mound on Tuesday. The Australian lefty enjoyed the celebration but had a more stern look on his face while his teammates partied around him. He has been struggling mightily lately. Last Thursday he gave up five runs against the Rangers and didn't make it to the second inning. He is 1-2 with a 7.00 ERA in four starts against Texas this year. It would appear the odds are against the A's on Tuesday, but when hasn't the deck been stacked against them this season? They have lost veterans Brandon Inge, Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon and Brett Anderson -- and they keep on winning. It seems surprising, but it makes sense when you look at the big picture. The A's aren't a team stacked with All-Stars. They get contributions from every player on the roster and don't lean on one player to carry the team.
PRATT: This is better than Moneyball
"We've got a great group," Brandon Moss said. "There's not a single guy in this clubhouse that hasn't contributed to something."While all the remnants of Monday night's celebration may have been disposed of, the A's know there's plenty more where that came from. The big question is if they can keep it out of the visiting clubhouse.

Reports: Ex-A's catcher Suzuki agrees to deal with NL East team

Reports: Ex-A's catcher Suzuki agrees to deal with NL East team

Kurt Suzuki is headed back to the National League.

After three seasons in the American League with the Twins, the former A's backstop has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Braves.

News of the agreement was first reported by SB Nation.

Suzuki will reportedly make $1.5 million, according to Fox Sports. He has a chance to make an addition $2.5 million in incentives.

The 33-year-old Suzuki was drafted by the A's in the second round of 2004 MLB Draft. He made his debut with Oakland in 2007 and was the starting catcher until a 2012 trade to Washington. A year later, the Nationals traded Suzuki back to the A's for the final five weeks of the season.

Prior to the 2014 season, Suzuki signed with Twins. In three seasons with Minnesota, Suzuki hit .263/.316/.364 with 75 doubles, 16 home runs and 160 RBI.

Suzuki will likely serve as a back-up to catcher Tyler Flowers.

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla says he’s returning to his baseball home, which requires only a trip across the Bay Bridge.

The A’s finalized a two-year $11 million contract with the former Giants closer Friday, adding him to a bullpen that has no shortage of late-inning relief options for manager Bob Melvin.

“There’s an old saying that it’s always good to return home, and I’m very happy to get this new opportunity with the Athletics,” Casilla said on a media conference call, via interpreter Manolo Hernandez Douen.

It’s “new” in that the 36-year-old Casilla spent the past seven seasons wearing black and orange. But his major league career is rooted in Oakland. The A’s signed him out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent back in 2000, and he spent his first six seasons with Oakland, the first two of those pitching under the name Jairo Garcia.

He’s since won three World Series rings with the Giants, including notching four saves during the 2014 postseason. His final season with San Francisco ended on a sour note last year, however, as he was demoted from the closer’s role during a rough September.

What role will he find in 2017?

Casilla, who reportedly can earn up to $3 million in incentives based on games finished, joins three other relievers in the A’s ‘pen who have legitimate big league closer’s experience — John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Doolittle was the closer entering last spring but shoulder problems derailed him for a second consecutive season. Madson handled the ninth for most of 2016 and notched 30 saves, but general manager David Forst made it clear Friday that the Opening Night closer has yet to be determined.

“We had a number of different guys save games last year,” Forst said. “… Santiago saved almost 80 games the last couple years. He’s got a lot of experience. As we talked to him and his representatives, he made it clear he’s willing to do anything. It’s great for Bob to have a number of options. It’ll sort itself out in spring training as to who the guy is to start the season.”

Doolittle, Axford, Ryan Dull and Zach Neal combined for 12 saves last season. But even though the A’s are fully stocked with ninth-inning options, it’s fair to question whether any of them is a clear-cut answer for the closer’s role as spring training nears.

Madson’s seven blown saves tied for second most in the American League. Doolittle hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014. Axford issued 4.11 walks per nine innings last year, and Dull’s biggest strength is his ability escape jams when entering mid-inning.

Casilla went 2-5 with a 3.57 ERA and 31 saves last season, striking out a career-best 10.1 per nine innings, but there was some turbulence. He was displeased with Giants manager Bruce Bochy last May after being pulled from a game. Then he struggled mightily in September and lost the closer’s role. Bochy didn’t call on him at all as the bullpen coughed up a ninth-inning lead to the Cubs in Game 4 of the NL Division Series that ended the Giants’ season. That decision had Casilla in tears after the game.

Asked Friday if he harbored any hard feelings toward the Giants, Casilla replied: “It’s a new year, a new team. I have left this in the past.”

Forst pointed to Casilla’s sustained velocity — his fastball averaged 93.6 miles per hour last season — and his expanded repertoire over his career as reasons why the A’s went after him.

“His numbers were really good — 65 strikeouts, 19 walks,” Forst said. “As we got through the offseason I think we thought he was being overlooked a little bit just because of the narrative surrounding his departure with the Giants. I wasn’t around and I don’t know what went on, but it seems like a few blown saves marred what otherwise was a fantastic season for him.”

In other news, the A’s signed veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training. Forst noted De Aza’s ability to play all three outfield spots and his speed as traits that caught the A’s attention.