A's notes: Football makes appearance, Anderson progressing

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A's notes: Football makes appearance, Anderson progressing

OAKLAND -- The A's may have a magic number of four to clinch a playoff spot, but a much more interesting number might be 90. If the team wins on Saturday it will be their 90th of the season. It is safe to say nobody in their right mind saw that coming at the start of the season. The A's haven't won 90 games since 2006 when they tallied 93 victories.-- Injured starting pitcher Brett Anderson continues to improve as he tries to accelerate the recovery from his strained right oblique. He was in the outfield playing catch again on Saturday. He threw from 120 feet. The team remains optimistic that he could be ready for the postseason. "After that we could get him on a mound," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I would say Monday at the earliest if everything goes well today." Melvin stressed the team is trying to keep it's options open with Anderson but can't afford to rush him back. Once he gets on the mound and throws some pitches the A's will be able to get a better gauge on how ready he is. -- Melvin says he isn't going to shuffle the rotation for the remaining games of the season. Things could get interesting if there is a one-game playoff. Straily would be on turn to start that game. Here's the rotation as it shakes out the rest of the way.A's Rotation: Dan Straily (2-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (14-11, 3.94 ERA)
Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA) vs. Erasmo Ramirez (1-3, 3.42 ERA)
Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.44 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (1-3, 5.03 ERA)
Travis Blackley (5-4, 3.91 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison (18-10, 3.26 ERA)
A.J. Griffin (7-1, 2.71 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (7-3, 4.64 ERA)
How the remaining starts go for each pitcher could determine who makes a potential playoff rotation. The A's would have the luxury of going to a four-man rotation should they make it to divisional play. -- Coco Crisp is in the lineup playing a day game after a night game. It can be very difficult to see baseballs in the Oakland Coliseum during the day. If Crisp can survive a full game out there in the outfield while battling the sun, he is clearly a safe start for the long haul after suffering from allergic conjunctivitis in both of his eyes. He had only appeared as a pinch runner in two of the previous nine games before returning on Friday night and going 3 for 5 with a home run and three runs. -- The A's were throwing around a football before the game. Daric Barton brought the ball down to the field from the clubhouse. They played catch and made some mock interceptions and runbacks. At one point the ball was thrown to Yoenis Cespedes. He struggled to catch the ball. When he tried to chuck it back it went wobbling through the air. He laughed and joked that his shoulder was hurt by the ball. It looked like the first time he's ever picked up the pigskin. Many have remarked that Cespedes' speed and muscular build would make him a killer linebacker. As long as he isn't trying to catch or throw the ball he might make a pretty good football player. Like Bo, Yo knows.Cespedes has been a fast learner since joining the A's. He is making constant adjustments at the plate, is learning a new language, and a new outfield position. The full-extension diving catch he made in left field last night is proof that he is a remarkable athlete. "I think it goes right along with the way he has evolved as a player here since the first day in Spring Training," Melvin said. "He's picked things up very quickly, and once he feels comfortable he is just on to the next thing."The A's are hoping to make a deep postseason run. Maybe once he is done he can don the silver and black. Melvin even joked that Cespedes might get some looks at shortstop next year. -- Playing football is just another example of how loose the A's can be. As Jonny Gomes has remarked on many occasions, the team is playing for fun, not for contracts. That has worked for them all season. "We're trying to keep it as loose as we can," Melvin said. "It's starting to get a little much but we are trying to play today's game and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow." -- Stephen Drew is on an eight-game hitting streak. He is hitting .429 (15 for 35) over that span. Since joining the A's 16 games ago he is batting .271 with five home runs and 16 RBI. The team has a mutual option on his contract for next season. The day they acquired him via trade from the Diamondbacks, assistant general manager David Forst said they wanted to see how he played before considering bringing him back. Drew might be making a strong case to return. "We'd love to have him back," Melvin said of Drew. Drew's 2013 option is worth 10 million with a buyout of 1.35 M. The A's should be able to afford him easily if the front office agrees with Melvin's sentiments.

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.