A's poised amid playoff pressure

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A's poised amid playoff pressure

OAKLAND -- The calendar flips six times during baseball's regular season. When it flips to October everything changes. There are way more media members swarming the A's dugout and clubhouse, scoreboard watching becomes a distraction, and the games have heavy implications. Sounds stressful, but is there anything better than October baseball? "No there's really not," Jonny Gomes said. "It was funny, I remember in 2008 my first go around with it and everyone was loading up with veterans. We were like, 'We don't need any veterans we've got it. We just won the division.'" "First pitch, playoffs I was like, 'Whoa. Totally different game,'" Gomes added. The A's know they are on the verge of doing something special. One win and they are in the postseason for the first time since 2006. Three wins and they are the American League West champions. It may not be the playoffs yet, but it sure feels like it -- and the A's are enjoying every second of it."It's a special team," Brandon Moss said. "We've got a lot of great personalities and a lot of guys who are striving to get there. It's the most fun I've ever had in baseball without a question.""We're in a playoff situation," Chris Carter said. "Making playoffs and doing stuff like that in the minors is one thing, but doing it here is a whole different level." Based on the magnitude of the situation, the importance of each remaining game, veterans like Gomes who have been there have to lead by example. The A's have a roster full of young players that have never been to the postseason. Gomes, Grant Balfour, Brandon Inge, Seth Smith, and Stephen Drew have been there before and are leading by example. "I know I get credit for being the older guy," Gomes said. "But these guys are doing it on their own."Most teams have a veteran presence, but the players on this team believe their leadership group is different. They allow young players like Josh Reddick to be vocal and pie people on the field. They let the young players be themselves and have fun as long as they get their jobs done on the field. "To have guys like that to keep it fresh, keep it humble, keep it fun, is huge," Moss said. "You see guys that have done it but they are having just as much fun as we are. It's not all business we're playing for fun." That doesn't mean the veterans don't have a few tricks up their sleeve if they need to crack the whip."There's certain things you can police with the eye stare, the silent treatment for a while," Gomes said. "Everything is going to happen quick so it's like if you do something wrong there's not really a guarantee there's going to be an opportunity again." As Gomes often explains, playing for fun, not contracts, is why the A's are successful. He says if you take away the good times, the A's might crumble under the pressure. A's manager Bob Melvin clearly agrees. He may shake his head and crack a smile when the team shoots a 'Bernie Lean' music video, or look away while a player dressed as Spider-man runs onto the field brandishing pies, but he knows his players are getting it done when it matters the most, and respecting the game on the field. "I think they have done a really good job of keeping us focused on the task at hand," Sean Doolittle said. "While still keeping the atmosphere pretty light and letting us play loose."Oakland has a chance to pop the champagne on Monday. It is safe to say no one saw it coming, but now everyone seems to be expecting it to happen. Pressure to perform can wear on a young team, but these guys don't seem to mind. They are playing with house money at this point. "Here none of us are expecting anything," Moss said. "We just go out and play."

A’s agree to terms with Gray, Hendriks and Vogt to avoid arbitration

A’s agree to terms with Gray, Hendriks and Vogt to avoid arbitration

The Oakland A’s avoided arbitration with right-handed pitchers Sonny Gray and Liam Hendriks and catcher Stephen Vogt when they agreed to terms on one-year contracts for the 2017 season, the club announced today.

Gray went 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA in 22 starts last year in a season shortened by two stints on the disabled list.  His ERA was more than 2½ runs higher than his previous career high and his five wins follow back-to-back 14-win seasons.  Gray went 33-20 with a 2.88 ERA 76 games over his first three seasons with the A’s and now has a 3.42 ERA in his career, which ranks ninth in Oakland history.

Hendriks compiled a 3.76 ERA and .270 opponents batting average in 53 relief appearances in his first season with the A’s.  He had an 8.27 ERA and .394 opponents batting average in 11 games before going on the disabled list in early May with a strained right triceps.  Hendriks then logged a 2.23 ERA and .222 opponents batting average in 42 games following his return from the DL.

Vogt played in a career-high 137 games last year and hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI.  He also had career bests with 123 hits, 30 doubles and 46 extra base hits.  Vogt was named to his second consecutive American League All-Star team.

The only remaining arbitration eligible player on the A’s roster is Khris Davis.

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Mariners swing pair of trades, bolster rotation with addition of Smyly

Mariners swing pair of trades, bolster rotation with addition of Smyly

SEATTLE -- Jerry Dipoto's 11th trade this offseason rounded out the Seattle Mariners roster with his top target.

"I've probably spent more time through the course of our offseason trying to acquire Drew Smyly than any other thing that we've done," the general manager said Wednesday.

Seattle made pair of deals on Wednesday that ultimately landed Smyly, a pitcher Dipoto thinks will fill out the Mariners starting rotation. Seattle also landed a potential key reliever, getting right-hander Shae Simmons from the Atlanta Braves.

The Mariners acquired outfielder Mallex Smith from Atlanta, then sent him to Tampa Bay along with infielder Carlos Vargas and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough for Smyly. Smith was also an offseason target for the Mariners but when Seattle acquired Jarrod Dyson from Kansas City last week, Smith instead became the conduit in helping to obtain Smyly.

"It became apparent to us over the last two or three days that we were able to access Drew Smyly by making the deal with Atlanta that tapped into Mallex Smith," Dipoto said. "So effectively these were two deals that were interlinked."

Smyly is the centerpiece of what Seattle was trying to accomplish as the Mariners seem to have rounded out a starting rotation that appeared to be a major question at the start of the year. The acquisitions of Smyly and Yovani Gallardo from Baltimore last week appear to have filled out a rotation where Felix HernandezHisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton were the only certainties.

Smyly, 27, made 30 starts last season for Tampa Bay, throwing a career-high 175 1/3 innings and striking out 167. He was 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA, but starting pitching is one of Tampa Bay's strongest assets, and Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Erik Neander felt comfortable making the deal because of the depth the Rays have in that area.

Smyly was 15-15 with a 3.95 ERA in 49 starts for Tampa Bay after being acquired from Detroit in the 2014 trade deadline deal that sent David Price to the Tigers. He is arbitration eligible after winning $3.75 million in an arbitration hearing last season.

"He fits our ballpark particularly well. He's a pretty extreme fly-ball pitcher with the low walks, high strikeouts, who in our ballpark, with what we think is a greatly improved outfield defense fits us like a glove really," Dipoto said. "If as we expect he shows up and does his thing it should fit very well for us in this ballpark."

What Smith may be able to add was attractive to Neander, who said the trade was made to help position the Rays to be competitive in 2017. He stopped short of saying he expects Smith to make the team coming out of spring training.

"We need to get better," Neander said. "To do that, we need more competition" for jobs.

Simmons is also a key acquisition for Seattle, providing another power arm in the bullpen. Simmons, 26, made seven appearances last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and threw just 6 2/3 big league innings. Before elbow issues, Simmons was 1-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 26 appearances during the 2014 season.

"He's had a strong history with striking (batters) out and (we're) really excited to plug him in," Dipoto said.

The cost for Seattle to complete to two deals meant giving up two of its top pitching prospects in Yarbrough and Luiz Gohara. Yarbrough, 25, was named the Southern League pitcher of the year after going 12-4 with a 2.95 ERA at Double-A Jackson last season. Gohara, 20, was 7-2 with a 1.81 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 13 starts at two Class A stops.

Seattle also sent lefty Thomas Burrows to Atlanta and designated right-hander Cody Martin for assignment to make room on its 40-man roster.