Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 8, Indians 4

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Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 8, Indians 4

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These seven late August games against the Cleveland Indians couldn't have come at a better time for the A's. Oakland has won all six games against the Indians this month with one game still remaining. After taking down The Tribe 8-4 on Wednesday, the A's have won five straight games, are a season-high 15 games over .500, and have sole possession of the top American League Wild Card spot. At the PlateWith injured third baseman Brandon Inge nearing a return, Josh Donaldson is making a strong case to stay. With two outs in the fourth inning Donaldson drove a 3-2 pitch into the left field stands for a go-ahead three-run homer. Since returning to the A's on August 14, Donaldson is hitting .350 (20-57) with six doubles, two homers, and six RBI. The A's added to their run total in the sixth inning when the Indians made two mental lapses. Donaldson reached on a force attempt after hitting a grounder to third baseman Jack Hannahan, who threw the ball to second only to see Jason Kipnis completely miss the ball. Derek Norris then grounded out to first baseman Matt LaPorta, who tagged the bag, hesitated, and then threw home instead of getting the third out at second. Josh Reddick, who reached on a single earlier in the inning, easily scored ahead of LaPorta's throw home, giving the A's a 4-2 lead. Seth Smith struck out in his first three plate appearances. In his fourth trip to the plate he stroked a two-out RBI double to give the A's a 6-2 lead. Chris Carter came up next and drove home Smith on the first pitch he saw with an RBI single. The A's scored two insurance insurance runs in the ninth inning. Stephen Drew hit a leadoff double. Cespedes drove him home and ended up on second base after the ball he hit ricocheted off Indians' pitcher Vinnie Pestano's foot, propelling the ball into left field. Josh Reddick drove home Cespedes with an RBI single giving the A's an 8-4 lead. Both Cespedes and Reddick ended up with three hits. Starting Pitching ReportTravis Blackley wasted no time dispatching one of the Indians' best hitters, Asdrubal Cabrera, from the batter's box and the game. After striking out leadoff hitter Jason Kipnis, Blackley struck out Cabrera looking on a 3-2 curveball. Cabrera took exception to the called third strike and voiced his displeasure while gesturing at home plate umpire Gary Darling, who tossed him from the game. Without their starting shortstop the Indians put former A's player Jack Hannahan in at third base and Brent Lillibridge to shortstop. Blackley gave up two runs in the third inning. The first run was the result of a solo homer off the bat of Jason Donald. The blast represented the first run the Indians have scored against the A's in 30 innings. Donald's homer was followed by a Ezequiel Carerra triple. He scored on an RBI groundout off the bat of Kipnis, making it 2-0. The A's bats gave the Australian-born lefty the lead in the fourth inning and he responded by firing two and two-thirds innings of shutdown ball. Blackley earned his fifth win of the season. He finished the night with 92 pitches over five and two-thirds innings, allowing two runs on three hits, and two walks, with five strikeouts. Not bad for a spot start. Blackley has been a steal for the A's off the scrap heap after he was waived by the Giants. He has been solid out of the bullpen and in the starting rotation. He never did anything to deserve being bounced from the starting rotation. The A's just have too much pitching depth even without Bartolo Colon. Bullpen ReportPat Neshek entered in relief of Blackley in the sixth inning. He struck out Lillibridge to end the frame. He came back out for the seventh but gave up back-to-back hits to start the inning. Sean Doolittle took over for Neshek and pitched his way out of the inherited jam. The hard-throwing rookie lefty got all three hitters he faced in the seventh to fly out, stranding two Indians runners. He came back out for the eighth inning and gave up a walk and a hit to start the inning. Next he got what would have been a groundout but Donaldson misplayed the ball. With the bases loaded and no outs the Indians scored on a sacrifice fly before Doolittle left the game. Two runs ended up scoring in the inning but Doolittle wasn't charged with any earned runs. Jerry Blevins cleaned up the rest of the mess. He induced two groundouts to end the inning. A run scored on the first groundout, though. Ryan Cook finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning. Cook hasn't allowed a run in his past seven games. In the FieldYou have to take the good with the bad in the case of Donaldson, who is a catcher-turned-third baseman. In the eighth inning with runners on first and second he fielded a ball that he could have tossed to second base starting a potential double play. Instead he ran the ball to second, making an attempt to tag the lead runner, but dropped the ball before the tag. This put the A's in a situation where they had to pitch out of a no-out bases loaded jam. Up NextThe A's will attempt to complete a four-game sweep over the Indians in Cleveland with Jarrod Parker (8-7, 3.52 ERA) on the mound. Parker is 1-0 in his last two starts since snapping a three-game losing streak. Parker is the 10th rookie in Oakland history to reach 100 strikeouts -- he has 104.The Indians will counter with Justin Masterson (10-11, 4.60 ERA). He allowed seven runs to the A's on August 19.

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.