Ross excited for new opportunity in Oakland

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Ross excited for new opportunity in Oakland

OAKLAND -- The A's have added yet another live arm. All they had to do was make a phone call.

Tyson Ross has returned to Oakland for the fifth time this season, but this time he will pitch out of the bullpen. The East Bay native was last recalled to pitch in Bartolo Colon's place on August 23. He went six innings allowing five runs and was immediately sent back to Triple-A with a new role. "Maybe his best chance is in the bullpen," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "The stuff does stand out, and there's a chance coming out of the bullpen for shorter stints that the velocity may even pick up." Many have wondered if Ross would be better served as a relief pitcher. Now we get to find out for sure. The statistics certainly indicate pitching out of the bullpen will help the right-handed pitcher. First time through the lineup batters have a .247 average against him, second time though it jumps to .307, and the third time through it escalates to .397. "It's going to be a more intense focus as far as seeing one time through the lineup or one inning at a time," Ross said. "I think it's a little bit easier to lock it in on just those three or four hitters, not having to worry about mixing it up the second time through." Ross is ready to embrace the role especially because it means he gets to play for his hometown team in a pennant chase. "It's awesome," Ross said. "I've been an Oakland A's fan my whole life. I remember back in high school when those were the good days, it's exciting to be in the clubhouse, be down on the field, and help contribute."Ross says the team told him they were happy with what he's been doing on the mound. They let him know they wanted to put him in the bullpen for the season to relieve pressure on the guys that have been here all year. "It kind of sucked getting sent down but it was nice to know they were happy with the results," Ross said. "Whatever little bit I can do to help out and contribute will be a good thing."In his Major League career Ross has been a mediocre starting pitcher. In 13 starts for the A's this season he is 2-9 with a 6.45 ERA. As a reliever the team might be able to get the most use out of his talented skill set. He will be used in long relief for now."When he's feeling good he can throw 96 to 97-mph with sink," Melvin said. "At this point in time we are looking at more length but maybe down the road he is a guy that can pitch deeper in games." The experiment hasn't exactly gone as planned yet. He has allowed four runs -- three earned in two innings in Sacramento since being converted to a reliever. Granted, it is a work in progress. "I've done it a little in the past and had some success," Ross said. "I just have to learn from the other guys as far as getting my routine down and learning where my role fits in."

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.