Strikeouts not stopping sarcastic A's

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Strikeouts not stopping sarcastic A's

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ARLINGTON -- The A's performance on Wednesday was one for the record books. They clobbered the Texas Rangers 9-3, reduced their magic number to clinch a spot in the Wild Card game to six, and pulled within three games of the American League West-leading Rangers. For a team that has played five consecutive one-run games, the laughter of a decision was much needed. All good things but not quite historical.

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With 11 whiffs on the night Oakland blew past the previous American League record for most single-season strikeouts, expanding their ongoing franchise-worst mark to 1,333 and passing the 2007 Tampa Bay Rays, who previously held the record with 1,324 punchouts."I think at this point in time it kind of just comes with the territory," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I was counting up the strikeouts after six and you're going 'Here we go again.' but at least we're not hitting into double plays." The thing about the A's and their egregious strikeout total is that it hasn't stopped them from scoring. They have scored the second most runs in the A.L. since the All-Star break. When they swing, they swing for the fences and it seems to work. It was no different on this evening as Oakland's offense exploded for five runs on six hits as they sent nine batters to the plate and knocked Rangers' starting pitcher Martin Perez out of the game with two outs in the first inning."There was some padding but with that team you never feel that secure," Melvin said. Jarrod Parker tossed six innings of three-run ball and got his 12th win of the season. He is now tied with fellow rookie Tommy Milone for the team lead in wins. Parker has received one run or fewer in 14 of his 29 starts. He got so much run support on Wednesday that it seemed to knock him off his game. He gave up a run and threw 30 pitches in the first inning. Then in the second inning he loaded the bases with no outs and gave up two more runs. He escaped the inning by only allowing the runs to score on a force out and a sacrifice fly. "I've had long waits like that and I'll take five runs and 35 minutes anytime," Parker said (not that he's counting). "You learn to figure out what you need and I was able to get loose and battle through that."Parker is 12-0 in 17 starts in which he gets two or more runs of support. He dialed in after the early issues and pitched four consecutive scoreless innings. "Our bullpen has had a lot of work lately and early on I was struggling a little bit," Parker said. "I came in after the second and third and Curt Young just said flush it, start all over. That was kind of the mentality I was able to take out there."The A's collected 16 hits, but one in particular was very important. Josh Reddick stroked a single in the seventh inning to snap his career-worst 0-for-30 slump. As the newly clean-shaven Reddick reached first base he looked relieved and motioned to the dugout, doing a "double air high-five" with Collin Cowgill. The guys on the bench jokingly asked for the game ball to commemorate the occasion. "We called for the ball and they actually threw it in," Parker said. "We were kind of joking but he actually threw it. There was a couple of jokes. We gave him a nice golf clap in the dugout." "Like a rookie getting his first hit in the big leagues," Reddick said showing off the ball. "They gave me all kinds of special writing on it. Got some stats, 10 broken bats and three broken helmets." He added a hit with a runner in scoring position in his next at-bat but Brandon Moss, who was on second after collecting his third hit, was held up at third. Maybe shaving his goatee and facial hair did indeed do the trick. Reddick said it was a spur of the moment decision right before the game. "I think everybody is relieved to see Reddick get a couple of hits," Melvin said. "He was grinding pretty hard on that. He means so much to us. It's all in fun now but we all felt it going through the struggle." One guy that hasn't been struggling for hits is Stephen Drew. He went 4-for-5 with two RBIs as the A's leadoff hitter. He smacked a bases-loaded single in the third inning to put the A's ahead 7-3. It was Drew's 11th career four-hit game, and his second four-hit effort this week. He is hitting .464 (13-for-28) during his current six-game hitting streak. "He's really starting to get his legs underneath him and it's really about the halfway point of the season for him," Melvin said. "Getting consistent at-bats against lefties, righties, he's a guy that can contribute on both sides of it. That was a nice pickup by Billy Beane." Moss collected three hits and scored twice and Derek Norris got in on the act by driving in a career high-tying three RBIs. The A's wins against the Rangers are keeping their hopes alive, as far as winning the division is concerned. They still have four more games remaining against the Rangers, three of which are at the Oakland Coliseum. "For us to come out here and get these guys is I think the biggest series of the road trip," Reddick said. "These are the guys we are trying to catch. A lot of people want to say we get the Wild Card, we're still trying to win this division."NOTES:-- Yoenis Cespedes smacked an RBI triple in the first inning and was greeted at third base by trainer Nick Paparesta and Bob Melvin. He remained in the game. Cespedes has been battling a bone bruise on the bottom of his right foot since the last home stand. "He's had a bone bruise for a while and he's playing hurt," Melvin said. "I might have to DH him tomorrow even if Coco Crisp isn't available, which at this point I'm probably doubting. For a guy used to playing 90 game seasons this is probably empty tank for him and now he's playing center field and dealing with an injury on top of it." -- Crisp hit in the cage each of the last two days. He has appeared in two games as a pinch runner since developing the eye issues but hasn't been able to hit in eight games.

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.