The A's unsung hero

818194.jpg

The A's unsung hero

OAKLAND -- Gutted in the offseason, the A's pitching staff lost three All-Stars through trades -- and they have never been better. As the names and faces of the A's change like the seasons, one man has found a way to bring consistent excellence to the mound in Oakland, no matter who is on it. His name is Curt Young, and he is the unsung hero of the A's starting rotation.Oakland's starting rotation has an American League-leading 3.72 ERA, something very few of the so-called baseball experts expected to see after the team traded Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill in the offseason. Yet, here they stand, armed to the teeth once again. "We are first in the league in ERA without too many household names here," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's tough to even put a price on what Curt has done here. It is phenomenal." When Young returned to the A's after spending the 2011 season with the Red Sox, he didn't know the team's two best pitchers would be traded. So far it hasn't mattered in the slightest bit. He was given another talented crop of youthful pitchers to help develop, and so far he has passed the test with straight-A's. "That's the goal," Young said. "You come in with young guys and you hope you can make them believe and give them enough confidence. Then they have to go out and do it." And they have. This season 45 of the A's innings pitched have come with a rookie pitcher on the mound. Over those 360.2 innings pitched by rookies, the A's have a 2.99 ERA. "A lot of times you don't recognize the pitching coach for what he's done," A's starting pitcher Tommy Milone said. "Obviously he's done a great job. You can tell just by how the pitchers have thrown all year." The A's have gotten it done with their two most experienced pitchers Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy spending time on the DL. Rookie right-handed pitcher Jarrod Parker -- who came to the A's in the Cahill trade -- has a 3.07 ERA. He has allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of his 15 starts. Milone -- who came to the A's in the Gonzalez trade -- has nine wins and a 3.54 ERA. He has allowed two runs or fewer in 12 of his 18 starts. Another rookie, A.J. Griffin, has allowed three runs or less in all four of his starts. "Whenever you have someone like that behind you, and doing everything they can to prepare you, then you are going to have a lot of success," Griffin said of Young's leadership. "He does a lot of stuff behind the scenes that helps us go out there and be ready to compete." When told that some of his pitchers said he was the unsung hero of the staff, Young brushed off the remark like a veteran. He likely wants to defer the attention, and rightfully so. What he has done with the staff is remarkable. What the pitchers have done on the mound might be even more impressive. "Their talent is really showing up," Young said. "They've been on good routines, we've given them rest when they can get it. Once you get on a roll like that, you really can't wait to get out there. I believe that's the case with all these guys." This is Young's 24th season in the A's organization, and his eighth season as the A's pitching coach. He left the A's prior to the 2011 season to join the Boston Red Sox and returned prior to this season. It's not surprising the Red Sox went after him. During his previous seven seasons with Oakland, he led the A's to an A.L. best 4.03 ERA. After changing general managers after a disappointing season by Red Sox standards, the uncertainty within the Boston coaching staff brought Young back to Oakland. Melvin believes the A's were lucky to get him."He's a great fit here in Oakland," Melvin said. "He looks a lot better in white shoes than dark shoes."The A's have been one of the surprises in Major League Baseball. They are a season-high three games over .500, and 12 a game behind Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot. They have done all of that while scoring 343 runs -- the fewest in the AL. The A's secret to success? The pitching staff. The secret to their success? Curt Young."I think we got our guys in the right frame of mind," Young said. "It's all about the team. If they go out and pitch well, we have a chance to win the game. That's really what I feel these guys are possessed on doing."Armed and Dangerous The A's starting rotation is already the envy of the AL. Wait and see what happens when they get Brett Anderson back. Arguably their most talented pitcher, Anderson is recovering from "Tommy John" surgery. He is throwing simulated games in Arizona and should be heading out on a rehab assignment soon. Dan Straily, 23, is a right-handed pitcher for the River Cats who is lighting up the Minor Leagues. He just won MiLB pitcher of the week honors, and paces all of baseball in strikeouts. Straily's 154 strikeouts this season are rivaled only by Felix Hernandez (140), Justin Verlander (136), and Stephen Strasburg (135). Of course, they did it in the Major Leagues, but you can see the point.Straily is 3-2 with a 1.09 ERA in 33 innings with the Sacramento. He could be well on his way to joining the A's rotation if they decided to move a veteran like Colon.

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.

**

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.”

**

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.

**

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.”

**

Forst said John Axford will pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Fellow reliever Liam Hendriks has not yet committed to Team Australia.

**

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.

Report: Holliday's no-trade clause with Yankees only covers A's

Report: Holliday's no-trade clause with Yankees only covers A's

Matt Holliday spent the first half of the 2009 season in Oakland.

Apparently, he has no desire to return.

In his one-year, $13 million contract with the Yankees that was finalized on Wednesday, Holliday has a limited no-trade clause that protects him from being traded to only the A's, according to SB Nation.

Holliday was acquired by the A's following the 2008 season for Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith.

But he only played in 93 games with the A's before they dealt him to St. Louis for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson.

The 37-year-old spent the last seven full seasons with the Cardinals.