Gutierrez: Weeks should stay when Ellis arrives

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Gutierrez: Weeks should stay when Ellis arrives

JUNE 19, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comSame old (stuff)Just a different dayI keep tryin' to get itEach and every wayMomma need a houseBaby need some shoesTimes are getting' hardGuess what I'ma do?HustleHustleHustleHard-Ace Hood, on "Hustle Hard," A's rookie Jemile Weeks' walk-up song.

OAKLAND - You've seen the future of the A's, and his name is Jemile Weeks.The rookie bats lead-off. He steals bases. He plays highlight-reel defense at second base. He's, ahem, humble.Wait, what?Yes, Weeks has brought what his teammates call a certain "swagger" into the A's clubhouse, an "electricity" onto the field since being called up from triple-A Sacramento on June 7 to make his major league debut. But he knows his role and pays his respects.Even with the potential awkward situation that awaits the A's in New York on Wednesday, when Mark Ellis will be activated from the disabled list to join the team at CitiField against the Mets.It does not have to be awkward, though. Not if the A's do the smart thing and keep Weeks as the A's starting second baseman until he inevitably cools off. Ellis, ever the consummate professional, could play the role of mentor and, some suggest, become attractive trade bait to a team - the Giants? Detroit? - in need of a second baseman, or simply reclaim his gig as the best second baseman in the game to have never won a Gold Glove.Then again, Weeks could make like Buster Posey did last season for the Giants and spark his team on an epic run. Only difference is, though, Posey was involved in every pitch as a catcher.Plus, as noted earlier, Weeks insists there will be no awkward moments when Ellis returns."Me being a young guy, whatever position they put me at, that's where I'll play," Weeks said. "He's a veteran; that's his position. I'm willing to do whatever they want me to."We haven't gotten any insight on the situation."As Ellis himself told me on Friday, "That stuff will work itself out. You never have enough good players."REWIND: A's Ellis goes 0-for-3 in Triple-A start
While Ellis, who was scuffling with a .211 batting average with the A's when he went on the D.L. with a strained right hamstring, was struggling through an 0-for-6 with a walk in his first two rehab games with the River Cats, Weeks was finishing off his first three-hit game for the A's in Sunday's 2-1 defeat of the Giants.In his 12 games as a big leaguer, Weeks is batting .364 with four doubles, three-triples, seven runs scored and two stolen bases, while robbing opposing batters of hits with his "effort play" defense.Weeks, the A's first-round draft choice in the 2008 draft, No. 12 overall, played an integral part in Oakland's three-game sweep of the defending World Series champs at the O.co Coliseum. After hitting in the No. 9 hole in the series opener, Weeks batted lead-off on Saturday and Sunday."He plays the game well," offered Giants starter Matt Cain. "He plays it hard. He does a great job on defense. He made a couple of diving plays against us. He really did a great job of not getting too overwhelmed when he was making plays."He's got a good approach at the plate. He's patient. He's going to take advantage of guys that leave balls over the middle of the plate. You still have to figure him out."Good luck with that. Because until that happens - yes, I'm about to type it again - Weeks should be the A's regular second baseman. And he should continue to take the ribbing and hazing that have come his way.Consider: after just six home games, Weeks already has a walk-up song - Ace Hood's "Hustle Hard." And after going 0-for-4 on Saturday, the A's vets told him he had to be in the bigs at least three years before picking theme music.And that was before they playfully named a section of the training room after him and kidded him for wearing a sleeve on his sliding leg.Sunday afternoon, he could only find one sock while getting dressed. More hijinks from his teammates? Maybe. Maybe not. But in any event, he's already made his mark, and he already has the big league pedigree, what with his brother Rickie a standout for Milwaukee.Which, again, is exactly why the A's need to ride Weeks and not even entertain the idea of sending him back to Sacramento. The corresponding roster move should be to ship struggling Daric Barton to the River Cats to find his stroke or, if Josh Willingham's bothersome right Achilles' tendon is still not right, put him on the D.L. to make room for Ellis.A's Insider gallery: How sweep it is
Just let Weeks be. The same way he's left his dreads alone. His last haircut was two years ago, when he was battling injury issues to his left hip that limited him to 176 games over his first three professional seasons.A's interim manager Bob Melvin was asked in a long soliloquy following the A's 2-1 victory Sunday if he and the front office have had any discussions yet on what to do with the Weeks-Ellis situation.Melvin's simple response: "Nope."Melvin smiled. Just as Weeks surely did when he got the call to pack his bags for Baltimore to join the A's just over two weeks ago.Surely, nerves had to be dealt with, right? If not, the generously-listed 5-feet-9, 161-pound (soaking wet and with rocks in his pockets, maybe) Weeks has to be somewhat surprised by his early success and impact for a team riding a season-best five-game winning streak, no?"Not surprised, excited," Weeks said. "I was a little nervous to be on this stage. I need to feel like I'm a part of this team."Check that. Weeks is not only the future of the A's; he's also the present.

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.

Report: 49ers increase offer to Bradley to become D-coordinator

Report: 49ers increase offer to Bradley to become D-coordinator

The 49ers reportedly continue to pursue Gus Bradley to serve as defensive coordinator on presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff.

The 49ers have increased their offer to Bradley, Mike Siliver of the NFL Network reported on Friday. Bradley wanted to work with Tom Cable, according to the report.

Cable interviewed with the 49ers on Sunday but removed his name from consideration on Tuesday after he and Seattle co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner sensed their 49ers’ interest in them intended to receive a commitment from Shanahan, sources told CSNBayArea.com.

Bradley served as defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks from 2009 to ’12. In Bradley’s final season on Pete Carroll’s staff, Seattle ranked first in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in total yards.

Bradley became head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013. His teams went 14-48 before he was fired with two games remaining in the season.

The 49ers this week inquired with the Chicago Bears about the possibility of bringing back Vic Fangio to the organization to serve as defensive coordinator. The 49es were informed, according to a source, that the Bears would not let Fangio out of his contract. Fangio was the defensive coordinator for all four seasons with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh.