Killion: Weekend wrap -- Giant wake-up call

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Killion: Weekend wrap -- Giant wake-up call

Aug. 1, 2011

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Ann Killion
CSNBayArea.com

There are rumblings of panic in the Giants kingdom. A sweep in Cincinnati. A big-name acquisition that hasnt started hitting yet. A trade deadline come and gone without help at catcher.In some quarters, the benefit of the doubt that Brian Sabean earned by winning the World Series has already expired.

But its not quite time to panic. The Giants have been swept before. The last time they were swept on the road -- in June against Oakland -- they were only a few miles from home, werent operating in suffocating heat and humidity and didnt have Barry Zito start.In other words, they had fewer excuses than they did over the past weekend when they lost all three to Cincinnati.RECAP: Reds clobber Zito, sweep Giants with 9-0 win
And after their last sweep they went 7-1.Still, getting swept isnt a great way to start August. Not a good launch into a critical series against Arizona, which is breathing down the Giants neck just 3.5 games back. Not an encouraging way to begin a home stand against three playoff contenders.RELATED: MLB standings
But the Cincinnati sweep could have some benefits. Like:-- Forcing Zito out of the rotation for good. All the rest of the Giants games are going to be critical. Theres no way -- barring injury or illness to another starter --that the Giants can hand the ball to Zito.-- Reminding everyone that nothing has been won yet. When the Giants traded for Carlos Beltran last week, the stories all spun ahead to how Beltran could help the Giants in the playoffs. Uh, not there yet folks.-- Refocus the AT&T Park crowd. Not that the fans havent been on their game all season. But the Giants play 22 of their next 35 games at home. Time to make that home field advantage count.-- Spur Brian Sabean to try to make more waiver-wire deals like he did last season.There are two more months left for panic. Remember people, you have to pace yourselves.The As offense continues to roll. When I asked Conor Jackson if it was frustrating that it was too little, too late, he said no.RECAP: A's take series from Twins with 7-3 victory
Theres two months of baseball left, he said. Thats a lot of baseball.Jackson cited the Colorado Rockies, who were seven games back and in fourth place on Sept 10 in 2007. Yet the Rockies made the playoffs and knocked Jacksons Arizona Diamondbacks team out of the NLCS before losing in the World Series.I think this is what they envisioned when they put the team together, Jackson said. Of course, they didnt want it to happen after the All-Star game.Billy Beane didnt hear any deals that enticed him. So, aside from trading reliever Brad Ziegler to Arizona, he kept the As together to see if they can make a Rockies-like run. The As are currently 11.5 back but playing the best ball of the season.I think we just have confidence, Jackson said. Were feeding off each other. ..Its all confidence. Its a mental game.The Raiders officially said goodbye to Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the shining lights of the Bay Area sports scene in recent years. Asomugha never won in the Bay Area, either with Cal or with the Raiders. But he was a great player and a stellar person off the field: professional, articulate, honest and involved in the community.GUTIERREZ: Seed for Nnamdi's exit planted long ago
The Raiders made a nice pickup by signing Trent Edwards over the weekend. The former Stanford quarterback had some solid years in Buffalo and is still relatively young.The 49ers have a free agency plan. Thats what Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh said over the weekend.They didnt say what the plan is, because it may be top secret.KILLION: Dreary outlook for Harbaugh, 49ers
We are going to be patient, Baalke said. We have been patient. We do have a plan. Were executing the plan.At least the 49ers spent a lot of time with the stencil machine over the lockout period. Theyve stenciled sayings for the players on the inside of doors and hung banners with sayings like You are getting better or you are getting worse. You never stay the same.The 49ers fans are hoping for option A of those three possibilities.The big sports news that got pushed aside in the midst of the baseball trade deadline and the opening of training camp: Juergen Klinsmann has taken over as coach of the U.S. mens national soccer team.Local angles? Klinsmanns wife Debbie is from San Jose. Also, U.S. Soccer needs a bigger fix than just a new coach, which makes the team a lot like the 49ers.

A's spring training Day 37: Triggs strengthens his bid for rotation spot

A's spring training Day 37: Triggs strengthens his bid for rotation spot

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Last year Andrew Triggs was one of an assembly line of starting pitchers the A’s ran out to the mound after injuries took their toll.

This spring, Triggs looks ready to assume a more instrumental role. On Wednesday, he stepped up with his best effort of the spring in Oakland’s 5-3 victory over the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

He fared well against a Chicago lineup saturated with left-handed hitters. He commanded his fastball. His curve had bite to it. And with his cutter lacking, Triggs kept hitters off-balance with his changeup and threw five innings of three-hit ball. He gave up two runs, struck out four and didn’t issue a walk.

In short, it was everything manager Bob Melvin needed to see as he evaluates whether this late-blooming right-hander is ready for the starting rotation.

“This was his best outing so far,” Melvin said. “His best command, sharpest breaking ball. He had good movement on his fastball. Once you’re getting out there to 75-80 pitches, you’ve got a chance to not only evaluate performance, there’s endurance involved. Everything.”

Triggs, 28, had surrendered six runs in just 3 2/3 innings his last time out against Cleveland. He was much more efficient Wednesday.

“I felt like I had a pretty good feel for most everything in the arsenal,” he said.

Most of Triggs’ major league work last season, in his first taste of the bigs, came in relief. If he’s to pitch every fifth day in 2017, he needs to show he can retire lefties consistently, and remain effective two and three times through a batting order.

Catcher Stephen Vogt believes Triggs has the repertoire to do that.

“The nice part about a four-pitch mix is very rarely are you gonna have all four on any given night. So if two go away, you've got two more to back it up,” Vogt said. “Today his cutter, usually one of his better pitches, wasn’t that great. He needed to rely more on the changeup and he did.

“Then he gets those swings and misses with the big breaking ball. It’s fun to make the crowd kind of ‘woo.’ It’s always a good sign.”

STOCK RISING: Another pitcher who helped his cause Wednesday was Frankie Montas, who struck out four over two scoreless innings to seal the victory.

“He continues to do what he continues to do,” Melvin said. “He’s throwing more and more breaking balls too.”

In Montas’ four outings, he’s allowed just one earned run over eight innings for a 1.13 ERA. He’s struck out nine and walked one. In light of Melvin saying his bullpen could use a reliever that can handle multiple innings, Montas has positioned himself squarely in the conversation for a 25-man roster spot.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s have collected 10 doubles over their last two games, and Wednesday they jumped ahead with big offense early once again. Ryon Healy went 2-for-3 with an RBI and is hitting .359. Vogt is also swinging it well. He doubled home two runs in the first and is batting .324.

FAMILIAR FACE: : Tyler Ladendorf, who spent the previous seven-plus seasons in the A’s organization, entered mid-game at shortstop for the Sox and struck out in his only at-bat. Ladendorf signed with Chicago on a minor league deal earlier this spring.

ODDS AND ENDS: With their 13th victory, the A’s (13-10) eclipsed their win total from all of last spring with 11 games still to go. … Sonny Gray (strained lat muscle) felt good a day after playing catch for the first time in two weeks. He was set to do so again Wednesday. … Rajai Davis (1-for-3) scored two runs and notched his fifth stolen base. … Ryan Madson gave up a run in his one inning of work. His ERA is 7.50 through six outings. He’s allowed 10 hits over six innings. … Santiago Casilla, in his fourth appearance, threw a scoreless inning with one hit and one walk.

Mailbag: How would Raiders' move affect A's ballpark search?

Mailbag: How would Raiders' move affect A's ballpark search?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With one week to go until the A’s break camp and head north, there are still some roster issues to be cleared up.

The big-picture question regarding this team, obviously, is where it might be building a future ballpark.

With all this in mind, we try to provide some clarity on questions submitted via Twitter:

From @Cjkittrell: If the Raiders move to Vegas, does the Coliseum site jump to the top of the list of possible ballpark sites by default?

That’s not necessarily the case. You have to remember what the A’s crave more than anything in a ballpark location: A thriving surrounding area — with restaurants, bars, shops, etc. — that will make the ballpark an attraction beyond the baseball game itself. Team president Dave Kaval has talked of wanting a “ballpark village” around a new venue. A downside of the Coliseum is that there is nothing around the area right now that would attract fans besides the baseball. Other sites, including Howard Terminal, appear to have more potential as far as surrounding attractions.

This doesn’t count out the Coliseum as an option. As Kaval has said, it’s the only site of four being considered that the A’s know is truly viable. There’s comfort in that. And the BART station, freeway access and available parking are big plusses. But something else I’ll mention in regard to the Raiders: Even if they announce a move to Las Vegas, they have lease agreements that would keep them playing football at the Coliseum at least through the 2018 season while their Vegas stadium is under construction. With the Raiders likely to be on the property for that period, it could complicate the A’s own hypothetical construction plans for the Coliseum site.

From @44BWells: With the emergence of Franklin Barrreto and the contract of Jed Lowrie, what's Joey Wendle's present and future?

They appear murky, don’t they? First and foremost, Wendle has to recover from a sore right shoulder that’s kept him out of exhibitions for a while. But the acquisition of utility man Adam Rosales meant Wendle probably wasn’t going to make the club out of spring training anyway. He’s got a fan in manager Bob Melvin, who was impressed with Wendle defensively last September. It was Wendle’s glove that was the question mark when he arrived from the Cleveland Indians. Barreto has the star-caliber upside and the hype. Once the A’s deem him ready, Lowrie becomes a trade possibility. But Wendle’s advantage is that, to a degree, he’s already proven himself in the majors. He’s a known quantity at this level. If a second baseman is needed early in the season, Wendle could get a call-up before Barreto if Barreto gets off to a slow start.

As for Wendle’s future beyond 2017, it would serve him well to be able to handle as many positions as possible. He realizes this. That’s why he volunteered to play winter ball in Mexico this past offseason, where he played lots of shortstop. His role moving forward could be as more of a utility guy, because I see Barreto growing roots at second base.

@ONChristy: Do the A's have the pieces, both in the majors and minors, to make a run in 2018-2020?

Well, it’s definitely tough to look down the road and forecast a three-year block. Here’s a short answer for you: They better! All of the trades of the past couple seasons have been made with an eye toward stockpiling young talent — especially on the pitching side. Contending this year will be a tall order. But by the end of this season, I’d expect Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman to have gotten their feet wet in the big leagues. There’s a strong chance you’ll also see young pitchers such as Frankie Montas and Daniel Gossett up. There’s a large core of young players who are on the cusp of being major league ready.

Add to that some core veterans such as Khris Davis, Kendall Graveman Marcus Semien and (if he’s not traded) Sonny Gray— who will all be under team control through 2019 at least — and the A’s have a solid foundation for contending in that timeframe you mention. But let’s face it, there’s a lot that can and usually does happen over any three-year span that completely changes what we think we know going in.