Which Athletics need to step up in second half?
Yoenis Cespedes hit 32 home runs in Monday night's derby, but has not homered in a game since June 21. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
ANAHEIM -- While Yoenis Cespedes declined for the second day in a row to talk to the media, the A's are maintaining that his sore left wrist--which caused him to be scratched from Friday night's series opener against the Los Angeles Angels and to sit Saturday's return game--is not a direct result of his participation in Monday's Home Run Derby.
"You watched it and it didn't look like it was bothering him," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "And those are the types of injuries that happen on one particular swing. And it didn't. So, that's my feeling on it, that's our feeling on it."
Melvin said the issue flared up Friday during the third round of batting practice.
"Until our training staff feels like he's 100 percent and not put himself in a position where he can further injure it, it will be day-to-day," Melvin said.
Cespedes won the Derby, hitting a total of 32 home runs in three rounds. He has not homered in a game, though, since June 21.
Over his past seven games, the first batters left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins has faced are a combined 5-for-5 with a walk and a hit by pitch. He has allowed seven runs in his past eight appearances, opponents are batting .450 against him in stretch and, for the year, 11 of the 26 runners he's inherited have scored.
Cause for concern?
"He's not putting the ball where he wants to and he has all year," Melvin said. "He's been so good that this stands out so much because of the fact that he has been so good for us. He's just going through a real tough patch and he's having a tough time finding his way out of it right now but we're confident that he will.
"For the most part, he's been ahead in the count…and he's had a pretty good work load on top of it."
Blevins began the year with a 1.93 ERA an a .214 opponents average over his first 34 appearances. And through his career, Blevins has generally had better results with a heavier workload. So it's a delicate dance for Melvin to manage as he tries to get Blevins out of his funk.
"He's going through some tough times so you try to keep him out of the higher-leverage situations," Melvin said. "But based on his history with us and what he's done for this team, it's tough not to use him because I still have confidence in him."
After Cespedes won the derby Monday night, former A's slugger Jose Canseco challenged him to a home run hitting contest on Twitter,
Cue the crickets.
So after Coco Crisp tied Canseco Friday night for career stolen bases in Oakland A's history with 135, did Canseco drop the gauntlet on Crisp for a foot race?
"Canseco?" Crisp said, wrinkling his nose. "Nah."
All-time steals leader Rickey Henderson heads the Oakland list with 867 thefts, followed by Bert Campaneris (398), Billy North (232), Carney Lansford (146) and Reggie Jackson (144).
The unsung hero in Cespedes winning the derby? Third-base coach Mike Gallego, who served as Cespedes' pitcher.
"I would be lying to say I wasn't nervous," Gallego said. "When you're throwing strikes, that you think are strikes, and the hitter takes them, then you try not to get into your own head…'Now where does he want it?'"
"His communication to me was, after the first round he said, 'Look, miss down. Just keep my bat in that groove, my swing down below my knee. I need it down.' Most hitters want it belt high but he wanted it down there. So that was different. But once I found that spot, I was fine."
Cespedes hit 17 homers in the first round and, because of what happened with every one else in the second round, he clinched a spot in the final before taking a second-round swing. Still, he went deep six times in the second round and then beat Washington's Bryce Harper, 9-8, in walk-off fashion in the finals.
"The electricity in that stadium was incredible," Gallego said. "You don't experience that in too many other ways other than the playoffs and World Series. That atmosphere was buzzing."
Besides location, Gallego had to throw the ball just hard enough that Cespedes could drive it, but not so slow to take some of the power out of the hit. Gallego estimated the speed of his pitches between 50 and 55 mph. He also said his "Cuban Spanglish" helped out.
"Actually, when he wanted to make sure that I got the idea of where he wanted it, his English came out."