Athletics

After special night, Chapman, Davis reflect on Fullerton connection

After special night, Chapman, Davis reflect on Fullerton connection

OAKLAND — Long before he starred for the Cal State Fullerton baseball team, Matt Chapman watched lots of Titans games as a kid and even served as a bat boy for the team.

One of the players that used to catch his eye in those days — current A’s teammate Khris Davis. What a special night it was Saturday for Chapman, who hit the first two homers of his career and then watched Davis launch a walk-off two-run homer to beat the Cleveland Indians 5-3.

Davis played at Fullerton from 2007-09. Chapman was done serving as a bat boy by then, but he watched Davis many times from the seats as a fan. Chapman would later star for Fullerton himself from 2012-14 and be the A’s top pick in the 2014 draft.

“The first time we met he told me my poster was up in the Fullerton locker room. It made me feel like a big deal,” Davis said in a deadpan manner.

That first encounter came during spring training 2016. Davis had just arrived in a trade from Milwaukee and Chapman was participating in his first big league spring camp.

“I kind of didn’t really think about any of it until I got to big league camp and started playing with him,” Chapman said. “It was cool to be able to watch him when I was younger and now play with him and just see the things that he’s capable of doing. He’s got some pretty special talents with that bat.”

Davis’ game-winner — the second walk-off homer of his career — was typical of his unique power. After Yonder Alonso drew a leadoff walk off Indians star closer Andrew Miller, the right-handed Bryan Shaw entered and Davis worked the count to full. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Davis got a cutter low in the zone and somehow drove it to the opposite field, a low liner that surprised even Davis when it cleared the right field wall. Davis came in 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against Shaw.

He takes particular pride in the homers he hits to the opposite field at the Coliseum, a home park known for being very tough for right-handers to show power to right.

“The ones that surprise are the ones that are really down the line, near the foul pole. Those ones are my favorites,” Davis said. “I’m just glad I could deliver in a big spot. The crowd was going crazy on Ricky Henderson Night. It was pretty cool.”

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

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AP

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.