Cotton thrilled to receive some tips from 'Flash' Gordon


Cotton thrilled to receive some tips from 'Flash' Gordon

MESA, Ariz. — After watching Jharel Cotton shine in his major league debut in September, A’s manager Bob Melvin said the young right-hander reminded him of former All-Star reliever Tom “Flash” Gordon.

It was none other than Gordon himself who Cotton received some long-distance tutoring from over the winter.

Gordon and Cotton both are represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council, and Cotton’s agent, Nate Heisler, put the two in touch.

Coming off his impressive cameo with the A’s in September, Cotton seems to have all but locked up a spot in Oakland’s rotation. But his goal this spring is to hone his 12-to-6 curve ball. Enter Gordon, who fooled hitters with the same pitch over a 21-year career that ended in 2009 at age 41.

“We talked during the offseason,” Cotton shared on the latest A’s Insider Podcast. “He was in Florida —I was trying to get him to come up to Michigan, but it’s too cold in Michigan. I’ve been chatting back and forth sending videos and he’s been sending me some drills to work on with the curve ball.”

Like Cotton, Gordon was an undersized right-hander. In fact, at 5-foot-9, he was smaller than Cotton, who’s listed at 5-11. Melvin played alongside Gordon in 1992 with the Kansas City Royals, and he drew the comparison in his first afternoon watching Cotton in September.

“It's that catapult, over-the-top (delivery),” Melvin said then. “It's the downer curveball, it's kind of that deceptive fastball. The delivery's real, real similar. He has a better change than ‘Flash’. But certainly the delivery and the fastball/curveball portion of it are real similar.”

As a young pitcher growing up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cotton said he experimented with nearly 10 different pitches, including a very brief flirtation with a knuckler. Against major league hitters, he relies primarily on a fastball that runs up to the mid-90’s, a changeup that rotates like a screwball, a curve ball and cutter. But it’s the curve that Cotton, 25, is looking to perfect.

“I want to try to get it to bounce when I want it to bounce, be in the zone when I want it to be in the zone. And of course, try to make it sharper and get the loop out of it as much as I can,” Cotton said.

The right-hander said nothing replaces the in-person instruction he gets from A’s pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Scott Emerson. But he’s hoping Gordon might make it out to an A’s game this season so the two can talk pitching face-to-face. The feedback so far has been quite positive.

“He told me, for the most part, I repeated my mechanics,” Cotton said. “He was like, ‘You shouldn’t change anything, because your mechanics may be a little funky but that’s your special sauce. … Leave it the way it is and just go out there and pitch.’”

A's announce 2018 Opening Day starter


A's announce 2018 Opening Day starter

For the second straight season, Kendall Graveman will get the ball on Opening Day for the A's. And for the second straight year, he'll face Mike Trout and the Angels.

The team made the news official on Tuesday morning.

Last year, in a win over the Angels, Graveman went six innings, allowed two earned runs and struck out seven.

"It's something I don't take for granted. It's an honor and a privilege and [I just want to] try to get the season off to a good start and hopefully be a leader of this staff," Graveman told reporters Tuesday in Arizona.

In four seasons with the A's and Blue Jays, Graveman has a 4.11 ERA in 76 appearances.

A's agree to deal with familiar veteran pitcher


A's agree to deal with familiar veteran pitcher

UPDATE (Mar. 19, 7:45 p.m. PT): The A's officially announced the Cahill signing on Monday. This story has been updated to reflect that.

On the same day the Oakland A's learned they'd be without Jharel Cotton all season, they signed a familiar face to bolster their pitching depth. 

Oakland agreed to a one-year deal with Trevor Cahill, nearly 12 years after the A's drafted him in the second round. 

Cahill pitched for Oakland from 2009-11. He started 96 games in three seasons with the A's, going 40-35 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Since Oakland traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Dec. 2011, Cahill's pitched for six teams. 

The 30-year-old won a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs in 2016, and pitched for the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals last season. In 2017, he went 4-3 in 21 appearances (14 starts) with a 4.93 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.