Athletics

Gossett targets mental game as area of focus looking ahead to 2018

Gossett targets mental game as area of focus looking ahead to 2018

ARLINGTON, Texas — Daniel Gossett had trouble putting things all together on the mound in his rookie season. At the very least, however, he’s got a firm grasp on what he needs to work on leading into 2018.

“I think I’m letting mental things get in the way of my pitching,” he said following the A’s 8-4 loss to Texas on Saturday. “It’s something to learn from. You’ve got to work on that as much as the physical stuff.”

The right-hander gave up four runs and lasted just 1 2/3 innings against the Rangers, the shortest of his 18 career starts in the majors. The long ball has been a primary problem — Gossett allowed 21 home runs over 91 1/3 innings this season. Entering the night, his 20 homers allowed were second most in Oakland history by a pitcher over the first 17 games of his career.

Missed location is the obvious culprit any time a young pitcher watches the ball fly over the fence. But Gossett believes that what he needs to correct is just as much between the ears as anything else.

“I’ve just got to let myself pitch and trust myself to pitch,” he said. “I know that I’m a better pitcher than what I’ve been showing lately.”

Despite a 4-11 record and 6.11 ERA, the 24-year-old Gossett still will arrive at spring training next year as a legitimate contender for a starting role. That’s the plain truth of Oakland’s rotation. Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea are locks for two of the five spots. Beyond that, there’s a long list of possibilities. In alphabetical order, they go: Raul Alcantara, Chris Bassitt, Paul Blackburn, Jharel Cotton, Gossett, Jesse Hahn, Daniel Mengden and Andrew Triggs, and that’s just the group from the 40-man roster.

So competition will be wide open and opportunities there for the taking. Gossett, a second-round pick in 2014 who just completed his third full season of professional baseball, impressed the big league staff during spring training, and that put him near the front of the pack when reinforcements were needed from the minors. Gossett found that the learning curve was steep. The key now is to draw from that experience and apply it next season.

Manager Bob Melvin said he thought Gossett ran out of gas a bit over September, but added: “He’s got to get ahead, have better command of his breaking stuff. Usually when his fastball’s down and he’s ahead in the count, he’s got enough pitches to keep you off balance. But when he gets behind it’s a little bit of a tougher time for him.”

Despite getting an extended taste of the majors this season, Gossett knows that doesn’t guarantee anything once spring training rolls around.

“I had a couple good starts here and there, but the bad starts outweigh the good starts, so I’ve still got something to prove,” he said. “Come in with that attitude. A little chip on my shoulder couldn’t hurt.”

**

Right fielder Matt Joyce, who hit his 25th homer in the game, exited late after tweaking his left hamstring. Melvin said Joyce won’t be in the lineup for Sunday’s season finale.

A's send Opening Day starter down to Triple-A

A's send Opening Day starter down to Triple-A

The A's optioned Opening Day starter Kendall Graveman to Triple-A Nashville Thursday, along with fellow RHP Chris Bassit. In a corresponding move, newly acquired RHP Wilmer Font was activated to the 25-man roster.

Graveman struggled mightily in his six starts this season, going 0-5 with an 8.89 ERA. His five losses lead the major leagues, as do his 28 runs and 41 hits allowed.

The 27-year-old earned his first quality start of the season Wednesday night at Texas, allowing three runs in six innings, but still took the loss. Last season, Graveman went 6-4 with a 4.19 ERA in 19 starts.

Bassitt was recalled from Nashville last Friday, but did not appear in a game with the A's. The 29-year-old is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in three relief appearances with Nashville this season.

Font was acquired from the Dodgers Wednesday for LHP Logan Salow. The 27-year-old went 0-2 with an 11.32 ERA in six relief appearances with Los Angeles.

Re-examining A's Doolittle-Madson trade with Nationals

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USATSI

Re-examining A's Doolittle-Madson trade with Nationals

Last July, the A's traded veteran relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals. Oakland fans were understandably disappointed to see them go, but the A's received some excellent young talent in return, acquiring RHP Blake Treinen, LHP Jesus Luzardo, and infielder Sheldon Neuse.

While it is far too early to determine which team “won” the trade, we can at least begin to evaluate the players Oakland added.

Blake Treinen

At the age of 29, Treinen has shown he has what it takes to be an effective Major League closer. Since joining the A's, Treinen has appeared in 43 games, allowing just 11 earned runs in 50 innings for an ERA of 1.98. He has converted 16 of his 21 save opportunities.

Treinen immediately helped fill the bullpen void left by the departures of Doolittle and Madson. His four-seam fastball and sinker consistently register in the high 90s, and his slider has baffled hitters this season.

Treinen has all-star closer stuff, and he is a bargain financially, making $2.15 million this season. He won't be an unrestricted free agent until 2021, so the A's appear to have their closer for the next few years.

Jesus Luzardo

Luzardo could be the biggest prize in the entire trade. A third-round draft pick out of high school in 2016, the 6-1 left-hander is still just 20 years old and already in Double-A, a rare feat.

Luzardo dominated at High-A Stockton this season, striking out 25 batters in 14 2/3 innings, while allowing just two runs on six hits. He was promoted to Double-A Midland earlier this week, giving up two runs in five innings in his debut, and striking out five.

MLB Pipeline ranks Luzardo as the A's second best prospect, and the eighth best LHP prospect in all of baseball

Luzardo's fastball clocks in the high 90s, and he has an above average breaking ball and changeup. He got his first taste of the big leagues in Spring Training, pitching six scoreless innings and striking out six, including two-time MVP Mike Trout. Luzardo is definitely on the fast track to the big leagues.

Sheldon Neuse

Neuse (pronounced 'noisy') has primarily played third base, but can also play shortstop, second base, and even first base if needed. The 23-year-old starred at the University of Oklahoma and was selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

A right-handed hitter, Neuse is off to a slow start this season at Triple-A Nashville, batting just .153 through 18 games. But he has shown tremendous ability in previous seasons. In 22 games with High-A Stockton last year, Neuse hit .386 with seven home runs and 22 RBI. He was promoted to Double-A Midland, where he batted .373 in 18 games.

Like Luzardo, Neuse joined the A's for Spring Training, batting an impressive .310 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 58 at-bats. MLB Pipeline ranks him as Oakland's 11th best prospect.

Analysis

Again, it is way too early to declare either team the winner of this trade. Doolittle, 31, and Madson, 37, have both pitched well for the Nationals, helping to shore up their struggling bullpen.

But A's fans have to be excited about the players they added, especially Luzardo. If the talented southpaw reaches his full potential, this could wind up being a steal for Oakland. For now, we'll call it a win-win, as both teams got what they needed out of the deal.