Athletics

Graveman shows rust, looks to move forward after seven-run outing

Graveman shows rust, looks to move forward after seven-run outing

SAN FRANCISCO — The game plan is pretty simple for Kendall Graveman when things are rolling for him.

He throws his sinkers, lots of them, and the movement he typically has on the pitch keeps hitters beating ground balls into the earth and generating zeroes on the scoreboard.

On Thursday night, the A’s right-hander certainly looked to be knocking the cob webs off. The end result was an 11-2 Oakland loss in the Bay Bridge Series finale, after the Giants tagged him for seven runs in just two innings.

That left Graveman in a predictable mood afterward. Always one to heap loads of responsibility on his shoulders, he was peeved at himself for leaving such a long night’s work for his bullpen.

“They did a good job getting to some balls in, and when I went away they did a good job taking the ball the other way,” Graveman said after his first major league start since May 19. “I’ve got to do a better job, first off, getting us off to a good start. As a starter you’ve got to set the tone and I didn’t do that tonight.”

Graveman twice has hit the disabled list this season with shoulder strains. This most recent one put him on the shelf for 2 1/2 months. A stat line like Thursday’s poses the obvious question of whether there was anything physically wrong. But Graveman assured his arm felt good and that the ball was coming out well.

Manager Bob Melvin took slight encouragement from the fact that Graveman’s velocity improved in the second inning over his first.

But the movement that’s oh-so-crucial for the righty abandoned him. Rather than the late movement that fools hitters, Graveman’s two-seam fastball was moving early and hitters were able to track it and square it up for eight hits over his two innings.

“I wasn’t on top of the baseball as much as I have been in the past, and it showed,” he said. “For me, (the late movement) has got to be first and foremost if I’m going to throw a majority of those (sinkers).”

The takeaway from Thursday — Graveman gets a mulligan. It was his first start since May, and though he said after the game that his three rehab starts got him prepared adequately, it’s possible he needed this first start against big league hitters simply to work the kinks out.

The final two months of this season are all about the A’s laying groundwork for the future. Part of that plan is seeing Graveman prove he’s back healthy, and re-establish himself at the front of a rotation that currently includes rookies Paul Blackburn and Jharel Cotton and second-year starter Sean Manaea.

Daniel Gossett was sent down because the A’s don’t need a fifth starter for the short term, but assuming he returns at some point this season it will give the A’s three rookies in their rotation.

“(Graveman) is a huge part of our puzzle, a leader on this team,” utility man Chad Pinder said. “We all have the utmost confidence in him. You’re gonna have those days. We all have his back.”

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.