Athletics

McCarthy returns to the mound

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McCarthy returns to the mound

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OAKLAND -- A's opening day starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy last pitched on June 19. He has missed 22 games since then. On Wednesday he made a significant step toward returning to the mound for the A's. By stepping on the bullpen mound and throwing for the first time since re-aggravating his strained right shoulder. McCarthy threw 25 pitches, mixing in his full arsenal. It is a step in the right direction because he had only been playing catch in the outfield prior. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He threw all his pitches, he looked good to me." McCarthy has missed a total of 35 games with right shoulder pain. His MRIs have all come back clean. It appears the only prescription is rest and extra care.
RELATED: Brandon McCarthys stats splits game logs
Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden threw long toss in the outfield. Anderson will start on Saturday for the Stockton Ports. He will be throwing 45 pitches in the outing. The A's aren't ready to commit to how many outings it will likely take to get him back in their starting rotation. "There's an eye on certain dates but I don't want to go there yet," Melvin said. With the A's leading the American League with a 3.43 ERA, and two-to-three key starting pitchers on the mend, they have a good problem on their hands. The starting rotation doesn't have any weak links, so what do the A's do? One option would be going to a six-man rotation. They have expressed concern over the amount of innings rookie Jarrod Parker has been throwing. That might help remedy the concern.RELATED: Positive signs for Anderson, Braden, and McCarthy
Rookie pitchers have accounted for 360.2 of the A's total innings pitched this season. That's roughly 45 percent of their innings pitched. A six-man rotation could help lighten the load. It is an unconventional idea though. The A's last went to a six-man rotation in 2009 under Bob Geren. The team's current manager Bob Melvin has yet to consider it. "We haven't talked about that at this point," he said. Remember this is the A's we are talking about. When situations of extra depth present themselves, the issue is usually worked out on it's own. There is no point forecasting what could happen when Anderson and McCarthy -- or even Braden -- are healthy. They might as well cross that road when the time comes.

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.