Athletics

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

marcell-ozuna-marlins-ap.jpg
AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's slammed in loss to red-hot Red Sox

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AP

A's slammed in loss to red-hot Red Sox

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Mitch Moreland hit a grand slam, Jackie Bradley Jr. added a three-run homer and the streaking Boston Red Sox won their eighth in a row, beating the Oakland Athletics 7-3 on Friday night.

Boston kept up the best start in the franchise's 118-year history, improving to a major league-leading 17-2. They've won 17 of 18 since losing to Tampa Bay on opening day.

Hundreds of Boston fans decked in red showed up at the Oakland Coliseum. They saw Moreland hit the fifth grand slam by the Red Sox this season - they didn't hit any last year.

Eduardo Nunez had three hits and scored while Hanley Ramirez singled twice for the Red Sox.

Jed Lowrie matched his career high with four hits for Oakland. Lowrie, who doubled in a run in the first, leads the majors in hits (32) and RBIs (22). The A's had won four in a row.

Moreland homered on the first pitch from reliever Emilio Pagan in the sixth. Mookie BettsAndrew Benintendi and Ramirez opened the inning with three consecutive singles off starter Kendall Graveman (0-4) before Moreland's towering shot to right.

This is the first time the Red Sox have hit five slams before May 1.

Bradley homered off Graveman in the second inning, his second in four games.

The power surge came by the Red Sox was timely on a night when starter Drew Pomeranz failed to make it out of the fourth inning in his season debut. Activated off the disabled list earlier in the day after recovering from a strained forearm, the left-hander struck out seven but allowed three runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Hector Velazquez (3-0) pitched three scoreless innings for the win. Boston also got a lift from Matt Barnes, who retired four batters and struck out pinch-hitter Matt Joyce with the bases loaded to end the seventh.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: J.D. Martinez was given a planned day off. Martinez has been Boston's hottest hitter over the past two weeks while going 13 for 22 (.591) with four home runs...LHP Bobby Poyner will make at least one more rehab start before the team decides whether or not to activate him off the DL. Poyner has been out since April 12 with a strained left hamstring. . RHP Marcus Walden was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Pomeranz.

Athletics: RHPs Chris Bassitt and Josh Lucas were recalled from Triple-A Nashville. LHP Daniel Coulombe was optioned down.

UP NEXT

Boston's Chris Sale (1-0, 1.23 ERA) faces Sean Manaea (2-2, 1.63 ERA) in matchup of lefties at the Coliseum on Saturday. Sale has yielded three runs and struck out 31 over 22 innings this season. Manaea has been Oakland's most consistent pitcher, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his four starts.

Mr. Professional: A's Jed Lowrie playing best baseball of his career at 34 years old

Mr. Professional: A's Jed Lowrie playing best baseball of his career at 34 years old

Jed Lowrie has delivered some productive seasons throughout his 11-year Major League Baseball career, but nothing quite like this.

Through 19 games, the A's second baseman leads all of baseball with 28 hits and 21 runs batted in. His six home runs are tied for the American League lead, while his 49 total bases rank second and his .346 batting average is fifth.

In an extremely small sample size, the former Stanford star is on pace to hit 51 home runs and drive in 179 runs, at the age of 34. To put that in perspective, Lowrie's career highs in those categories are 16 and 75, respectively.

"It's all about the work for me, the routine," he explained. "I think the results speak for themselves. But I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on my work in the cage and what I do to prepare for the games."

"He's playing the best baseball of his entire career," A's manager Bob Melvin marveled. "He's as professional a hitter as anybody in the league. He has been absolutely terrific."

Lowrie has been on an absolute tear the last two weeks. Over his last 11 games, he is batting .367, with six home runs and 16 RBI.

"He's got a great awareness what his strengths and weaknesses are," Melvin said. "Through experience, he knows what pitchers are going to try to do to him. Throughout the course of the game, he understands the adjustments that are going to be made. He has a focus now probably better than any point in his career, and the numbers would suggest that as well."

Lowrie believes the turning point of his career came two offseasons ago, and ironically, it had nothing to do with baseball. For years, he couldn't figure out why he would wake up still feeling tired, despite sleeping more than eight hours a night.

It turned out Lowrie had a deviated septum, suffered several years earlier when he was hit in the nose by a baseball. After consulting with an ear, nose, and throat specialist, he had surgery to repair the septum.

"I think it helped a lot," Lowrie said. "I just assumed I wasn't waking up refreshed because of the season. Come to find out my airway was very restricted and my sleep quality was not very good. So while I was sleeping eight or nine hours a night, I was still waking up not feeling refreshed, like I hadn't even gone to sleep. After nine years of having a deviated septum, that's going to be something that takes time, but I can already see the results from it."

"From that point on, he seemed like a different guy,” added Melvin. “He's allowed to work a little bit harder because he's getting some rest."

Last season following the surgery, Lowrie set an Oakland A's record with 49 doubles, while leading the team with a .277 batting average. The A's picked up his $6 million option for this year, which has turned out to be quite a bargain.

If Lowrie continues at his current pace, or even anywhere near it, he'll soon be able to add another achievement to his baseball resume: MLB All-Star.