Notes: Eyes on the prize, Anderson still an option


Notes: Eyes on the prize, Anderson still an option

OAKLAND -- The A's are keeping things in perspective as they seek their first division title since 2006. Especially now that they have that clinching celebration thing out of the way. "To get to tomorrow we have to win tonight," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "All hands on deck." Oakland pounced on the opportunity to pop the bubbly after insuring themselves a spot in the postseason. They have an opportunity to do it again on Sunday as the American League West champions if they can sweep the Rangers. While some might question their decision to celebrate with two games to play, it was important to reward the players for a long successful season. It sure looked like they had a good time but they cut it off early. "I think it's business as usual for us," Melvin said. "I think everybody got out of here at a decent hour, I know they did. I don't think anyone overdid anything."-- On Monday Brett Anderson threw from the mound for the first time since straining his right oblique. How he bounces back will determine if he has a chance to take the mound for the A's in a possible one-game playoff on Friday. While they still haven't ruled it out, they are keeping it close to their vest. "I think we need to get through these games here," Melvin said. "Trust me our front office has looked at this thing every angle you could possibly look at." Anderson is 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA, 25 strikeouts and just seven walks in six starts this season. He is the most experienced pitcher in the starting rotation. If he is deemed healthy enough to take the mound it could provide a big boost."I'm sure they have plenty of schedules and options, as a matter of fact I know they do," Melvin said. "His name is included on those so hopefully we get to that point." -- Yoenis Cespedes was voted the American League Rookie of the Month for September. Last month he hit .257 (28 for 109), with five doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 19 RBI, and scored 18 runs. He is the first A's player to win the award since Jemile Weeks in June of 2011. Melvin says the award is a feather in Cespedes' cap, but he's been a big-time player for Oakland all season. "It's not just the last month it's from the first day he got here," Melvin said. "He plays like a veteran, he carries the weight of our team on his shoulders; it doesn't bother him."-- Taking the mound on Tuesday is Travis Blackley. Last Thursday he gave up five runs against the Rangers and didn't make it to the second inning. He is 1-2 with a 7.00 ERA in four starts against Texas this year. The team needs the Australian-born pitcher to make like a boomerang and have a comeback performance. Melvin believes his starting pitcher's struggles are more mental than anything. "I think it's just trying to reflect on the good times and not think too much about a couple of bad starts," Melvin said. "Think more about that then a couple of tough games because he's had more good games for us than he's had bad." -- Relief pitcher Pat Neshek is not with the team. He is with his family in Florida to be with his wife as she gives birth to their first child. Even without Neshek the A's will likely lean heavily on the bullpen. One loss and they have no shot to win the division. Grant Balfour is one guy the A's won't be afraid to use. He entered the game last night with a one-run lead and struck out the side. He even hit 97-MPH on the radar gun. The "Mad Aussie" is usually an intense guy but he was on a whole other level on Monday. Balfour has 23 saves and is 16 for 16 since re-taking the closer's role."When he came in that game he was very confident and our team felt that," Melvin said. "That's why guys in the dugout were poised to go out on the field because they felt something good was going to happen with what he was bringing on the mound." -- Balfour may have been berserk on the mound on Monday but the fans may have outdone him. The announced crown of 21,162 included 5,000 walk-ups and they were loud and engaged in the game from the first pitch to the last. It looked like a much larger crowd than was announced. What they may have lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm. "The fans were unbelievable," Melvin said. "It was really loud and really electric and really intense."-- The Orioles defeated the Rays on Tuesday so Oakland is half a game behind Baltimore in the American League Wild Card race. If they end up with the same record the Wild Card game will be played in Oakland. That is, if the A's don't sweep Texas and win the West.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach


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


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.