Athletics

Only one things matters in Oakland: 'Play hard tomorrow'

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Only one things matters in Oakland: 'Play hard tomorrow'

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Two days ago, Coco Crisp couldn't make out faces in the crowd from the dugout. Less than 72 hours later, he's the man of the clubhouse after his 3-for-5 performance left little doubt that he belongs in the starting lineup -- with or without perfect vision.

"He's something," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It starts with him, all the way around."

Fighting through an eye infection that doctors tell him could last up to three months, Crisp's active red blood cells are still causing some blurry vision in his eyes, but he saw his first-inning shot travel over the right-field wall clear as day.

"The leadoff homer was huge," Sean Doolittle said. "He's such a spark for our offense."

Crisp's goals for the game were considerable lower than his output.

"More than I was expecting," Crisp said. "I was just trying to have quality at-bats. With just six games left, I wanted to get some kind of rhythm to be able to help the team."

He did. But playing in a day game Saturday after Friday's night game, Crisp is wary that his sensitive-to-light eyes will be ready.

"We'll see," Crisp said. "I'm just hoping that each day they get better. If that's the case, then I shouldn't have any problems."

Crisp wasn't the only outfielder to put together an impressive and complete game.

Yoenis Cespedes' stats belie his impact on the A's 8-2 win over Seattle Friday night. He finished 0-for-3, but Melvin is convinced his scorched shot in the hole -- ruled an error -- deserved a hit.

"That's a quality shortstop and that ball just ate him up it got on him so fast," Melvin said. "So I don't agree with that call."

Cespedes' next at-bat came against flamethrower Stephen Pryor. After swinging through the first two strikes, Cespedes showed veteran discipline on pitches touching 97 miles per hour, working a bases-loaded walk that put the game out of reach.

"One of the key at-bats of the game was that walk," Melvin said. "He's down two strikes, lays off a pitch, gets to 3-2 and takes a walk and we score some runs. "

And his full-extension catch in the eighth inning was a Golden Great all the way. Making it look easy, Cespedes has come a long way from the beginning of the season when he was regularly misplaying balls in center field. The growth registers with his manager.

"Now, all of a sudden, he's just a good left fielder," Melvin said. "He's a natural out there."

The stout defense helped the A's bullpen preserve rookie A.J. Griffin's seventh win in 14 starts as he bounced back from two previous rough outings. While he was happy to get back on track, he is well aware that his next slated start lands on the final day of the season. He's been thinking about it, too.

"Not going to lie, yeah," Griffin acknowledged. "But that's the fun part of this business. You get to go out there and pitch in games that matter. I just want to give us a good chance to win ballgames."

Griffin's admission that his next start has already entered his thoughts should come as no surprise. The A's are locked in a tight playoff race with four other teams, and they are making a serious attempt at focusing on only the things they can control, which means no scoreboard watching.

"We're trying not to pay attention to what other teams are doing," Doolittle said. "It's tough this time of year. But we're really trying to focus on everything in here. If we take care of business, it doesn't matter what anybody else does. That's our only goal at this point -- staying focused."

Doolittle and his teammates are buying into Melvin's only goal for the final five games: "Playing hard tomorrow." After watching the A's go all out on the field and commit to the team-first attitude in the clubhouse, even Coco Crisp can see that clearly.

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.