Athletics

Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 6, Mariners 1

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Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 6, Mariners 1

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- With the No. 32 jersey proudly hanging in the dugout the A's took the field with heavy hearts. A's players found out on their off-day Thursday that their friend and teammate Brandon McCarthy underwent surgery to ease the pressure from an epidural hemorrhage and to stabilize a skull fracture incurred after getting hit in the head by a line drive on Wednesday. With McCarthy in their thoughts the A's opened a critical stretch of games in which they play 17 of their next 20 on the road with a 6-1 win over Seattle. More impressive, they did it in dramatic fashion, scoring all six of their runs with Mariners' ace Felix Hernandez on the mound. At the PlateThe A's plated an usually rare run on Hernandez in the first inning. Seth Smith reached on a single and came around to score on a ball hit by Yoenis Cespedes to right field. The single was a blooper but it was misplayed by right fielder Eric Thames, allowing Smith to score. The A's did the improbable in the fourth inning -- they scored three runs on Hernandez. With the "King's Court" worked into a full on lather, George Kottaras crushed a hanging slider into the right field stands for a three-run homer. With Kottaras' seventh home run of the season, you could almost see the weight of the world lifting off the A's shoulders. It also silenced the yellow triangle that is the fanatical Felix following in left field. The A's piled on in the fifth inning against Hernandez. Josh Donaldson laced a two-out double down the left field line, scoring Brandon Moss. Then Stephen Drew drove home Donaldson with a single to right field making it 6-1. Donaldson rounded third with the throw from right field incoming and didn't slide but still made it safely -- barely -- evoking memories of Jeremy Giambi with his non-slide at home. The Drew single knocked Hernandez out of the game. The A's tallied 11 hits on Hernandez, matching the most he's allowed since May 11 at New York against the Yankees. Hernandez's four and two-third innings is his shortest performance since May 16 when he only lasted three and two-third innings against the Indians. Cliff Pennington went 4-for-4. He is a streaky hitter. If he gets hot, look out. Starting Pitching ReportA.J. Griffin engaged in a duel with Hernandez on the former Cy Young Award winner's turf and upstaged the ace. With thoughts of McCarthy surely heavy on his mind, Griffin dropped his head seemingly in disbelief after a first-inning, line-drive single hit by Kyle Seager flew just over his head. Griffin allowed a run in the second inning on two hits and a walk. The damage was done when Brendan Ryan hit an 89-mph fastball that caught too much of the plate into right field, scoring Michael Saunders. Josh Reddick fielded the ball and came up throwing, but the throw shaded a little too far up the third base line to nail the runner. After giving up the second-inning run, Griffin retired the next six batters he faced. He gave up back-to-back singles with two outs in the fourth inning, but struck out Ryan swinging on a curveball to end the threat. With six runs of support on his side, the rookie righty buckled down and easily dispatched the Mariners in the fifth inning. With 98 pitches he stayed in to start the sixth inning. He allowed a leadoff single and struck out Saunders swinging on a fastball and was removed from the game. He may not have gone as deep into the game as he would have liked, but seven strikeouts, one walk, and just one earned run is still a pretty solid evening of work. Griffin hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 10 big league starts. Griffin is now 5-0 to start his career, joining Todd Burns (1988) as the only pitcher in Oakland history to start his career with five wins and zero losses.Bullpen ReportJerry Blevins relieved Griffin and retired the final two batters of the sixth inning. He came back out and started and finished the seventh inning as well. Ryan Cook pitched the eighth inning. He allowed one hit and a walk but escaped unscathed. Sean Doolittle threw a scoreless ninth inning. On the BasesCespedes tried to zoom from first to third on Moss' single in the fifth inning, but was thrown out. It looked like he might have gone into his headfirst slide a little early. The A's still ended up scoring two runs in the fifth frame, even after Cespedes ran into the out. AttendanceThe Mariners announced an attendance of 17,128. Up NextBrett Anderson (3-0, 0.90 ERA) takes on Hisashi Iwakuma (6-3, 3.14 ERA). Anderson has been unstoppable since returning from a 14-month layoff after Tommy John surgery. The A's won the negotiating rights to Iwakuma prior to last season but couldn't strike a deal. He remained in Japan and ended up a member of the Seattle Mariners this year. Oakland will face the pitcher they could have had on Saturday, and Iwakuma is on a roll. He has won five of his last seven starts for the Mariners.

Mailbag: Will A's go after Bay Area native CC Sabathia?

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AP

Mailbag: Will A's go after Bay Area native CC Sabathia?

As the postseason continues to unfold, it’s fair game to speculate on what might be in store for the A’s looking ahead to next year. Here’s some questions that came in via Twitter, with my thoughts attached …

@usernamaxwell -- What do you think the 2018 rotation will look like?

Talk about wide open. You can safely write in Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea. I’ll put Paul Blackburn in there based on his impressive showing before suffering a season-ending hand injury. Daniel Mengden has an inside track based on his strong September. But for both Blackburn and Mengden, the sample size of success is so small. For others, like Jharel Cotton and Daniel Gossett, they struggled during an extended opportunity in this season’s rotation. That’s why I expect the A’s to sign a free agent starter. It likely won’t be a front-of-the-rotation guy. But something tells me one of those five spots will be filled by someone not currently in the organization. As for in-house guys, everything is written in pencil for me beyond Graveman and Manaea.

@sanomafang -- Who do you see starting at CF next season?

Unfortunately there’s no crystal ball that tells us whether Dustin Fowler’s right knee will be full strength by the start of spring training. If he’s fully recovered from surgery for a ruptured patella tendon, it appears his job to lose. That’s saying a lot for a guy that’s played just one big league game. But the 22-year-old Fowler, acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal, is a very highly regarded prospect. A’s officials have made it clear they see him as the likely starter in center if he’s 100 percent. But there’s bound to be rust to knock off. Boog Powell remains very much in the equation here. Bottom line, I see the A’s choosing their center fielder from in-house as opposed to acquiring someone.

@jackconboy -- Who do you think will get a long-term contract and would they give one to pre-arb players?

Although the A’s could target a veteran – reportedly they’ve held past talks with Khris Davis and Marcus Semien about extensions – I tend to think it’s the younger guys they would focus on locking up. Yes, I do think they would consider multi-year deals for pre-arbitration players. The question is when. I think they want to give it a little time to evaluate just who they should sink their money into. Any number of players could be targets. Trying to forecast right now, I think Matt Chapman and Matt Olson would make sense to sign as power hitters who play impact defense at the corner infield spots. These look like anchor-type guys to me. But Ryon Healy, Chad Pinder, Bruce Maxwell, Sean Manaea and others could warrant consideration too.

@OaklandABooster -- Any chance the A’s might bid on CC Sabathia in the offseason?

I’ve heard people speculating on this one. The A’s could use a seasoned veteran in their rotation. And given Sabathia is a Vallejo native, finishing his career in the Bay Area could be the perfect ending for the 37-year-old. So it makes some sense on the surface. But being that he pitched to a 3.69 ERA and 14 wins over 148 2/3 innings with the Yankees this season, expect there to be plenty of competition for his services on the open market. As usual, it will come down to dollars. But I could see the A’s making a play for him.

@dongodile -- What's gonna happen to Chris bassitt -- bullpen or rotation?

I’m pretty curious about this myself because there’s a fit for him somewhere on this staff if healthy. Bob Melvin said, in his season-ending media chat, that Bassitt could pitch in relief next season simply because he logged just 50 2/3 innings in 2017 after returning from Tommy John surgery. He feels comfortable relieving, and let’s face it, this bullpen needs reinforcements. He’s a wild card worth watching in spring training.

@mrjoesiler -- What do you see for the DH position in 2018?

I think this one’s on a lot of people’s minds. Things could very well remain status quo. Matt Chapman and Matt Olson appear locked in at the corner infield spots, and with Khris Davis manning left field, Healy would remain the DH. There’s been speculation that perhaps Healy could be dangled in a trade. I see the logic … moving him means Davis could slide to DH and the A’s could field a stronger defensive outfield that potentially has Matt Joyce in left, whoever wins out in center and Chad Pinder in right. But boy, you have to like the chemistry that’s developing with this young nucleus, and Healy is a part of that. Do you want to subtract a piece from that at this early juncture? Being that the A’s have stuck with Davis in left field for two seasons now despite his subpar throwing arm, I could see them staying the course in 2018 and Healy remaining the DH.

@J_M_C_74 -- With the recent trade acquisitions of SSs Jorge Mateo and Sheldon Neuse, does Marcus Semien become a trade candidate in the next 1 -2 years?

First thing’s first – the A’s have to be convinced they’ve got a better shortstop who’s ready before they would even consider dealing Semien. Both prospects you mention made a nice early impression, but it’s too early to tell if either will be playing shortstop in the bigs. Mateo is a terrific athlete but he could also be a center field option. From what I’m told, Neuse has adequate tools for short but is probably best suited for third base. I’ve long thought Richie Martin, the A’s first-round pick in 2015, would have the glove to eventually take over as the big league shortstop. But Martin’s bat is the concern right now, and he finished the season at Single-A after Mateo was acquired and took over shortstop at Double-A.

Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

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Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

Ryan Christenson has worked his way up the coaching ladder in the A’s farm system, and on Thursday he was named the team’s new major league bench coach.

The announcement makes Christenson, 43, the right-hand man for manager Bob Melvin and essentially the No. 2 man in the dugout. It also settles a position that was in flux over the course of the 2017 season. Mark Kotsay began this past season as bench coach but stepped away from the team in June to be with his family after his daughter, Sienna, suffered a serious eye injury.

Kotsay is expected to remain with the big league club in some form of non-everyday role. Chip Hale finished the season as bench coach but will now switch back to third base coach, a position he originally was hired for leading into the 2017 season. Hale also coaches Oakland’s infielders.

“At some point in time we knew Ryan was going to be here,” Melvin said. “He went through all the classifications (managing in the minors). He did well with a young group. It’s a good fit bringing him in, and he’s ready for the bench coach role. He’s done a lot of managing.”

Though the bench coach works in closest tandem with a manager throughout the game, Melvin also noted the importance of having a third-base coach that thinks right along with him and is on the same page. From that standpoint, he said having Hale in that role is important.

“Chip’s so good at third, that even though I’m used to having him on the bench, it’s tough not to use him (at third),” Melvin said. “Certainly this isn’t a demotion for Chip.”

It’s the first appointment on a major league staff for Christenson, who has spent the past five seasons managing in Oakland’s farm system, starting with low Single-A and working his way up to Triple-A Nashville this season. He led Double-A Midland to back-to-back Texas League titles in 2015-16, and his teams went 391-307 (.561) over those five seasons.

The rest of Melvin’s coaching staff will return intact in 2018. That includes pitching coach Scott Emerson, who took over that role midseason after the firing of Curt Young, and hitting coach Darren Bush. Like Christenson, Emerson and Bush both were promoted from within the farm system to their eventual spots on the big league staff.

All three men have extensive history coaching the large group of young players that are establishing themselves as the A’s core, and that’s a factor worth keeping in mind when evaluating the makeup of this staff.

Emerson, who assumed Young’s duties in June, will return as pitching coach despite the A’s staff posting a 4.67 ERA, highest by an Oakland staff since 1999. A’s pitchers also surrendered an Oakland-record 210 home runs.

“Similar to Ryan, he knows everybody, what we have here and in the minor leagues,” Melvin said of Emerson. “He’s been a good fit here and continues to be a good fit.”

Bush oversaw a group of hitters that showed improvement as the season wore on, scoring the fifth-most runs in the American League after the All-Star break. The A’s set a franchise record for strikeouts – in line with the rise in whiffs throughout the majors -- but also hit the fourth-most homers in franchise history.

Melvin’s staff is rounded out by first base coach Mike Aldrete, bullpen coach Garvin Alston and assistant hitting coach/catching coach Marcus Jensen. Steve Scarsone, who filled in as interim third base coach from June through the rest of the season, will resume his duties as a traveling instructor throughout the farm system.