Athletics

A's slugger Khris Davis: 'I don’t want to label myself a DH'

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A's slugger Khris Davis: 'I don’t want to label myself a DH'

If Khris Davis becomes more designated hitter than left fielder, and clearly that’s the A’s plan, Davis stresses that he’ll accept the role.

That doesn’t mean he’ll be satisfied with it.

“I’m gonna do my job the best I can,” Davis told NBC Sports California by phone Monday. “Whatever they ask me to do, whatever they feel is good for the ball club, I’ll do what it takes. (But) I don’t want to label myself as a DH. … I won’t settle for it. It’s not my goal to be a designated hitter.” Davis spent his first two seasons with Oakland serving as the regular left fielder, and in the process became just the second player in franchise history to post back-to-back 40-homer seasons. But when the A’s traded Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Nov. 15, it signaled a switch for their most dangerous hitter.

The plan is to shift Davis to DH, Healy’s old spot, with the A’s on the hunt for another right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can soak up the majority of innings in left. They could also shift Matt Joyce to left if they added someone who’s more suited for right field.

Does this plan make baseball sense? Absolutely.

It’s no secret that Davis’ subpar throwing arm can make him a liability defensively. He opened up about the mental challenges he’s encountered with his throwing in a candid story for The Players Tribune back in August.

But Davis also puts in lots of extra time working on his throwing, during spring training and before games during the regular season. It’s important to him to be a well-rounded, complete player. He calls it “a trap” to be pigeon-holed as a designated hitter.

“I’m gonna go out there and play for my team,” Davis said. “At the same time I want to play defense too and be the best player I can.”

Some of Davis’ career numbers actually are better when he’s DH’ing, though it’s a small sample size. He’s batting .271 in 92 games as a DH compared to .243 in 482 games in left field. His on-base percentage is better (.326 to .317) as is his slugging percentage (.554 to .502) when he’s a DH.

But there’s a benefit for him playing left.

“I can kind of forget about my at-bats when I can go play defense,” he said. “Playing defense, it’s good for my mind. It offers a release.”

That’s the balancing act for the A’s — weighing the benefits of adding better outfield defense with making sure their top run producer maintains his comfort zone at the plate.

General manager David Forst, addressing reporters after the Healy trade, said he anticipates a smooth transition to DH for Davis.

“We were pretty clear that part of trading Ryon was to allow Khris to be in the DH spot more often, and he’s been great about it,” Forst said. “He and (manager) Bob (Melvin) talked a lot during the season when he did DH. It wasn’t something he had any issues with.

“We’ve had guys in the past that didn’t like DH’ing. They had a hard time finding their rhythm. But Khris, I think, is so locked into his offensive game and his offensive routine, it’s not something he’s ever had problems with.”

As things stand with the outfield mix now, Joyce and Chad Pinder could form a platoon in right. Boog Powell and Dustin Fowler (who’s rehabbing from knee surgery) will battle for center field, with Pinder also an option there. Mark Canha remains in the fold, along with the potential right-handed hitting left fielder the A’s seek. Jake Smolinski also will return after avoiding arbitration Monday and agreeing to a one-year $775,000 deal, mlbtraderumors.com reported.

Oakland typically keeps a maximum of five outfielders.

 

Maxwell speaks about anthem protest, but stays mum on legal issues

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Maxwell speaks about anthem protest, but stays mum on legal issues

When A's catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt during the anthem last season, he was the first MLB player to do so. He knelt before each of each of Oakland's final nine games, in order to protest racial inequality and in response to President Trump's incendiary comments about NFL players kneeling, but ended the season as the only MLB player to kneel during the anthem. 

This season, he won't kneel at all, he told reporters in a statement on the first day of spring training. 

“Obviously, I didn’t take that lightly,” Maxwell told the San Francisco Chronicle prior to the release of his statement.  “That was to bring awareness to a problem and the face we do see it, we do experience and we have empathy for what’s going on. This year I don’t plan on kneeling. … And we’ll move on forward.”

While Maxwell did address his protest during the anthem, he largely did not address his offseason legal issues.

“It’s ongoing, I can’t really discuss details,” he said. “It’s something me and my lawyers are handling.”

On Oct. 28, Maxwell was arrested in Scottsdale after allegedly pointing a gun at a food-delivery person. He pleaded not guilty to felony charges of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct in November, and is set for a settlement conference on April 13 after failing to reach a plea agreement on Monday, according to the Chronicle. 

If an agreement cannot be reached, Maxwell's trial is set to begin on Aug. 9. 

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson traded to... the Yankees

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Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson traded to... the Yankees

The New York Yankees Wednesday announced that they have acquired infielder Russell Wilson from the Texas Rangers in exchange for future considerations.

Wilson, 29, led the Seattle Seahawks to the 2014 Super Bowl championship, defeating the Denver Broncos, 43-8. At age 25, Wilson became the third-youngest quarterback to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory.

He has played the past six seasons (2012-17) with Seattle. A four-time Pro-Bowler, Wilson has completed 1,815-of-2,834 pass attempts (64.0 percent) for 22,176 yards and 161 touchdowns. He has compiled a career starting record of 65-30-1. In 2017, Wilson led the NFL with 34 touchdown passes.

"We've admired Russell's career from afar for quite some time," Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. "This is a unique opportunity for us to learn from an extraordinary athlete who has reached the pinnacle of his profession. 

"After talking to a number of our players, there is a genuine excitement in having Russell join us for a short time in camp. We are all looking forward to gaining insight into how he leads teammates toward a common goal, prepares on a daily basis for the rigors of his sport, and navigates the successes and failures of a season."

The Richmond, Va., native was originally selected by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, and was acquired by Texas in the minor league phase of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft. In 2014 and '15, Wilson participated in team workouts at Rangers spring training camp.

In 93 career minor league games between Rookie-level Tri-City (2010) and Single-A Asheville (2011) in Colorado's system, Wilson hit .229/.354/.356 (72-for-315) with 58R, 9 doubles, 8 triples, 5HR, 26RBI and 19SB. In his last 15 games with Asheville in 2011, Wilson hit .302 (16-for-53) with 13R, 5 extra-base hits, 9RBI and 5SB.

A two-sport athlete in college, Wilson graduated from North Carolina State University in 2010. Using his last year of amateur eligibility, Wilson enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and quarterbacked the Badgers to a co-Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl appearance following the 2011 season. 

Wilson is expected to be in Major League camp in March. While he is in Tampa, Wilson will participate in pregame workouts with the club and watch games from the Yankees' dugout.

He will be assigned to the Double-A Trenton roster.

Yankees media services