Smith finds joy in 'unbelievable ride' despite being denied first win since '08

Smith finds joy in 'unbelievable ride' despite being denied first win since '08

OAKLAND — The only person in the A’s clubhouse who didn’t seem to feel bad for Chris Smith on Tuesday night was Chris Smith.

The right-hander, making just his second start in a big league career that began in 2008, got robbed of his first victory in nine years when his bullpen couldn’t hold a ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay. But after talking to him, it was clear that his smile couldn’t have been bigger, his humor any more genuine and good-natured, if he had actually pocketed the ‘W’.

“It’s like ‘Whoo! What’s going on here?’” Smith said. “This whole thing has just been an unbelievable ride and I don’t want it to end.”

It’s easy to see why manager Bob Melvin sees value in his young pitchers being exposed to Smith, a 36-year-old who went back to college six years ago thinking his career was over, then threw for two independent league teams in working his way back to a major league farm system.

On July 8, he became the oldest pitcher in A’s history ever to make his first career start. In a second start Tuesday in place of Jharel Cotton, Smith limited Tampa Bay to three hits over seven innings. Santiago Casilla retired the first two batters of the top of the ninth before allowing a Rays go-ahead rally that left Smith with about as cruel a no-decision as one could imagine given the circumstances.

That seemed the furthest thing from his mind.

Smith said he had 22 people in attendance at the Coliseum. He had family fly in from Des Moines, Iowa.

“We planned on going to their house with (Triple-A) Nashville,” Smith said. “They found out I got called up and they said, ‘OK, we’re going to you now.’”

An aunt traveled down from Redding. Other loved ones came from Hesperia, where Smith lives. His sister, who lives in Salt Lake City, found out he was starting and drove all through the night to get to Oakland, then was on her way back after the game.

Smith’s only victory came in relief in the second outing of his career with the Boston Red Sox. He pitched two innings and was credited with a victory over Arizona on June 24, 2008.

Had he gotten Tuesday’s victory, Smith shared that “I was hoping … I didn’t get a shower of ketchup and mustard. I was gonna say ‘Guys, I got one of those, a long time ago, back in the first Bush administration.’”

What a memory it would have made for him and all is family and friends in attendance. It was setting up well too, with third baseman Matt Chapman making a couple of dazzling plays after his error in the second inning led to a Tampa Bay run.

“His history and everything, that’s awesome,” Chapman said. “That guy is easy to root for.”

After shortstop Marcus Semien snared a liner to end the top of the seventh, completing the longest outing Smith has had this season in the majors or minors, the pitcher walked off the mound with a grin on his face.

“Knowing my family was up there watching me was nice,” he said. “You gear up for the 6th, and you go out for the 7th and you complete the 7th. It’s like just an awesome feeling especially because I know I’m not supposed to be here doing this.”

Now officially in the fold, Lucroy ready to work with young A's pitchers


Now officially in the fold, Lucroy ready to work with young A's pitchers

The Oakland A's made it official: They finally got their man behind the plate. 

Oakland officially announced the signing of veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy on Monday. Lucroy's deal is reportedly worth $6.5 million, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser.

Lucroy joined his new teammates for the first time in Arizona on Monday, and told reporters that he is especially excited to work with the club's young, promising pitching staff. The three returning leaders in innings pitched (Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton) are all 27-years-old or younger, and 22-year-old top prospect A.J. Puk is pushing for a rotation spot after allowing just one run in three appearances this spring. 

"I'm looking forward to working with these guys and trying to help them get better and get better myself along the way," Lucroy told reporters. "I think that's what it's all about; taking what they do best and try to simplify their approach ... Really, just doing anything I can with them to get hitters out."

Manager Bob Melvin told reporters that he thinks Lucroy's experience will prove beneficial to his young staff.

"If we can't go out and get ourselves a [starting pitcher], that's the next best thing," Melvin told reporters on Monday. "So, he's got a lot of experience, and a great reputation for being a teriffic leader behind the plate."

Lucroy, 31, slashed .265/.345/.371 in 481 plate appearances with the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies last season, hitting six home runs with 40 RBI, his lowest marks in those categories since his rookie season in 2010.

In order to accomodate Lucroy's signing the, the A's designated left-handed pitcher Jairo Labourt for assignment. Labourt was acquired off of waivers on Mar. 4, and Labourt's arrival prompted the eventual release of Brandon Moss one month into his Oakland reunion.

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


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.