Athletics

Spotlight shines on Pinder's athleticism, A's young trio in win over Giants

Spotlight shines on Pinder's athleticism, A's young trio in win over Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Unpredictability suits Chad Pinder well.

When he looks at the lineup, the A’s utility man can’t be sure what spot he might be playing on a given day.

On Wednesday night it was left field, where he’d played just once before this season.

Who would have known?

Pinder made a splendid catch in the gap to rob Miguel Gomez to end the fifth and airlift starting pitcher Daniel Gossett from the only real trouble he faced all night in the A’s 6-1 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park.

“Heck of a play. Heck of an athlete,” Gossett said.

Pinder was part of a young trio in the middle of Oakland’s lineup that came up big as the A’s controlled the third game of this Bay Bridge Series from the outset.

Cleanup man Ryon Healy hit a two-run homer to give him 20 for the season. Matt Chapman doubled home a run in the second and added a single. And Pinder, making his presence felt at the plate as well, had an RBI single in the seventh and reached base two other times.

Those three don’t figure to bat 4-5-6 often, at least not in the present. But a hamstring issue with regular cleanup hitter Khris Davis necessitated some shuffling, and manager Bob Melvin went with a righty-dominated lineup against Giants left-hander Matt Moore, which meant Healy played first base over Yonder Alonso.

Watching Healy, Pinder and Chapman click offensively while bunched together in the lineup had to please Melvin. All three are 25 or younger, and all three represent key pieces of the A’s future.

Melvin was asked before the game if he’ll manage these final two months differently with the A’s out of contention and so many young players at his disposal.

“We’re gonna take a good hard look at these guys,” he said. “We gave them a little more prominent positions in the order today and all of them came through.”

Pinder, who returned from a hamstring injury Monday, will be in the lineup often. He just can’t be sure where. He is Melvin’s Swiss Army knife, able to adapt to whatever position he’s most needed on a given day. He’s a shortstop by trade, but he’s shown a surprising comfort level in the corner outfield spots.

He’s got a terrific arm for right field, and in robbing Gomez in left, he adjusted nicely to the slice of the ball off the bat of a left-handed hitter.

Surely his outlook on his utility role agrees with Melvin too.

“I tell you this, any spot on the field is a spot that I want to be,” Pinder said. “Being out on the field is the ultimate thing. Just contributing someplace, somehow, is all I want to do.”

Melvin also says Pinder can expect an occasional look in center field.

“Just probably need to add some more gloves to the collection,” Pinder said with a grin.

He was part of a youthful trio Wednesday that gave A’s fans plenty to smile about.

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.