Athletics

A's spring training Day 28: Hahn stating his case for rotation spot

A's spring training Day 28: Hahn stating his case for rotation spot

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — He entered camp as one of the A’s players with the most to prove, and so far Jesse Hahn is delivering.

The right-hander fired four scoreless innings Monday, one of the lone bright spots in Oakland’s 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds that snapped the A’s six-game winning streak.

Hahn has a 3.12 ERA in three appearances (two starts), but that doesn’t include a scoreless three innings against Team Italy, which doesn’t count toward his official Cactus League stats. Include that outing, and Hahn has surrendered just three runs in 11 2/3 innings, with 11 strikeouts and two walks.

“That’s the way we expect Jesse to pitch,” manager Bob Melvin said of Monday’s outing. “Even if he has to back off the throttle on fastball velocity, the sink is what made him successful two years ago, so it was good to see. The ball was down in the zone, he was getting a lot of balls beat into the ground. And when we’ve seen him in the past pitch well, that’s what he’s done.”

Though Melvin wouldn’t address it directly, Hahn is pitching his way into strong consideration for one of the two available spots that exist in the A’s rotation in light of Sonny Gray’s injury. Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton line up as the top three starters, with Graveman setting up well to get the Opening Night call on April 3 against the Angels. Melvin hasn’t made an announcement yet.

Regarding Hahn’s rotation candidacy, Melvin offered only: “We’ve got a long way to go, but he came into camp with that in mind, and certainly what he did a couple years ago would suggest he’s got the ability to pitch well at the big league level.”

Hahn posted a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts for Oakland in 2015 but fell on hard times last year, failing to make the club out of spring training and seeing his ERA rise to 6.02 in nine major league starts.

NOTEWORTHY: Graveman started against the Reds and went 3 2/3 innings, his day spoiled on his last pitch, when Brandon Dixon hit an elevated fastball for a two-run homer in the fourth that gave Cincinnati a 3-0 lead.

Other than that, Graveman was pleased with his ability to mix in some breaking balls and changeups effectively. He allowed four hits and three runs, with one strikeout and one walk.

Last season, Graveman hit his stride when he began showing confidence in his sinker and throwing it often. Figure he’ll ride that strength heavily again if the sinker is dialed in, but the right-hander also sees the value in his off-speed pitches.

“Today was the first day (this spring) we flipped the lineup a time or two,” he said. “The third time facing some of these guys, you realize they’ve seen a lot of fastballs. I think you can start getting ahead of hitters with some off-speed stuff.”

LIGHTER SIDE: Somehow, Trevor Plouffe’s No. 3 jersey never made it to Goodyear, and the A’s third baseman wound up taking the field wearing No. 94. That made Plouffe look primed to rush a quarterback, but on a serious note, he made a nifty barehand pick-up and throw to first to retire Dilson Herrera in the fifth.

ODDS AND ENDS: Non-roster outfielder Chris Parmelee homered in the ninth to help the A’s avoid a shutout. They mustered just three hits in a game that wrapped in a tidy 2 hours, 15 minutes. … Reliever Sean Doolittle remains on target to make his first Cactus League appearance Tuesday against the Rockies in Mesa.

 

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.