A's spring training Day 36: Montas is bullpen possibility for Melvin


A's spring training Day 36: Montas is bullpen possibility for Melvin

PEORIA, Ariz. — The bullpen puzzle for the A’s seemed a rather simple one coming into spring training.

They appeared to have one spot open, with that job likely going to a second left-hander to join Sean Doolittle. Complicating things is that Daniel Coulombe and Ross Detwiler, the two lefty relief candidates still in camp, have posted identical 9.39 ERAs and have struggled to consistently get left-handed batters out.

Now the options seem wide open for manager Bob Melvin and the front office, with numerous variables. Do they go with just four outfielders? If so, there could be two spots open in an expanded eight-man bullpen. That could allow them to keep not only a lefty but perhaps Raul Alcantara, who is out of minor league options. Alcantara remains a starting rotation option as well.

Do they go with a more conventional seven-man bullpen and keep just one left-hander?

“It’s nice to have a second lefty, yeah,” Melvin said before an 8-5 win to the Mariners. “But if you look at the guys we have in our bullpen, there aren’t too many two-inning guys, guys that can throw more than one inning for you. So that factors in as well.”

Given that, Frankie Montas remains very much in the running for a bullpen spot too. The A’s want to give the hard-throwing right-hander a look as a starter. But coming off an injury-ravaged 2016 season in which he pitched very little, Montas will be on an innings limit, meaning a relief role in which he could be a multi-inning guy might make more sense than starting him right away.

"I wouldn't count him out," Melvin said.

What we know: John Axford, Santiago Casilla, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Dull, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Madson will occupy six relief spots. The rest of the puzzle won’t likely fall into place until the Bay Bridge Series wraps and the A’s make their final cuts to the 25-man roster.

NOTEWORTHY: Speaking of the A’s top relief arms, Melvin said he’s formulating his thoughts on roles for his late-inning guys but hasn’t talked to any of them individually yet. Regardless, he’s holding to the idea that multiple relievers could be asked to close, depending on availability and matchups.

“Even when I do have that conversation with them before we start the season, I don’t know if it will be an exact science,” Melvin said.

HEALTH UPDATE: Chris Bassitt was scheduled for a 30-pitch bullpen session Tuesday, mixing in all of his pitches for the first time since having Tommy John surgery.

“He was pretty fired up about that,” Melvin said.

COTTON STRUGGLES: Jharel Cotton endured his first poor start of the spring Tuesday night in Peoria, walking five and lasting just 3 2/3 innings. Previously, Cotton had issued just four walks total over three starts. The A’s batted around in a six-run third, but Seattle struck for four runs in the fourth, all charged to Cotton to make it a 6-5 game. “We scored the runs and I was supposed to get back out there and put a zero up,” Cotton said. “The command wasn’t there as much. There’s stuff I’ve got to work on in my sides and get back out there next time.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Yonder Alonso, Trevor Plouffe and Bruce Maxwell all had two hits and two RBI apiece … Robinson Cano had an RBI double off Cotton in the third, but Cotton stranded him at third base by striking out Nelson Cruz on a changeup.

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.