Athletics

Texas Watch: Rangers win, remain three games ahead

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Texas Watch: Rangers win, remain three games ahead

CLEVELAND (AP) Jurickson Profar took his major league debut in stride. To the highly touted 19-year-old for the Texas Rangers, he was just playing another game of baseball with a new group of teammates.Profar hit a home run in his first at-bat and doubled the next time up Sunday as Texas thumped the Cleveland Indians 8-3."I guess it's a pretty big thing," a smiling Profar said, his hair and neck covered in shaving cream from a celebratory "pie" administered by teammate Elvis Andrus."I was just a little bit nervous, but I'm with a lot of great players, so I just went out and played," he said.Profar was a late substitute after second baseman Ian Kinsler was scratched with a stiff back. Profar opened the third inning with a drive over the right-field wall, connecting on a 2-1 pitch from Zach McAllister (5-6)."I was thinking, Go, go, go, go,' after I hit it," said Profar, who got the souvenir ball back.Profar doubled in his next at-bat, then was late to hit in the fifth. With Luis Martinez on first with a single, Profar wasn't even in the on-deck circle. Suddenly, he grabbed a bat, ran to the plate and flied out on the second pitch."Mother Nature called," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "He got a couple hits and maybe his stomach realized what was happening."Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and David Murphy all hit solo home runs in the Texas fifth.Derek Holland (10-6) gave up two runs over seven innings as the AL West-leading Rangers took two of three in the series. Texas matched its best record through 133 games, having also gone 79-54 in 1999."Texas is probably the best team in baseball, period," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "The guy hitting ninth today (Profar) could be in the middle of the order for most teams. And how do you get the ball through the infield with the guys they have playing there? They should go very deep, if not back to the World Series, again this year."Cleveland dropped to 6-29 since July 27.Profar went 2 for 4 as the first player born in 1993 to play in the majors. He became the youngest major leaguer to hit a homer since current teammate Adrian Beltre did it in 1998 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, also at age 19."It was a special day for a special kid," Washington said. "This kid is blessed. He's got a bright future, but let's not put him in the Hall of Fame yet."He's already in the Rangers' record book as the first player to homer his first time up in a Texas uniform. The last player to do it in franchise history was Brant Alyea for the Washington Senators in 1965. The Senators moved to Texas in 1972.Profar is the third-youngest player in Rangers history behind pitchers David Clyde and Wilson Alvarez. He hit .281 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs at Double-A Frisco and homered in the Futures Game in July in Kansas City during All-Star week."This kid is not afraid," Washington said, who talked to Profar when Kinsler came up ailing."He asked me how many games I have played at second base," said Profar, who has played more at shortstop. "I told him and he said, OK, you're in the game, playing second.'"I was kind of shocked, but I was also ready for it."Andrus had three hits. He has hit in all 29 of his career games against Cleveland.After Profar's homer, the Rangers sent seven more batters to the plate in the third. Nelson Cruz had an RBI double and Murphy a two-run single to make it 4-0.Carlos Santana's two-run homer, his 14th, got Cleveland within 4-2 in the bottom half.Thomas Neal got his first hit, an RBI double in the eighth in his debut for Cleveland to make it 8-3.Hamilton lined the first pitch of the fifth into the seats in right for his 37th homer. Beltre followed with his 27th - and eighth in 11 games. It was the third time this year the duo homered in consecutive at-bats. One out later, Murphy hit his 13th."That's what we needed," Washington said. "We had to break out and show our authority. We did it the way we are capable.Holland won his third straight start. The left-hander also moved to 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five career starts against Cleveland.McAllister gave up 11 hits and seven runs over five innings, falling to 1-4 with a 6.08 ERA over his last seven starts. Cleveland's starting staff has a 6.55 ERA, worst in the majors in the second half - the biggest reason for the Indians' 12-37 record since the All-Star break.NOTES: Profar is the third teenager to homer in his first at-bat, joining the Giants' Whitey Lockman in 1945 and Reds' Ted Tappe in 1950, the Elias Sports Bureau said. ... Washington's 506th win tied Johnny Oates for second in Rangers history behind Bobby Valentine (581). ... Texas is 50-36 all-time at Progressive Field, the second-highest winning percentage (.581) of any team. The New York Yankees are at .633 and Cleveland is .553. ... Texas begins a four-game series Monday in Kansas City. RHP Yu Darvish (13-9) faces Royals LHP Bruce Chen (10-10).

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

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USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.