Athletics

Walkoff hero Norris discovers sour taste of victory

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Walkoff hero Norris discovers sour taste of victory

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OAKLAND -- A concoction of shaving cream, water, and gatorade has never tasted so good. Just ask Derek Norris. Down to their final out, the A's rookie catcher hit his first career home run with a full count -- a three run walkoff shot that defeated the San Francisco Giants 4-2."It was surreal at first," Norris said. "Once I got punched in the back of the ribs a couple of times it kicked in. Then the pie in the face really set it in.""I didn't realize I got him as good as I did," a shaving cream pie-wielding Josh Reddick said. "Hopefully it comes as a good thing for him to get it in his face."At least Jonny Gomes and Brandon Inge had the decency to rinse him down with gatorade and water. They also greeted Norris with a round of applause when he entered the clubhouse. The A's win was a much needed twist of fate. Having already endured two tough losses at the hands of their cross-bay rivals, Oakland looked like it was staring in the face of a crushing sweep. Then Norris launched former Oakland pitcher Santiago Casilla's final offering into the left field bleachers.Ever wonder what a big-league manager is thinking in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and his team down a run? "That if there is justice in the world he would hit the ball out of the ballpark," A's manager Bob Melvin admitted. "As soon as he hit it I knew it was gone." Melvin later clarified that his "justice" comment had nothing to do with the injustice that could have occurred in the sixth inning. With two runners aboard, Seth Smith appeared to have hit a double down the right field line. First base umpire Todd Tichenor ruled it a foul ball. Replays showed that the ball kicked up chalk from the foul line when it landed. The play would have scored at least one run for the A's. Instead, Smith ended up fouling out, stranding two runners.It appeared the A's had missed out on their chance to win the game. Apparently the baseball gods thought otherwise. Norris wasn't even supposed to be in the starting lineup. Kurt Suzuki was supposed to be catching Brandon McCarthy, who was scratched from his start. As a result, the A's called up A.J. Griffin to take the mound. Norris, who is familiar with Griffin since they played together in Triple-A, was asked to catch him. The rest is history. Griffin impressed in his Major League debut, throwing 104 pitches over six innings of work -- 71 one of them were strikes. He gave up three hits and allowed two earned runs. He had to oppose Giants ace Matt Cain. "You can't really let outside influences get to you too much," Griffin said. "You just go out there and pitch your game. I have no control over what Mr. Cain does."Griffin's only mistake came on a changeup in the first inning to Buster Posey, who deposited the ball into the left field seats for a two-run homer. After Posey's home run, Griffin only allowed two more baserunners. At one point he retired 13 Giants batters in a row. It is safe to say Griffin will be staying in the A's rotation for now. "Spectacular first outing," Melvin said. "If you can throw the ball where you want to and you have a secondary pitch you can pitch up here."The now have a little momentum as they embark on a seven game road trip. They will start in Seattle for three games and then play four games in Texas against the AL West-leading Rangers.

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.