OAKLAND — At the end of an extremely long day, the A’s were rewarded with their fifth walk-off victory of the season.
Moving forward, Thursday’s events will be remembered much more for what happened before the A’s even took the field against the New York Yankees, and how those decisions could help shape their future.
Longtime pitching coach Curt Young, a part of the organization for 33 years as a player and coach, was shown the exit, replaced by bullpen coach Scott Emerson. Veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe was designated for assignment, ending his short tenure in an A’s uniform and making way for highly regarded prospect Matt Chapman to assume the everyday third base job.
What a contrast of emotions heading into Thursday night’s game: It was an ending of sorts, with the departure of two very popular clubhouse presences in Young and Plouffe. But it was also a new beginning, with Chapman soaking up the atmosphere of his major league debut and very much expected to be a part of the A’s long-term future.
General manager David Forst acknowledged the A’s youth movement that has gradually been set in motion.
“You look out on the field, it’s obvious what’s going on,” he said before the A’s 8-7 victory over New York in 10 innings. “Jaycob (Brugman) came up over the weekend. Daniel (Gossett) came up to pitch. Matt’s here now. It’s time for us to see some of these guys. I don’t have a timeframe for anyone (to be promoted) beyond Matthew.
"But it’s clear, starting frankly, with Ryon (Healy) last year at the All-Star break, and Chad (Pinder) earlier this season, that we have some opportunity for these guys and it’s up to them to see what they can do. … We’re not bringing them up to sit.”
It was an emotional start to A’s manager Bob Melvin’s day. Breaking the news to Young, who’s been Oakland’s pitching coach for all but one season since 2004, was not easy. Melvin called Young “maybe my closest confidant” on the job. Melvin added that a key with his roster now is finding the right mix of youth and veterans that can contribute to keeping the A’s (28-38) a competitive bunch with 3 1/2 months of season left.
But the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline likely will alter the roster even more, with second baseman Jed Lowrie, first baseman Yonder Alonso and perhaps starter Sonny Gray among those who could be dealt.
Melvin was asked about the shift toward promoting younger players that will continue, with middle infielder Franklin Barreto and first baseman Matt Olson among those that figure to eventually join the big league club.
“That’s the direction,” Melvin said, “and this is a group of guys we kind of identified a couple of years ago, a core group of guys we feel like we can build around into the future.”
The A’s turned in one of their strangest games of the season Thursday, letting four different leads slip away, then eventually walking off in the 10th on Khris Davis’ two-out two-run bloop single that glanced off the glove of Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro. Gray, who gave up three runs over 5 1/3 innings, said players couldn’t afford to be distracted by the personnel and coaching staff shakeup.
“There were definitely a lot of things going on around here,” Gray said. “But at the same time, when it gets to 7 o’clock, we kind of have to focus on the task at hand.”
Chapman went 0-for-3 with two walks, scoring the first run of his career but striking out against Yankees closer Dellin Betances with the bases loaded and the game tied in the ninth. He also showed off his terrific throwing arm, rifling a throw across the diamond to retire Aaron Judge in the seventh.
Before the game, the 24-year-old Chapman described the excitement of his first big league call-up.
“I don’t know if it all really hit me until I got to the field today, showing up and seeing your jersey in the locker,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. definitely a dream come true.”
Forst said he’s hopeful Chapman, a first-round pick in 2014, can provide the stellar defense he’s been known for throughout his minor league career, adding that the A’s will be patient with any growing pains in the batter’s box.
“We’ve said all along that we wanted to give him time to develop so when he came here, he was more than ready,” Forst said. “Whether or not that’s the case, he’s here now. It’s his time to play.”