Athletics

A's 2020 MLB Opening Day roster: Seth Brown, Jordan Weems earn spots

A's 2020 MLB Opening Day roster: Seth Brown, Jordan Weems earn spots

A’s general manager David Forst had a good idea which 30 players would comprise his Opening Day roster before training camp even started. Such is life for a legitimate World Series contender. Established players take up most spots. There’s so much quality depth that reserves were also roster locks.

If we’re being honest about how we thought this roster would look in early July, there are a few surprises. Jordan Weems is the biggest, earning a spot in a massive bullpen to start the year.

The A’s kept left-handed power hitter Seth Brown over a third catcher, which makes sense considering the three-man taxi squad will include another backstop.

A.J. Puk starting on the injured list obviously was unexpected, but it allowed Daniel Mengden to return to the active roster with an easy swap.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Here’s the Opening Day roster for the A's, who start playing games that count Friday against the Los Angeles Angels. Don’t forget that the roster max will shrink to 28 in a few weeks and 26 a few weeks after that. Right now, the A’s have a deep pitching staff and plenty of offensive firepower at their disposal to navigate this 60-game baseball season. Let’s take a look at who they’ve got:

Infielders (7)

C Sean Murphy
C Austin Allen
1B Matt Olson
2B Franklin Barreto
2B Tony Kemp
2B/SS Vimael Machin
SS Marcus Semien
3B Matt Chapman
UTIL Chad Pinder

Murphy, Olson, Semien and Chapman will be fixtures in the starting lineup and comprise most of an excellent defensive infield. All four guys have power and offensive prowess as well. The A’s will use several at second base, with options from the left and right side of the plate. Chad Pinder has been red hot lately and could see lots of action against left-handed pitchers. Tomy Kemp is the first option against righties, though Barreto will fit into this equation as well.

 

Outfield (6)

Steven Piscotty
Ramon Laureano
Mark Canha
Robbie Grossman
Seth Brown
Khris Davis

The A’s have solid depth in the outfield, especially with Pinder and Kemp able to play on the dirt as well. Piscotty has had an excellent training camp. Canha’s coming off a career year with free agency looming, so he’ll be motivated to continue his 2019 offensive surge. Laureano will play most every day. Grossman’s an excellent fourth outfielder, and Brown provides some left-handed pop that is required in a generally right-handed heavy lineup. Brown and Canha also can spell Olson at first base if required. Davis will be the designated hitter and might not see the field over 60 games.

Starters (5)

Frankie Montas
Mike Fiers
Sean Manaea
Daniel Mengden
Chris Bassitt

This isn’t the fearsome rotation many expected to start the year. Puk’s on the injured list indefinitely and Jesus Luzardo isn’t quite ready to join the group after missing two weeks in quarantine. Bassitt has been solid the last two times out and Montas is the clear-cut ace. Fiers and Manaea need to be solid out of the gate, meaning firm command is required considering they won’t light up the radar gun.

[RELATED: MLB power rankings: Where A's, Giants stand on Opening Day]

Bullpen (10)

Liam Hendriks (closer)
Jesus Luzardo
Jake Diekman
Joakim Soria
Lou Trivino
Yusmeiro Petit
T.J. McFarland
Burch Smith
J.B Wendelken
Jordan Weems

The A’s have several long relievers in this group to aid starters who aren’t fully stretched out yet. Petit, Smith, Wendelken and McFarland are all capable of throwing two and three innings of middle relief if required. Hendriks is the closer, with Trivino, Soria and Diekman available in the later innings. It will be interesting to see where Weems fits into the equation.

Taxi squad (3)

C Jonah Heim
LHP Lucas Lutege
INF Nathan Orf

The A’s will have three people not on the 30-man roster travel with them in case they’re needed in a pinch. They’ll work out at the A’s alternate site in San Jose with a larger player pool available should the big club need it. That’s vital with minor league baseball cancelled for 2020. The A’s keep a third young catcher available to them with a versatile infielder and a left-hander who had a strong training camp over the past three weeks.

A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

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A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

A's bench coach Ryan Christenson said he "unintentionally" gave a Nazi salute during Oakland's celebratory handshake line after Thursday's win over the Texas Rangers.

"I made a mistake and will not deny it," Christenson said in a statement released by the team. "Today in the dugout I greeted players with a gesture that was offensive. In the world today of [COVID-19] I adapted our elbow bump, which we do after wins, to create some distance with the players. My gesture unintentionally resulted in a racist and horrible salute that I do not believe in. What I did is unacceptable, and I deeply apologize."

The NBC Sports California broadcast showed Christenson raising his right arm with his palm facing down while A's closer Liam Hendriks approached.  Hendriks quickly grabbed Christenson's arm, bending it at the elbow for the coach's "elbow bump" celebration, which he said is done due to MLB's coronavirus safety protocols. Christenson then turned around and repeated the initial gesture.

"No, no straight arm, you have to bend your elbow," Christenson said Hendriks told him in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, referring to the coach's usual celebration.

"Oh, I see what you mean, oh no, it's like 'Heil Hitler,' " Christenson said after he turned, in his and Hendriks' recounting to Slusser.

The salute, typically followed by exclamations of "Heil Hitler" or "Sieg Heil," was a compulsory tribute to Adolf Hitler within the Nazi Party and, later, all of Germany under the Nazis' rule from 1933 through 1945. Still used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists long after the end of World War II, the Anti-Defamation League says the salute is "the most common white supremacist hand sign in the world."

The A's said in a statement that they were "deeply sorry this happened on our playing field."

"We do not support or condone this gesture, or the racist sentiment behind it," the A's said in a statement. "This is incredibly offensive, especially in these times when we as a [club] and many others are working to expose and address racial inequities in our country."

Before the A's released the pair of statements, Christenson told Slusser that he "wasn't doing that intentionally" and that "I just blacked out, my mind wasn't there and I spaced out."

"I'm cringing inside picturing myself," Christenson told Slusser. "Of course I'm sorry for it -- it's like standing there with my middle finger up. Anyone should know better."

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

Whatever he’s doing appears to be working.

Khris Davis proved his recent adjustment at the plate is paying dividends, as he tallied his second multi-hit game of the season during the A’s 6-4 sweep over the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

Davis said the coaching staff and teammates are to thank for the recent surge -- particularly hitting coach Darren Bush, who first suggested an alteration with Davis' hands.

“Yeah, I just put my hands back and further up a little and it’s been helping me be more accurate to the ball,” Davis said after the game. “I’m finding less swings and misses and a little better contact.”

“It’s all pretty comfortable right away, usually when you have to make an adjustment and you feel it click, you just run with that and don’t look back so it’s brought some comfort in the box so I’m going to keep working with it,” Davis said.

Davis went 2-for-3 on Thursday, driving in two runs in the 4th inning to break the game open.

“I think it’s a positioning thing, just having them further back -- less room to go,” he added. “They’re just already ready to fire and it’s been working.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Davis wants to be the everyday designated hitter, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case with his lack of production. Mark Canha has been taking over the DH spot in some of the outings, but it’s something Davis is ready to earn back.

“It is what it is,” Davis said. “And, I just have to capitalize on my opportunities that I do get. It’s s--tty, but I’ve been here before, I’ve lost my job before a couple times and I’ve had to battle back and this is nothing new to me.”

It turns out the oblique injury Davis suffered last season when he ran into the wall in May ended up leaving a bigger mark than just on his skin. 

"I think when I got hurt, I had been getting set up in a different way,” Davis said. “My body just wasn’t adjusting to that injury and just when I put my hands further back it just freed things up.”

[RELATED: Luzardo's outing shows A's have something special]

Oh, and his teammates are helping him a lot too.  

“A lot of good teammates, they know what it’s like to go through a struggle and they just kept reminding me that I could hit all around, I don’t have to hit a home run or whatever, but they constantly say that I’m a good hitter, I’m [not just] a power hitter.”