Athletics

Advice from A's division rival helping Healy adjust to DH role

Advice from A's division rival helping Healy adjust to DH role

OAKLAND — The process is ongoing for Ryon Healy as he searches for his comfort zone as a designated hitter.

After playing third base regularly last season in his major league debut, he’s seeing the majority of his playing time this year at DH.

He’s picked the brain of A’s teammate Stephen Vogt in seeking out the best way to prepare himself for his at-bats when not playing in the field. But Healy also has sought advice outside of the A’s clubhouse.

In the latest edition of The A’s Insider Podcast, Healy revealed that veterans such as Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz have provided some wisdom for preparing as a designated hitter. Cruz, the Seattle Mariners’ DH, is one player that Healy has found particularly helpful.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit,” Healy said. “Just kind of quick questions, ‘What do you do during the game?’ He kind of just told me ‘Stay on your feet, don’t get too relaxed.’ Just little things like that.”

The assumption through much of the offseason was that Healy would open 2017 as Oakland’s everyday third baseman after he hit .305 with 13 homers in 72 games last season as a rookie. But when the A’s signed Trevor Plouffe to a one-year deal in January, it meant Healy’s at-bats would have to come at a different spot.

And as the DH, the extra time on the bench between at-bats has provided some challenges for the second-year player.

“I found myself over-analyzing my at-bats, so I really had to stop doing that,” he said. “Everyone tells me in the clubhouse, your numbers are measured over the course of a season, not over the measure of a game or a series or a week.

“I was over-analyzing every single pitch I was getting and every single swing I was taking. It was unhealthy. I was training my mind to think negatively. (The key) was more just to focus on the positive, learning what I did right or wrong and just move on. Finding a good routine that helps me go at-bat to at-bat instead of carrying a bunch of at-bats with me up to the plate and trying to fix everything with one swing.”

The A’s and Mariners played each other in three different series last year after Healy was called up at the All-Star break, and that gave the corner infielder a chance to chat up Cruz when Cruz was on base and Healy was in the field.

"He’s a very approachable guy, but you have to choose your moments,” Healy said. “I knew he had that kind of personality, so I wasn’t afraid to ask a question if the situation in the game was appropriate. Say there was a pitching change going on or something, I’d make an effort to go ask just because I was curious to learn from that much experience, that much big league time. With how much success he’s had, there has to be some knowledge to be gained.”

A's Opening Day roster told us plenty before loss to Mariners in Japan

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A's Opening Day roster told us plenty before loss to Mariners in Japan

The A's were allowed to bring 30 players on their trip to Japan before cutting the Opening Day roster to 28, including three inactive players. Oakland announced that roster Tuesday, and while there were no major surprises, we did see an interesting development in the bullpen.

Right-handers Ryan Dull and J.B. Wendelken both made the active roster, while left-hander Jerry Blevins was nowhere to be found. Now that doesn't mean his tenure with the A's is over. The 35-year-old signed a minor-league deal with Oakland this offseason and has an opt-out option at the end of next month, the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported.

Oakland was hoping Blevins would emerge as a second left-hander in the bullpen, joining Ryan Buchter, but the veteran had a dismal spring. Blevins allowed eight earned runs in just three innings, surrendering three home runs. It appears Wendelken, after a strong outing in the season opener, may be the favorite to claim the eighth and final bullpen spot.

Meanwhile, the A's placed Jharel Cotton and Nick Martini on the 10-day IL and Chris Herrmann on the 60-day IL. Herrmann underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month and clearly won't be back for a while. That means Nick Hundley and Josh Phegley will split the catching duties to begin the season.

Hundley started the opener with Phegley replacing him in the late innings.

Oakland's first four starting pitching slots will be occupied by Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, and Frankie Montas. The fifth starter job remains open, with top prospect Jesús Luzardo still a strong possibility.

Luzardo didn't make the trip to Japan but continued his normal throwing routine in Arizona following a terrific spring training.

[RELATED: Stephen Piscotty hits first home run of MLB season in A's loss to Mariners]

The A's will have to set their official 25-man roster before their March 28 home opener against the Angels.

Stephen Piscotty hits first home run of MLB season in A's loss to Mariners

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Stephen Piscotty hits first home run of MLB season in A's loss to Mariners

BOX SCORE

It's only fitting the A's opened the 2019 MLB regular season in a slug-fest. 

Oakland flexed its muscles to three home runs Wednesday morning in Tokyo, though the final result wasn't what the team hoped for. Despite out-hitting the Mariners, the A's lost 9-7 in Game 1 of the Opening Series. 

The mini Home Run Derby started with A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty. After 27 long balls in 2018, Piscotty is the owner of the first MLB home run in 2019, a solo shot that gave the A's an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. 

The A's took a 2-0 lead on Mariners starter Marco Gonzales in the second inning, but a five-run third gave Seattle the lead. And then, it was Khris Davis time.

The A's slugger knocked his first homer of the season in the third inning, a two-run shot to center field to cut the deficit to one run.

As he did so often last season, A's third baseman Matt Chapman put on a show with both his bat and glove.

Chapman, the Platinum Glove winner last year, showed off his arm on a Dee Gordon bunt, and three innings later crushed a three-run homer to right field, pulling the A's within two runs in the seventh. 

Mike Fiers took the loss. The A's starting pitcher only lasted three innings and allowed five earned runs. 

[RELATED: A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series]

Already though, the A's are making games exciting. Even all the way in Tokyo.