Athletics

Alonso fired up to get A's career started, put on white cleats

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Alonso fired up to get A's career started, put on white cleats

Yonder Alonso brings some sharp defensive skills to the A’s, and no shortage of enthusiasm about his new team too.

That much was apparent as Alonso talked with reporters on a media conference call following Wednesday’s five-player trade that sent him from San Diego to Oakland. By then Alonso had talked with Padres general manager A.J. Preller, A’s manager Bob Melvin and an old college teammate -- current A’s third baseman Danny Valencia.

After Preller broke the news of the trade to him, Alonso said that “all I could think about was going to the Bay Area and playing in the Coliseum with the white unis and white cleats. We played them last year and I was impressed with the players they have. They’re a bunch of players that just grind, and that’s what kind of player I am.”

[RELATED: Winter Meetings deals likely as A's add Alonso, Rzepczynski]

Alonso’s strength undoubtedly is his slick glove, as his offensive numbers have not matched the hype that came with the Cincinnati Reds making him the No. 7 overall pick way back in the 2008 draft. He’s a .273 career hitter with an impressive career on-base percentage of .340, but he’s never hit more than nine homers in the majors or driven in more than 62 runs.

However, the A’s are high on the overall package he brings, offensively and defensively, and Alonso says his swing began regaining its form toward the end of this past season, after he was dealing with the effects of right wrist surgery late in 2014. He also missed the final few weeks of this season with a stress reaction in his back, but says he is healthy now.

One of the first people Alonso talked to after hearing about the trade was Valencia, a teammate when both anchored the middle of the lineup for the University of Miami. Alonso played first base and Valencia handled third. They also played travel ball together in high school.

“I talked to him earlier today, and he had nothing but great things to say about the team,” said Alonso, who turns 29 in April. “I just wish it was February so I could pack my bags and get ready for spring training.”

The A’s have shown interest in trading either Valencia or second baseman Brett Lawrie, but the way the roster is coming together, it’s easier to envision Lawrie being the one dealt. The A’s are looking to improve the clubhouse chemistry issues that were a factor last season. And though Valencia was viewed by some as perhaps being part of the problem in that area (the blame extends beyond one player), there’s no debate about how much Valencia’s bat helped the A’s toward the end of last season. And certainly it can’t hurt, from a chemistry standpoint, to bring in a player that Valencia has close ties with.

[RELATED: What they're saying: Alonso goes to Oakland, Pomeranz to San Diego]

As for Alonso, he believes his offensive approach meshes perfectly with the A’s.

“It fits into what I do,” he said. “I’m a consistent hitter. I’m a tough out, I also want to see pitches. I don’t want to strike out. I think that’s the worst thing you can do as a hitter. Just be a tough out, put the ball in play, hit it to the gaps.”

Dontrelle Willis hilariously reacts to Steve Bartman cutout at A's-Mariners

Dontrelle Willis hilariously reacts to Steve Bartman cutout at A's-Mariners

Of all the cardboard cutouts present at T-Mobile Park for the A's series in Seattle this past weekend against the Mariners, one seemed to stand out. In left field, Steve Bartman, the Chicago Cubs fan who became famous for reaching for a foul ball during an NLCS game against the Florida Marlins in 2003, a game Chicago went on to lose, was right there in the front row.

NBC Sports California analyst Dontrelle Willis was a member of that Marlins squad that went on to win the 2003 World Series, and says he and Moises Alou, the Cubs outfielder who was kept from catching the ball by Bartman, still aren't on the best of terms.

[RELATED: What you might have missed in A's gritty win over Mariners]

"Everytime I see Moises he wants to fight me," Willis quipped Sunday night on Twitter.

Willis was part of the Marlins' rotation from 2003-07, and was named the NL's Rookie of the Year in that season after going 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA.

MLB teams have had to employ cardboard cutouts of fans in lieu of the real thing, as no spectators will be permitted at games during the abbreviated 2020 season as result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fans have to appreciate that MLB teams like the Mariners are trying to have a little fun in what has been an up-and-down season to say the least.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

Chris Bassitt’s stellar outing in the A's 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday almost wasn’t. But we’ll let the first inning be just a memory.

“I told myself after the first inning, I’m like ‘All right, you may be a little wild today, but don’t walk guys, make them earn everything,’ and it obviously smoothed itself out,” Bassitt told reporters in the postgame interview. 

Bassitt hit J.P. Crawford in the first with a curveball. After Dylan Moore hit into a fielder's choice and stole second, he came around to score on a single by Daniel Vogelbach.

Bassitt's performance more than smoothed itself out, and he had the help of rookie catcher Austin Allen in the process. In 5 2/3 innings, Bassitt allowed just one earned run, three hits and struck out seven. 

“Austin kind of guided me through the first inning and [got] going from there,” Bassitt said. “After the second inning, I just kind of felt myself out and I was kind of locked in from there on out." 

Allen came to the A's an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres for Jurickson Profar. And while he’s the new guy, Allen was able to form a bond with Bassitt quicker than usual. 

“Me and Austin spent a lot of time together over the last -- I would say two, three weeks just getting to know one another, talking about what I like, what I don’t like,” Bassitt said. “Obviously, a new catcher coming in, he’s got to learn basically me -- he’s got to learn who I am mentally, who I am physically, what I can and can’t do.

"I think we’re still learning each other, but at the same time, I think a lot more ahead of what we should be just because, again -- me and [Sean Murphy] are on the same page, and I think Austin’s done a great job of learning who I am.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

The fifth inning came fast, but before Bassitt was pulled, he wanted to make it count against Mariners rookie outfielder Kyle Lewis, who is hitting .425 with three home runs this season. 

Bassitt glanced over to the bullpen to see A’s reliever T.J. McFarland warming up, knowing Vogelbach was about to come to the plate. He had an internal message for Lewis. 

“All right, if you’re going to hit me, you’re going to hit my best pitch, so uh … here we go,” Bassitt explained. “So yeah, I knew that was my last batter.”

[RELATED: Luzardo to make first big-league start next week]

Bassitt struck Lewis out.

And Bassitt continues to improve.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Bassitt was fantastic and “seems to get better every time out.”