Athletics

Beane: Injuries have 'greater impact on us' than other teams

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Beane: Injuries have 'greater impact on us' than other teams

OAKLAND — The shifts in fortune have been frequent and drastic for the A’s, who were swept by the Yankees over the weekend while simultaneously coping with injuries to two of their most indispensable players.

Just four days ago, the A’s were coming off a sweep of the Texas Rangers and exhibiting the swagger of a team ready to make a push in the American League West. Now they’re saddled with a four-game losing streak after Sunday’s 5-4 loss, and coming to grips with right fielder Josh Reddick and No. 1 starter Sonny Gray being the latest to join the disabled list.

Thirteen players total occupy spots on the DL, most in the majors and the most for an A’s team since at least 1979. Depth and flexibility were viewed as this team’s biggest strength entering spring training, particularly with their starting pitching. But as the A’s prepare for a three-game series at Seattle, only two of the five pitchers in their season-opening rotation are healthy, Rich Hill and Kendall Graveman.

[RECAP: Instant Replay: Hahn, A's swept by Yankees at Coliseum]

Two other starters, Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront, were lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery. Gray’s return date from a strained trapezius is unknown after he joined the 15-day DL on Sunday for the first time in his career.

The A’s miss second baseman Jed Lowrie, the team’s RBI leader in April who is nearing a return from a shin injury. The addition of right-hander Henderson Alvarez was looked upon as a significant boost for the rotation — until Alvarez suffered a setback last week with his surgically repaired throwing shoulder.

Then Reddick was lost to a fractured thumb Thursday against the Yankees. He’s expected to miss a month at least.

“The disappointing thing is a lot of those are long-term injuries,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said after the game. “Obviously the (two) guys with Tommy John, they’re out. And Josh, I think that one psychologically really hurt a lot. The team looked like it had fought its way back in the Texas series and was playing really well. That one seemed to hurt, especially a player like that after all the other ones.”

Expanding on the team’s rash of injuries, Beane added: “That would impact any team in baseball, and it’s certainly going to have a greater impact on us, given we’re not going to have the depth or the resources” to compensate for the injuries.

Translation: Don’t expect any significant trades or additions aimed at upgrading the current roster in response to the injuries. That may not please a large portion of the fan base that views the A’s ownership group as having plenty of financial clout but being unwilling to invest enough of it in the team.

But keep this in mind on that topic: The A’s have made great efforts over the past year or so to acquire prospects and upgrade their farm system. Any additions made to bolster this year’s team would probably require they part with some of those prospects, and that would run counter to the plan they’ve already set in motion.

Gray’s trapezius strain seems to at least partly explain his struggles over the past month. Beane was asked if it was beneficial to at least get some clarity on Gray’s physical condition and have a plan in place to help him recover.

[STIGLICH: Melvin says Gray's injury has affected his command]

“Really, there’s no clarity until he’s back out there throwing like he’s capable,” Beane said. “But it gives him a little bit of a breather. Hopefully it gives him a chance to not have it in the back of his mind, which it sounds like it was.

“First when we heard about it, it wasn’t clear to us it was gonna be a DL (situation). But in conversation yesterday, it seemed like it was the best thing. Right now he’s fighting himself a little bit. This can clear his mind a little bit.”

The task for the A’s (19-26), who are eight games back of first-place Seattle, is to continue pushing forward and not allow the wheels to come off in response to their injuries.

“You’re frustrated for the team, frustrated for the individuals who are on the DL,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “It’s unbelievable how many guys we have on the DL We’re about to get two big pieces back in (Josh) Phegley and Jed.

“You don’t want to point to it and say ‘This is why’. You can’t do that because we still have guys here that can get the job done. But to say we’re not missing any of those guys would be a false statement.”

A's pitcher Mike Fiers reveals Astros would steal signs electronically

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AP

A's pitcher Mike Fiers reveals Astros would steal signs electronically

The AL powerhouse Houston Astros have long been suspected of stealing signs, but new information came to light Tuesday.

In a feature from The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported that the Astros used a camera in center field during their 2017 World Series run to help steal signs electronically.

Yankees star Aaron Judge summed up the report succinctly.

A's pitcher Mike Fiers was on that Astros team, and earned a World Series ring of his own. Now with Oakland, he not only confirmed the setup of technology but also commented on how it was affecting the game. 

“I don’t know if we really had any hard proof, but I’m sure there was (some evidence of other teams’ conduct),” Fiers told The Athletic. “Going into the playoffs, we had veterans like Brian McCann -- we went straight to multiple signs (with our pitchers). We weren’t going to mess around. We were sure there were teams out there that were trying certain things to get an edge and win ballgames. I wouldn’t say there was hard evidence. But it’s hard to catch teams at home. There are so many things you can use to win at home.”

Fiers then added how there were some players who didn't like it, as they would prefer not to know what was coming. But clearly, there were guys that benefitted as well.

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said. 

After the story was released, the Astros released the following statement:

A former player told NBC Sports California on Tuesday most teams participate in stealing signs in some fashion, but the Astros flirt with the line of what is legal and what is not.

"The Astros are super talented," the player said. "But ... they will do whatever they need to do to get an edge."

[RELATED: Daniel Hudson potential trade target for A's]

"In my honest opinion, they got beat by their old bench coach Alex Cora," he continued. "He knew all the Astros secrets, weaknesses, everything. Then, this year it seemed like the Astros only hit well when pitchers were tipping pitches. It happened with [Stephen] Strasburg the first two innings of Game 6. He cleaned it up in between innings and Houston couldn't hit him."

"Teams steal signs, it's been happening for years," the former player added. "Astros take it to another level."

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MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

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USATSI

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

Stephen Vogt could be staying in the Bay Area after all. But the catcher might choose a reunion over the option to continue wearing a Giants jersey.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported Monday morning that the A's have contacted the agent for the free-agent catcher.

Vogt, 35, proved to be fully healthy after what was once seen as potentially career-threatening shoulder surgery. After missing the entire 2018 season, Vogt was one of the Giants' most reliable bats this past season. 

The veteran catcher signed a minor league contract with the Giants in February, and went on to be a steal for San Francisco. He played in 99 games, hitting .263 with 10 homers and 40 RBI as a spot starter and backup to Buster Posey. Vogt also played seven games in left field last season. 

Vogt became somewhat of a cult hero over his four-and-a-half seasons in Oakland. He broke through as a 30-year-old for the A's in 2015 when he made his first of back-to-back All-Star Game appearances. 

The left-handed hitting catcher had a .255 batting average with 49 homers in 458 games with the A's. Even as someone who turned 35 on Nov. 1, he could be the perfect fit for an Oakland reunion. 

Adding Vogt likely would be the end of the Josh Phegley era. The A's have one of the best young catchers in the game in Sean Murphy, and could pair the 25-year-old right-handed hitter with Vogt, a veteran lefty. 

[RELATED: Vogt's championship desires might hinder Giants return in 2020]

Vogt could start games here and there behind the dish, as well as at DH, play left field and even first base, while being an incredibly serviceable bat off the bench. He hit .325 with two homers in 43 games off the bench for the Giants last season.

At this stage of his career, Vogt has one thing on his mind: A World Series ring. The A's could fit his desires while keeping him in the Bay Area on the team that truly gave him his first chance.