Athletics

A's bullpen issues tied to Joakim Soria, Fernando Rodney’s slow starts

A's bullpen issues tied to Joakim Soria, Fernando Rodney’s slow starts

Entering the season, the A's bullpen was supposed to be a team strength. Instead, through 19 games, it has been a glaring weakness.

Oakland's 'pen blew a four-run lead Sunday at Texas, allowing five earned in just two innings, as the Rangers rallied for a stunning 8-7 victory. It was the A's third loss of the season when leading after seven innings. To put that in perspective, Oakland lost just two such games all of last year.

The root of the problem has been two high-paid veteran relievers: Joakim Soria and Fernando Rodney. Soria took the loss Sunday, his second of the season, after allowing four earned runs while recording only a single out.

"That's Soria's job to do it," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters after the game. "He's one of our main guys. He just had a rough day."

Soria was the A's biggest free-agent signing of the offseason, as the 34-year-old right-hander received a two-year contract worth $15 million. In his first nine appearances, though, he has allowed nine earned runs in just 7 1/3 innings for an 11.05 ERA.

Rodney, 42, has been equally ineffective, surrendering eight earned runs in six innings, translating to a 12.00 ERA. Oakland elected to pick up his $5.25 million option this season rather than buy out his contract for $250,000.

Soria will earn $6.5 million this season, which means the A's are spending $11.75 million on the two veteran setup men. That's a significant amount of money, particularly for a franchise like the A's, which must maximize every dollar it spends.

Oakland was counting on both Soria and Rodney to be solid late-inning contributors. That vision has not yet come to fruition. Overall, the A's bullpen has an ERA of 4.39, more than a full run higher than last season's 3.37 mark.

Outside of Soria and Rodney, most of Oakland's relievers have performed well. The rest of the 'pen has an ERA of 2.72. Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino and Liam Hendriks have been outstanding, and Yusmeiro Petit and J.B. Wendelken have been mostly reliable.

[RELATED: A's set franchise record with seventh straight multi-homer game]

The A's probably are deep enough to overcome an ineffective Rodney, but the same cannot be said for Soria. Melvin made it clear he will not overwork Treinen and Trivino, which means he will continue to turn to Soria in the late innings.

The A's just have to hope the two-time All-Star returns to form. And soon.

A's Ramon Laureano, Nick Hundley enjoy 'pretty crazy' catch, double play

A's Ramon Laureano, Nick Hundley enjoy 'pretty crazy' catch, double play

OAKLAND -- At this point, we really shouldn't be surprised by anything Ramón Laureano does on a baseball field. But this was stunning, even for him.

With Justin Smoak on first base and no outs in the second inning of Sunday's A's-Blue Jays game at the Coliseum, Toronto's Teoscar Hernández sent a fly ball to deep left-center field. Laureano, Oakland's center fielder, gave chase all the way to the wall, leaped and reached over to pull back a sure home run.

"It was in the air, and what I remember is that the wind helped it a little bit," Laureano said. "I saw the wall, and I just jumped."

But the play was just getting started. Laureano hurled the ball back toward first to try to double off Smoak. Not only did Laureano manage to throw it on the fly from the warning track, he overthrew A's first baseman Kendrys Morales by about 30 feet.

"I was really pumped up," Laureano said with a laugh. "I threw it without thinking. That happens sometimes."

Fortunately for the A's, catcher Nick Hundley was backing up the play. He ran down the ball and made an accurate on-the-run throw to second base, where Jurickson Profar tagged out Smoak trying to advance. That completed the most incredible double play in recent memory.

"You know [Laureano] has such a good arm that anything is possible," Hundley said. "When a guy makes such an incredible play, you can't let him take an error after that.

"I thought it was a homer. I didn't see him catch it. But once he [came up] with the ball, it's like, all right, now it's time to go."

The Coliseum crowd erupted in disbelief, and even Brett Anderson, who's normally stoic on the mound, let loose in celebration.

"I try to not show emotion, but that one kind of got the best of me," the A's left-hander said. "The robbed homer and then a tag and the whole ordeal. It was pretty crazy."

A's manager Bob Melvin marveled at the play on both ends, though he said he was more impressed by Laureano's catch than the throw.

[RELATED: A's left Anderson sprains ankle vs. Blue Jays]

"Well, the catch, because he overthrew everything," Melvin jokingly said. "He tried to throw it into the stands. Hundley did a great job backing up that play."

Unfortunately for the A's, the play came in a 5-4 defeat, sending the Blue Jays to a three-game weekend sweep. Still, the play will go on Oakland's all-time highlight reel.

A's Brett Anderson sprains left ankle vs. Blue Jays, hopes to make next start

A's Brett Anderson sprains left ankle vs. Blue Jays, hopes to make next start

OAKLAND -- A's starter Brett Anderson left Sunday's game against the Blue Jays in the top of the third inning after spraining his left ankle while trying to field a slow roller.

The good news is that the injury doesn't appear to be serious, and Anderson has a chance to make his next start.

"I just rolled my left ankle," Anderson said after the game. "I threw a couple of warm-up pitches, and it didn't really hurt per se, but I just couldn't push off and it didn't really feel stable. I got it taped up and will get some treatment, and it should be fine."

A's manager Bob Melvin also seemed optimistic that his left-hander could avoid a trip to the injured list.

"He didn't feel awful," Melvin said. "We're going to wait and see how he feels tomorrow. I think there's still maybe some hope that he makes his next start, especially with the off day we're getting."

With two outs in the top of the third inning and runners on second and third, Randal Grichuk tapped a swinging bunt between third base and the pitcher's mound. Anderson broke toward the ball but immediately fell down after rolling the ankle.

[RELATED: Watch Laureano's insane catch]

"It's just one of those things where it's day to day and annoying," Anderson said. "If it had been my landing leg, it might have been a little different, but having to push off and try to throw strikes and quality pitches, it probably wouldn't have happened."

Anderson ended up taking his first loss of the season, as the Blue Jays finished a three-game sweep, 5-4, at the Coliseum. The 31-year-old is off to a great start this season, allowing nine earned runs in 26 2/3 innings for an ERA of 3.04.