Canha finds comfort zone against Sale, then walks off for A's in 10th

Canha finds comfort zone against Sale, then walks off for A's in 10th

OAKLAND — An early-season ticket to Triple-A Nashville wasn’t what Mark Canha had in mind, but the time in the minors was well spent.

The A’s outfielder says he came back a more confident and prepared hitter, and was that ever apparent Friday night. Canha capped a 3-for-4 night with a 10th inning game-winning homer off Heath Hembree to sink the Red Sox 3-2 and give the A’s their fourth walk-off victory in their past 13 games.

Hembree fell behind 2-0 and then left a slider hanging on the inner half of the plate, and Canha turned on it and launched it over the left field wall, ending an entertaining and well-played game that had the bipartisan Coliseum crowd charged up throughout the night.

To hear Canha tell it, he wasn’t in his comfort zone stepping in against Hembree to lead off the bottom of the 10th.

“Even in that at-bat, I was kind of battling myself,” he said. “My take on the 1-0 pitch was super-rushy and super-jumpy, and I told myself I needed to calm down after that pitch. I told myself ‘calm down, go slow,’ and I saw it really well and put a good swing on it.”

Strangely enough, Canha appeared quite comfortable taking his hacks against fireballing Red Sox lefty Chris Sale, the five-time All-Star and major leagues’ strikeout leader. Sale struck out 10 over seven innings of two-run ball — matching his own modern-day major league record with eight consecutive starts in a season with double-digit strikeouts (a mark he shares with Pedro Martinez).

But Canha lined a double to left in his first at-bat, then got the A’s on the board with a run-scoring triple to right in the fifth.

Canha had faced Sale just one prior time, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Opening Night a year ago when the lefty was mowing down hitters for the White Sox.

“I was a different player at the beginning of last year than I am now,” Canha said. “I just kept telling myself that, and telling myself tonight I’m gonna see the ball better against him than I did. I just had a plan to be aggressive all night, and it worked out.”

Canha went 2-for-19 to begin his season and was optioned to Nashville. At the time, manager Bob Melvin said Canha needed consistent at-bats in order to make a quick return to the bigs. Looking back, Canha believes that stint at Triple-A was important. In the seven games he’s played upon returning, he is 10-for-21 (.476) with two homers and six RBI.

“I needed the at-bats and I needed to make some adjustments,” he said. “I wasn’t where I needed to be. I had some things to figure out. I’m not saying I’ve figured it out, but I’m seeing the ball a little better.”

Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence


Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

OAKLAND – It really was a freak injury. One swing of the bat, a seemingly inconsequential foul ball.

But during Thursday's loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Matt Olson knew right away something was wrong.

"I generally have a pretty high pain tolerance," the A's first baseman said Sunday. "I couldn't grip the bat when I came back (to the dugout) so I knew something was up."

It turned out Olson had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He underwent hamate excision surgery Friday in Los Angeles, and will be out indefinitely.

"It sucks," Olson admitted. "The timing of it is good and bad. Good because I get five or six days here to get ahead, but it sucks because it's the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point."

A's manager Bob Melvin added: "There are certain guys who you feel like are a little more replaceable than others. He's a tough one. ... He makes everybody in the infield better. All you've got to do is get it over in his direction. He's got a wide wingspan and he picks everything out of the dirt.

"It's tough not having him out there, but that's why we have a Mark Canha, a (Jurickson) Profar, and a Chad Pinder. It gives somebody else an opportunity."

Olson was not given a timetable for his return, but he noted a wide variance in other players with the same injury, anywhere from four to eight weeks. While he's obviously disappointed, he believes the team can survive without him.

"We've got guys -- Canha, Pinder, (Franklin) Barreto, and Profar -- all of those guys are very established and have good at-bats," Olson said. "They're guys who are going to get more at-bats because of it. I don't think it's a bad thing. It sucks for me, but I'm glad these guys are going to get a little more regular playing time."

[RELATED: A's have options at first base in light of Olson injury]

Although he hasn't missed any games yet, Olson joked he has already experienced the effects of sporting a cast on his right hand in his everyday life.

"I had to go to the store today to get stuff for my apartment. I got a ton of stuff. Then I got to the apartment complex, and thought I was going to have to make like five trips because I can only carry things with one hand," he laughed.

As Olson adjusts to life with just one functional hand, the A's must adjust to life without Olson's powerful bat in the lineup and his slick glove in the field. In both cases, it will be a difficult process.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target


Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.