Athletics

A's Chad Pinder demanding opportunities from Bob Melvin with his play

A's Chad Pinder demanding opportunities from Bob Melvin with his play

Chad Pinder hit a towering shot toward Oracle Park’s right-center field brick wall but didn’t take a single second to admire it. The A’s utility man took off running, maybe a little too fast, stumbling on his way to a bases-clearing triple early in Tuesday’s exhibition against the Giants.

It sure looked like a home run on replay, but officials at MLB’s home office didn’t see enough to suggest local umpires put a finger up and wave it in a circular motion.

“I slipped rounding first base, so I couldn’t see where the ball went,” Pinder said after the 6-2 exhibition loss. “{Teammates told me] that it was a home run. It’s all good. On Friday, I’m going to want that one.”

Pinder will have an opportunity to get one when Opening Day comes around Friday. The L.A. Angels are starting left-hander Andrew Heaney, and Melvin said he’ll put Pinder’s right-handed bat in the lineup at second base. Several will step into that position depending on the matchup, and Pinder is one despite a relative lack of experience compared to others at the position.

He has played almost everywhere but focused on the one unsettled infield spot in the three weeks practice leading up to a 60-game regular season.

“I feel pretty good out there,” Pinder said. “It’s going to be an ongoing process to continue to get ground balls and my work in before the game, but it’s definitely coming along.

“… Second base has been a big focal point during camp,” Pinder said. “I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything in the outfield. I have played a few games out there during camp, and you’re obviously going to get your reads during batting practice. That’s the most important thing and that’s where you get your work. I think that getting out there at second base was the biggest thing for me, and I’m going to continue to do that.”

Pinder made a nice play there Tuesday night after slipping on some wet grass going away from first base. He recovered well, got to his knee and threw a strike to Matt Olson for the out. Left-handed hitting Tony Kemp also will see time at second. So will Franklin Barreto and Vimael Machin.

Pinder’s training camp performance has made it difficult to keep him out of the lineup despite not having a spot among the starters. The outfield is crowded, with Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano and Stephen Piscotty going from left to right. Pinder can work at any infield spot, but Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Marcus Semien are contenders to play all 60 games.

Bob Melvin will have to get creative getting Pinder plate appearances if his bat stays as hot as it has been in summer camp. The A’s manager has commented several times that getting Pinder out has been a chore in intrasquad games.

Pinder didn’t make major changes during baseball’s shutdown, instead looking to maintain a consistent swing and approach.

“I focused on my body and staying strong through the quarantine,” Pinder said. “I have been keeping things simple in the cage, not trying to change anything. I just tried to continue what I was doing in spring training and towards the end of last year. I’m trying to go out there, have fun, keep the pressure off myself and just go play baseball.”

[RELATED: A's roster projection 2.0: Predicting 30-man squad as MLB Opening Day nears]

Pinder knows that preseason performance doesn’t mean a thing if it isn’t carried over to games that count. He’ll try to do that when the 2020 campaign starts this week, knowing that production will lead to more playing time even in a starting lineup that’s largely set.

“I feel really good,” Pinder said. “The body’s holding up and the baseball stuff has been going well. But, as we all know, what really matters comes up on Friday. If I carry that over into the season, hopefully that can help the team a little bit.”

A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

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A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

A's bench coach Ryan Christenson said he "unintentionally" gave a Nazi salute during Oakland's celebratory handshake line after Thursday's win over the Texas Rangers.

"I made a mistake and will not deny it," Christenson said in a statement released by the team. "Today in the dugout I greeted players with a gesture that was offensive. In the world today of [COVID-19] I adapted our elbow bump, which we do after wins, to create some distance with the players. My gesture unintentionally resulted in a racist and horrible salute that I do not believe in. What I did is unacceptable, and I deeply apologize."

The NBC Sports California broadcast showed Christenson raising his right arm with his palm facing down while A's closer Liam Hendriks approached.  Hendriks quickly grabbed Christenson's arm, bending it at the elbow for the coach's "elbow bump" celebration, which he said is done due to MLB's coronavirus safety protocols. Christenson then turned around and repeated the initial gesture.

"No, no straight arm, you have to bend your elbow," Christenson said Hendriks told him in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, referring to the coach's usual celebration.

"Oh, I see what you mean, oh no, it's like 'Heil Hitler,' " Christenson said after he turned, in his and Hendriks' recounting to Slusser.

The salute, typically followed by exclamations of "Heil Hitler" or "Sieg Heil," was a compulsory tribute to Adolf Hitler within the Nazi Party and, later, all of Germany under the Nazis' rule from 1933 through 1945. Still used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists long after the end of World War II, the Anti-Defamation League says the salute is "the most common white supremacist hand sign in the world."

The A's said in a statement that they were "deeply sorry this happened on our playing field."

"We do not support or condone this gesture, or the racist sentiment behind it," the A's said in a statement. "This is incredibly offensive, especially in these times when we as a [club] and many others are working to expose and address racial inequities in our country."

Before the A's released the pair of statements, Christenson told Slusser that he "wasn't doing that intentionally" and that "I just blacked out, my mind wasn't there and I spaced out."

"I'm cringing inside picturing myself," Christenson told Slusser. "Of course I'm sorry for it -- it's like standing there with my middle finger up. Anyone should know better."

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

Whatever he’s doing appears to be working.

Khris Davis proved his recent adjustment at the plate is paying dividends, as he tallied his second multi-hit game of the season during the A’s 6-4 sweep over the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

Davis said the coaching staff and teammates are to thank for the recent surge -- particularly hitting coach Darren Bush, who first suggested an alteration with Davis' hands.

“Yeah, I just put my hands back and further up a little and it’s been helping me be more accurate to the ball,” Davis said after the game. “I’m finding less swings and misses and a little better contact.”

“It’s all pretty comfortable right away, usually when you have to make an adjustment and you feel it click, you just run with that and don’t look back so it’s brought some comfort in the box so I’m going to keep working with it,” Davis said.

Davis went 2-for-3 on Thursday, driving in two runs in the 4th inning to break the game open.

“I think it’s a positioning thing, just having them further back -- less room to go,” he added. “They’re just already ready to fire and it’s been working.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Davis wants to be the everyday designated hitter, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case with his lack of production. Mark Canha has been taking over the DH spot in some of the outings, but it’s something Davis is ready to earn back.

“It is what it is,” Davis said. “And, I just have to capitalize on my opportunities that I do get. It’s s--tty, but I’ve been here before, I’ve lost my job before a couple times and I’ve had to battle back and this is nothing new to me.”

It turns out the oblique injury Davis suffered last season when he ran into the wall in May ended up leaving a bigger mark than just on his skin. 

"I think when I got hurt, I had been getting set up in a different way,” Davis said. “My body just wasn’t adjusting to that injury and just when I put my hands further back it just freed things up.”

[RELATED: Luzardo's outing shows A's have something special]

Oh, and his teammates are helping him a lot too.  

“A lot of good teammates, they know what it’s like to go through a struggle and they just kept reminding me that I could hit all around, I don’t have to hit a home run or whatever, but they constantly say that I’m a good hitter, I’m [not just] a power hitter.”