Athletics

Chris Bassitt's exhibition work a good sign for A's patchwork rotation

Chris Bassitt's exhibition work a good sign for A's patchwork rotation

The A’s rotation has gone through some upheaval over the last week. A starting five that looked as talented and deep as any in baseball lost two young flamethrowers in a flash: A.J. Puk on the injured list with shoulder inflammation and Jesus Luzardo relegated to relief work after two weeks in quarantine following a positive coronavirus test.

Anxious types might also fret over Sean Manaea failing to crack 90 mph in Monday’s exhibition or Mike Fiers uncharacteristic lack of command in Tuesday’s preseason finale.

While there’s no point in stressing over two established veterans who will show up when the lights come on, fans on A’s Twitter did so anyway.

Chris Bassitt, however, might have calmed some nerves.

The right-hander was in complete command during his four innings against the San Francisco Giants, allowing a run on two hits with five strikeouts.

We all know the results don’t matter in these games, but the work certainly does. Bassitt was in complete control of his pitch arsenal, locked in and clearly ready to start the regular season. His work will begin Monday against the L.A. Angels with a turn in the rotation assumed only after Luzardo wasn’t ready for the assignment.

Bassitt essentially is a luxury starter, providing established depth most teams would love to own. He was supposed to be a bullpen guy last year as well, but an injury plague pushed him into the rotation. He was awesome in that role, going 10-5 with a 3.81 ERA over 144 innings.

He'll be ready to start as long as needed, taking a series of solid performances into the regular season. Tuesday’s late-inning effort is the only one you saw, but he has been equally effective in recent intrasquad games.

“He was throwing everything well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He had good command of his fastball. He was effective with the big, slow curveball. We really didn’t even get to his pitch count, which means he’s efficient and commanding the baseball with all of his pitches.”

These are all positives for a player who didn’t get as much work in as others during baseball’s shutdown period. He didn’t have a baseball facility or fellow players to work with near his home in Ohio, so he mostly worked on his own and felt a bit behind some others who were throwing bullpens and live batting practice throughout the months-long down period.

[RELATED: Projecting A's 30-man roster as MLB Opening Day nears]

That’s why his recent performances, with pitch counts in the 50s, have been encouraging.

“They are a good sign because he didn’t throw as much as the other guys before camp,” Melvin said. “His last two times out, he has been terrific. I know he feels good about that going into the season.”

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.”