Athletics

Cuban signee Dairon Blanco will be one of fastest players in A's organization

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OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Cuban signee Dairon Blanco will be one of fastest players in A's organization

Despite limitations on their current international spending, the A’s added a speedy outfielder from Cuba to their system.

Oakland had been scouting Dairon Blanco extensively for the past year or so after he defected from Cuba and settled in the Dominican Republic. He officially signed with the club Monday.

Blanco, who turns 25 next month, spent four seasons playing in Cuba’s top professional league, Serie Nacional. It’s been nearly two years now since he’s played competitively, so Blanco figures to require considerable time in the minors.

But his speed grades out at 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, the highest grade possible, and he’ll instantly become one of the fastest players in the A’s organization.

“We’re thrilled,” said A’s assistant general manager Dan Feinstein, who heads up the team’s international scouting. “He’s been in the Dominican a while now, and we’ve been watching him. The first thing the jumped out to all of us is just how athletic he is. How fast he is. He’s a true ’80’ runner.”

The A’s made headlines two summers ago, signing a five-player international class that was headlined by outfielder Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros. They incurred penalties for spending over their $3.8 million bonus pool limit then. Because of that, they’re not allowed to sign any single international player for more than $300,000 in the current period, so Blanco did not break the bank.

Feinstein wouldn’t speculate on how quickly Blanco might be an option at the major league level. For now, the A’s are working to secure his visa so he can join the team this spring in Arizona. From there, they’ll decide which minor league affiliate he’ll join.

Feinstein is pleased with the development of that five-player class of teenagers that signed in July 2016. Armenteros and shortstops Marcos Brito and Yerdel Vargas all finished last season playing in the Arizona rookie league after making the permanent move to the United States.

Armenteros, one of the more highly touted international prospects to come along in recent years when the A’s signed him to a roughly $3 million bonus, hit .288 with four homers, 22 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 41 games of rookie ball. His mature physical build stands out for someone his age.

“It’s hard to believe he’s just 18,” Feinstein said.

It will be a few years still before fans see ‘Lazarito’ in the bigs. He’s likely to log time with Class A short-season Vermont in 2018. Armenteros probably won’t be among the non-roster invitees to big league camp this spring, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him brought over from the minors to fill in for an exhibition or two. Last spring, he was believed to have become the youngest player in franchise history to appear in a Cactus League game, at age 17.

Mike Fiers: 'I'm not doing anything right,' after ERA balloons to 8.28

Mike Fiers: 'I'm not doing anything right,' after ERA balloons to 8.28

OAKLAND – Mike Fiers was supposed to be the A's ace.

He certainly looked the part last season, going 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA after coming over from Detroit in early August. This year, however, has been a completely different story.

The Blue Jays treated Fiers like a punching bag Saturday afternoon, knocking the veteran right-hander around for six earned runs on nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings en route to a 10-1 victory at the Coliseum. Fiers has now allowed six earned runs in each of his last three starts and his season ERA has ballooned to 8.28.

"It's tough right now," said a dejected Fiers after Saturday's loss. "I'm just not doing anything right. That's what it feels like. For the team to be as good as we are, it's tough. It's a tough feeling to go out there and feel like you just make it harder for them every day."

The A's couldn't have seen this coming when they signed Fiers to a two-year, $14.1 million contract this offseason. The 33-year-old was coming off the best year of his career, finishing 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA between Detroit and Oakland.

"He pitched really well for us last year," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "We signed him for a reason. He's going through a rough stretch right now, but we fully expect him to go out and pitch better next time."

After an inauspicious season debut in Tokyo against the Mariners, Fiers appeared to right the ship with back-to-back outings of six innings and no earned runs. But in his three starts since then, he has surrendered 18 earned runs in just 10 innings, giving up 23 hits, including five home runs. 

"I honestly don't know," Fiers said. "I'm kind of confused on what's going on and why I'm not getting the job done. But I'm going to come to the ballpark tomorrow and I'm going to work hard and get back to how I pitch."

Fiers seemed to be rolling along through the first two innings Saturday, retiring the first six batters he faced. He gave up a run in the third and then came the disastrous fourth. Single, single, home run, home run, double. In the blink of an eye, Toronto had blown the game wide open.

"Just some balls in the middle of the plate and up," Melvin said. "There's always a fine line with him on what's up and kind of his style and where he pitches, whether it's the top of the strike zone or a little bit lower. He got some balls in the middle of the plate and they hit them hard."

[RELATED: Ex A's 2B Sogard brings 'nerd power' back to Oakland]

While it's still early in the season, Fiers knows he has to get back on track as soon as possible. At the moment, he doesn't have any answers, but he vows to find them.

"I'm going to keep working," he promised. "I'm going to keep practicing every day, working on my pitches, working on things I'm doing wrong. But I need to figure it out pretty quick."

A's Stephen Piscotty calls out fan who ran on field, tried to steal hat

A's Stephen Piscotty calls out fan who ran on field, tried to steal hat

There were a lot of runs Saturday at Oakland Coliseum, and not just by the A's and Toronto Blue Jays.

More running came from two fans who thought it'd be a good idea to interrupt the Blue Jays' 10-1 win by taking a stroll across the field.

It wasn't.

In the middle of the game, one fan made his best attempt to run on the field -- because, unfortunately, that's how people prank these days. It did not go well when he tried to escape.

He was near A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty, who talked about the weird event after the game.

"I just saw him out of the corner of my eye," Piscotty told NBC Sports California. "He was going up toward my head, probably trying to get my hat, [and] just bailed out."

[RELATED: Fans apprehended by security, umpire after running on the field]

This was new territory for Piscotty.
 
"That's the first time that's happened to me," he said. "I mean, I've seen them on the field, but I've never seen them charge a player. That's crossing the line quite a bit.

"It happened so fast, I was trying to figure out what was going on. He was clearly intoxicated or high or something. He was in a weird place."

The field is a weird place for anyone who isn't on the team. So, fans, stay off the field.