Athletics

Daniel Mengden ready to prove himself after starting season in minors

Daniel Mengden ready to prove himself after starting season in minors

OAKLAND — No one wants to start the season in the minor leagues. Especially not someone like Daniel Mengden, who has already achieved some success at the major league level.

Unfortunately, that's the situation the A's 26-year-old right-handed pitcher found himself in back in March. Oakland optioned Mengden to Triple-A Las Vegas and named Aaron Brooks as the No. 5 starter to begin the season.

"I wasn't too happy about it, but it's one of those things where you kind of just suck it up and deal with it," Mengden told NBC Sports California. "I knew I was going to be back eventually. My mindset going down was, what can I do to get better and how can I work on whatever I need to get back up here?"

Mengden performed well in Las Vegas, going 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He was rewarded with a call-up earlier this month and will make his fourth start Wednesday afternoon against the Angels.

"He pitched really well (in Triple-A)," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He pitched well last year. He pitched really well at times the year before. He has the ability to go deep in games. ... It's just about consistency for him because, when he's on, he's really good. He's a younger pitcher still but we like him a lot.

"Hopefully, he pitches well enough to stay because, when he's pitching well, he's about as good as anybody we have."

Last season, Mengden went 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 22 games, including 17 starts. He put up even better numbers in seven starts the year before, going 3-2 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.

Mengden's first three outings this year have been a bit of a mixed bag. He struggled with his control in two of the games, walking a combined nine hitters in 9 1/3 innings. Still, he has maintained an ERA of 3.31.

"It's a great opportunity that I have," Mengden said. "I know what I have to do to be successful. It's all about just going out there, getting strike one, and going from there, and having a good plan and executing it."

When Mengden is on his game, you could make the argument that he's the A's best starter, as Melvin noted. In back-to-back starts against Toronto and Arizona last season, Mengden tossed 16 shutout innings, allowing just four hits and one walk. The key for him, as Melvin also pointed out, is consistency.

For now, Mengden is glad to be back in Oakland, and for more than just the obvious reason of being in the majors. The Pacific Coast League in Triple-A is notorious for its hitter-friendly ballparks.

[RELATED: Buchter's a new pitcher following demotion to minors]

"There's nothing better than a good pitcher's park and Oakland might be one of the best, if not the best," Mengden smiled. "Some of the parks (in the PCL) are a little smaller and the ball flies pretty well. We saw some pretty cheap homers down there in Vegas but that's all part of the game. It's part of the ballpark and you have to deal with it."

Now back in the A's rotation, Mengden hopes to avoid those PCL ballparks for the remainder of his career.

Why Ramon Laureano's power surge doesn't surprise A's manager Bob Melvin

Why Ramon Laureano's power surge doesn't surprise A's manager Bob Melvin

OAKLAND -- Just by looking at Ramón Laureano, you'd have no idea he could crush baseballs as far as he does.

The A's centerfielder stands at 5-foot-11 and is more well-known for his blazing speed, but this season, he has truly become a bona fide slugger.

Laureano, 24, blasted his 18th home run of the year Sunday, helping the A's sweep the White Sox, 3-2. His 18 homers rank third on the team and are three away from passing Coco Crisp for the most round-trippers by an Oakland centerfielder in the last 19 years.

Laureano's power surge might come as a surprise to some, but not Bob Melvin.

"At some point in time, we felt like he had a chance to be a 30-home-run guy," the A's manager said. "Maybe on pace a little sooner than we expected based on experience in the big leagues. But not (surprised) at all if you watch him take (batting practice). He's a strong guy all the way around, whether it's throwing arm, whether it's speed -- he stole a base today pretty easily -- and he's got a lot of power. So understanding the league, making adjustments and so forth, no not a surprise to me."

The power aspect of Laureano's game is relatively new, however. Prior to this season, he had never hit more than 15 home runs at any level of professional baseball. Laureano credits his weight room work -- he added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason -- and plate adjustments for the improvement.

"Over the years, I get older and bigger," he said. "(The power) will come. I just try to help the team win in whatever (way) I can."

Laureano has been especially productive as of late. Sunday marked his fourth home run in the last five games and his 12th since the start of June. He's also shown the ability to hit the long ball to all parts of the field, including center and right.

"Just stay back (on the ball)," Laureano said of his main plate adjustment. "That's it."

Incredibly, Laureano has hit two more homers than reigning home run champion Khris Davis this season. He trails Matt Olson by just one long ball and Matt Chapman by three for the team lead.

[RELATED: A's acquire Bailey from Royals]

Perhaps most importantly, Laureano's increase in power has not caused a drop in any other part of his game. He is still reaching base and using his speed on offense, and of course, his centerfield arm remains spectacular.

We've said this before, but the A's really owe the Astros a nice gift basket for letting Laureano get away.
 

A's bolster rotation by acquiring Homer Bailey in trade with Royals

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A's bolster rotation by acquiring Homer Bailey in trade with Royals

OAKLAND -- The A's officially have begun their annual trade deadline wheeling and dealing.

Sunday morning, Oakland acquired veteran starting pitcher Homer Bailey from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for minor league middle infielder Kevin Merrell. Bailey, 33, is expected to make his first start for the A's on Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners.

"He's been pitching really well as of late," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Bailey. "He's beaten some good teams this year. Before he got hurt, obviously, he was an electric arm and it seems like he's coming back to form at this point. I think it makes our rotation better and I think that's the objective at this point."

To Melvin's point, Bailey is 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA in his last eight starts. For the season, the right-hander is 7-6 with a 4.80 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and has battled injuries since then, but appears to now be healthy.

"I think (our) players feel these things," Melvin said. "They want to feel like the front office is going out and making us better and typically they do that. It certainly doesn't mean we're done, but it's nice to get somebody in the rotation that we feel like is going to make us better."

Bailey spent his first 12 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, throwing a pair of no-hitters in 2012 and 2013. This past offseason, he signed a minor league deal with the Royals. The A's only will be responsible for about $250,000 of his league-minimum salary.

As for Merrell, the former first-round draft pick was ranked as Oakland's number 17 prospect by MLB Pipeline. The 23-year-old was slashing .246/.292/.339 with two home runs, 34 RBI and 13 stolen bases this season at Double-A Midland. Merrell has top-notch speed but scouts have had concerns about his hitting ability.

[RELATED: Bassitt makes adjustment after advice from A's veterans]

The A's are still expected to add more pitching before Major League Baseball's July 31 Trade Deadline. Oakland likely will seek bullpen help and potentially could add another starter.