Athletics

Despite A's picking up Lowrie's option, Barreto's time draws near

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USATSI

Despite A's picking up Lowrie's option, Barreto's time draws near

The A’s followed through with exercising their $6 million club option Thursday on Jed Lowrie, ensuring the veteran returns as their second baseman to begin 2018.

However, you can’t really discuss Lowrie’s situation without addressing that of a much younger middle infielder.

Lowrie’s return means Franklin Barreto, Oakland’s top prospect, will begin next season at Triple-A Nashville. That’s probably in the best interests of Barreto, who will turn just 22 in February and could use a bit more seasoning.

But given the youthful direction this team has taken, it only makes sense that Barreto joins the A’s other young foundation pieces sooner rather than later in the majors. And it’ll be interesting to see how the team handles both Lowrie and Barreto in 2018. Their futures are intertwined.

Though Barreto has received equal time at shortstop and second base in the minors, the view from those around the game is that he’s best suited for second. That remains Lowrie’s territory, and after a healthy 2017 season in which he hit .277 with 14 homers, 69 RBI and set an Oakland record with 49 doubles, it’s easy to see why the A’s wanted the 33-year-old switch hitter back.

In a lineup that features many similar-style hitters — lots of homers, lots of strikeouts — Lowrie stands out as a veteran who knows how to handle the bat and deliver whatever the situation calls for. With better health than in past seasons, he also showed better range defensively.

And there’s a role for him in this young clubhouse. A particular snapshot stands out from late July: Lowrie and rookie third baseman Matt Chapman standing in the hallway of the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park, mimicking batting stances and talking hitting.

This all sets up as a delicate situation for the A’s, who fully recognize Barreto’s talent but don’t want to just hand him a big league starting spot, particularly if it means unseating a respected veteran. Billy Beane, the A’s top baseball executive, addressed the topic in early October.

“I want a young player to sort of push, where his performance is so good that he sort of pushes himself in,” Beane said. “But Jed Lowrie had an absolutely amazing year, one of the best years probably this side of (Jose) Altuve, as good as any second baseman in baseball this year.”

The A’s are probably a year or two away from competing for the postseason. They watched other young players such as Chapman, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder emerge in 2017 when given a chance to play regularly. The big picture points to Barreto taking over second base the instant he shows he’s ready.

No doubt, that time probably isn’t Opening Day 2018. Barreto hit .197 in 25 games last season in his major league debut, striking out 33 times in 76 plate appearances. He also piled up 141 strikeouts last season at Triple-A, though that was accompanied by a .290 batting average, a solid .339 on-base percentage and 15 homers.

Confidence won’t be a problem. Barreto homered in his very first big league game and delivered a walk-off blast against the White Sox on the Fourth of July. There will be bumps in the road, but the A’s, at this stage, can afford to let young players stumble and learn while in the big leagues.

Which takes us back to Lowrie. The A’s have flexibility even after picking up his option. He’ll begin 2018 manning second base and the A’s can monitor Barreto’s progress. When they feel their top prospect is ready, Lowrie becomes an excellent trade chip as a productive veteran on a reasonably affordable $6 million salary.

It’ll be worth keeping an eye on both players as next season unfolds. The play of one can’t help but influence the future of the other.

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The A's announced Mark Kotsay will serve as a major league quality control coach next season, assisting the coaching staff and consulting with the front office. Kotsay began last season as Oakland's bench coach but took a leave of absence in June for family reasons. 

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Braden's Perfect Game vs McGwire's rookie HR record

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AP

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Braden's Perfect Game vs McGwire's rookie HR record

PROGRAMMING NOTE: NBC Sports California is looking back at the A's 50 Memorable Moments since the franchise relocated to Oakland in 1968. Below are the next two moments you can vote on. Tune into A's Pregame Live today at 12:30pm to watch highlights of the two moments. After the A's and White Sox conclude their doubleheader, tune into A's Postgame Live to see which moment will move on to the next round!

1. Dallas Braden's Perfect Game on Mother's Day 2010 (12-time winner -- Defeated Terrence Long's game-saving catch over the wall at Fenway in 2002)

(From Dallas Braden)

Well, they haven’t taken it away yet so I guess it might not be a dream after all. It’s still insane to think that on such a special day for so many people, my teammates and I were able to etch ourselves into the hearts of A’s fans everywhere.

In the moment, I had no clue. At the same time, I was fully aware. Completely focused and emotionally distracted at the same time. Hell, I talked myself into the wrong count in the last at-bat of the game. The 27th out. In that moment I had no clue. No clue I’d become the vehicle for such an emotional moment shared between mothers and their families across baseball that special day. I do believe that’s what I was -- merely a vehicle to connect people through our beautiful game. My mom, along with the baseball gods, and Landon Powell, I guess, all steered us down the path of history and to be able to share and relive those special moments and memories is a blessing a young little leaguer can only dream of.

I hope that through my passion for the game you feel the same love I, myself, my wife, baby girl, and grandmother have felt from each of you, the fans of the Green & Gold. We couldn’t be happier to share this Mother’s Day and every Mother’s Day from here on out, TOGETHER! It’s a perfect fit if you ask me.

VS.

2. Mark McGwire's rookie home run record in 1987

(From Dave Stewart)

It was an unbelievable year for him as a rookie. It seemed like, every time you turned around, he was hitting a home run. He had a lot of solo home runs, the guys started calling him “Marco-Solo”.

He was hitting home runs at an unbelievable pace, I think if my memory serves me right, he was hitting a home run every 9 at-bats. They were towering home runs, they weren’t line-drive home runs, towering shots that were hit way out of the ballpark.

He was always real calm, and in that period of time, real quite, not vocal at all, he got to the ballpark early, got his work in. I mean he worked on his skill, he worked on his trade, people talked about his hitting, but I thought he was a gold glove first baseman as well.

He really worked at being a good baseball player

When McGwire came in, he didn’t make our team as our first baseman, he made it as our third baseman, I don’t remember our first baseman’s name at the time, probably nobody does now, but we sent him down and Mac took over at first base and took off, he was on a tear.  For a rookie season, that’s an unbelievable year.

VOTE HERE:

A's pummel Padres with barrage of long home runs

A's pummel Padres with barrage of long home runs

BOX SCORE

SAN DIEGO -- Light-hitting Franklin Barreto connected for a 424-foot, three-run home run, one of five long balls the Oakland Athletics hit in routing the San Diego Padres 12-4 on Wednesday.

Josh PhegleyMark CanhaMatt Olson and Jed Lowrie also went deep for Oakland.

The A's hit seven homers in sweeping the two-game series. Stephen Piscotty tied Tuesday night's game with a homer with two outs in the ninth off Brad Hand and Lowie hit a two-run shot with two outs in the 10th for a 4-2 victory.

Barreto and Phegley went back-to-back with their first homers of the season in the second inning off left-hander Joey Lucchesi (3-3), who had been on the disabled list for more than a month. Barreto, hitting .071 coming in and batting seventh, homered into Oakland's bullpen well beyond the fence in center field on a full-count pitch. Phegley homered off the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left field corner on a 1-1 pitch. Lucchesi hit Olson with a pitch opening the inning and then walked Piscotty ahead of Barreto's homer.

Robbie Erlin got the last out of the second before allowing consecutive homers to Canha and Olson in the third. It was Canha's ninth and Olson's 15th. Phegley added a sacrifice fly.

Lowrie connected off Phil Hughes in the eighth, his 11th.

Frankie Montas (4-1) benefited from the long balls as he threw 6 2-3 strong innings. He held the Padres to one run and five hits, struck out six and walked three. He allowed Cory Spangenberg's RBI single in the third.

Lucchesi went just 1 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and three hits.

Trailing 10-1, the Padres had infielder Cory Spangenberg pitch the ninth. He allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in his second appearance of the season.

San Diego's Christian Villanueva homered in the ninth, his 16th.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Padres: Placed RHP Bryan Mitchell on the 10-day disabled list with an impingement in his right elbow to make room for Lucchesi on the 25-man roster. Mitchell (0-3, 7.08 ERA) hasn't pitched since June 5. Mitchell has been disappointing since being acquired from the New York Yankees along with third baseman Chase Headley. The Padres wanted Mitchell so badly they were willing to take on Headley's $13 million salary, but the deal has backfired. Headley was released on May 19 and Mitchell was demoted from the rotation to the bullpen.

UP NEXT:
Athletics: RHP Chris Bassitt (0-2, 2.45) is scheduled to start Thursday night's opener of a four-game series at the Chicago White Sox, who counter with RHP Lucas Giolito(4-7, 7.19).

Padres: RHP Tyson Ross (5-4, 3.51) is set to start the opener of a four-game series Thursday night at San Francisco, opposite LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 4.67).