Athletics

Despite stadium uncertainty, Beane stands by long-term plan for A's youngsters

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USATSI

Despite stadium uncertainty, Beane stands by long-term plan for A's youngsters

The deterioration of ballpark talks at the Peralta site won’t affect the A’s grand plan on the baseball side of things.

At least that’s what vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane told reporters Monday as the Winter Meetings opened in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The A’s promoted a number of highly regarded minor leaguers last season who showed promise that they could be future foundation pieces. Along those lines, Beane and his staff planned to target some of those youngsters for long-term contract extensions, with an eye toward generating momentum as a new ballpark was built near downtown Oakland.

The A’s will still look to lock up some of those players, Beane said, even after last week’s news that the Peralta Community College District board halted negotiations for the team to build a new ballpark on land that sits near Laney College.

“I think it’s still a strategy we try to embark on,” Beane said of signing young players.

Consider third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson, who both entrenched themselves last season as rookies, as two obvious candidates for long-term deals at some point. But they aren’t the only two.

When could the first deals come?

“Realistically, the sooner the better,” Beane said. “Certainly we’ve got between now and spring training to introduce the idea. But probably more sooner than later.”

It’s an uncertain time for this franchise. Will the A’s look elsewhere to build in Oakland? They don’t seem thrilled with the idea of revisiting the current Coliseum site or Howard Terminal as possible locations. Could majority owner John Fisher consider selling? And if so, does that open the door to the franchise leaving the Bay Area? It doesn’t seem any scenario should be counted out right now.

No one representing the club, including team president Dave Kaval, has spoken publicly about ballpark plans since the Peralta talks abruptly ended Wednesday.

As far as baseball operations go, it only makes sense to continue down the path that they recently committed to. The only bad course of action for the A’s is not to take any action at all.

Beane and general manager David Forst need to stay the course and continue their commitment to young players, crossing their fingers that the business side of the operation can pivot and find a new direction for building a ballpark.

How A's starter Daniel Mengden was able to turn his 2019 season around

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USATSI

How A's starter Daniel Mengden was able to turn his 2019 season around

OAKLAND -- Daniel Mengden's first five outings of the season did not go well.

While the A's right-hander posted a respectable 1-1 record, he allowed 13 earned runs in just 23 innings for an ERA of 5.09. Mengden's biggest problem was his command -- the 26-year-old issued 15 walks in those five outings, translating to nearly six walks per nine frames.

Not surprisingly, Mengden was demoted to Triple-A. But he didn't hang his head. Instead, he used the opportunity to improve, particularly his control.

Since returning to the A's late last month, Mengden has won all four of his starts, most recently a 9-2 victory over the Mariners on Tuesday night at the Coliseum. He tossed seven strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits.

Most importantly, Mengden has only walked one batter in 24 innings since getting called back up from Triple-A.

"It's amazing," he said. "I'm not a big punchout guy. I'm not going to blow anybody away all the time, so it's all about staying aggressive and being ahead because when I'm ahead, I'm always in the driver's seat."

A's manager Bob Melvin echoed that sentiment, explaining that Mengden's improved command has completely changed the way he can attack hitters.

"Putting guys on base usually means you're getting behind them," Melvin said. "Now, all of a sudden, you have guys on base and you're trying to pitch around traffic. So I think that's been the key since he's been back."

With Tuesday's win, Mengden improved to 5-1 on the season with a 4.21 ERA, down nearly a full run from a month ago. In addition to commanding his pitches better, he has effectively mixed speeds and locations to keep hitters off balance.

"It's just staying aggressive," Mengden explained. "Getting strike one, and trying to keep them off balance."

Added Melvin: "It's mixing pitches that's important to him and getting ahead. Then he gets way less predictable. When he's behind and now he has to come in with a fastball, he's a little easier to handle. So it all starts with strike one, it all starts with not putting guys on base."

Mengden accomplished that goal Tuesday night, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 25 batters he faced. In total, he threw 65 strikes, compared to just 31 balls.

[RELATED: Bailey gets 'energy boost' joining A's]

"That's huge for us," said A's third baseman Matt Chapman, who homered and drove in five runs. "Playing defense behind a guy who throws a lot of strikes and works quick, that's all you can ask for. ... (Mengden) is capable of doing really good things on the mound. I've seen it in the minor leagues and seen it at this level too. So to see him get into that groove is really good."

The A's hope Mengden stays in that groove for the rest of the season. As long as he continues to pitch ahead in the count, he should be in great shape.

Homer Bailey gets 'energy boost' by joining playoff-contending A's

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AP

Homer Bailey gets 'energy boost' by joining playoff-contending A's

OAKLAND -- In the blink of an eye, Homer Bailey went from being 20 1/2 games out of a playoff spot to being tied for the second American League Wild Card position.

The 33-year-old right-hander was traded from Kansas City to Oakland on Sunday as the A's officially began their trade deadline maneuvering.

"To go to (a team) like this, it's definitely an energy boost," Bailey said. "Guys who go to contending teams, maybe their game will elevate a little bit. It definitely brings in some energy that I haven't been a part of in a few years."

It's actually been more than a few years. The last time Bailey was on a team over .500 was the 2013 Cincinnati Reds. He's excited to finally be back in a playoff race.

"You see how competitive they are within this division and right there in the middle of everything," Bailey said of the A's. "The only thing I see is the record right now and that's just something that glares out. Obviously, the guys know how to win some games."

As for his performance on the mound, it's been a rough few years for the former first-round draft pick. Bailey finished the last two seasons with earned run averages of 6.43 and 6.09, respectively. He's been better this year with a 4.80 ERA and has enjoyed great success in his last eight outings, going 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA.

"It looks like the velo is up a little bit, he's got a good split, can pitch up and down," A's manager Bob Melvin assessed. "He's always been a talented guy. ... A lot of it has to do with just confidence. If you're feeling confident on the mound, that's a lot of the battle."

Bailey offered his thoughts on why he's pitching better of late.

"Just pitching a little bit better, having a little better gameplans going into it, preparation, and hopefully it will continue," Bailey said.

[RELATED: Why Laureano's power isn't surprising]

Bailey will make his A's debut Wednesday afternoon against the Seattle Mariners. If he can continue his recent performance, it should help bolster Oakland's decimated starting rotation.

"I know he's excited about being here and we're excited about having him," Melvin said.