Athletics

Forst sees Hendriks as potential bullpen 'fixture' for A's

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Forst sees Hendriks as potential bullpen 'fixture' for A's

In the effort to rebuild their bullpen, the A’s may have acquired an important foundation piece Friday.

They acquired reliever Liam Hendriks from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for right-hander Jesse Chavez, and A’s general manager David Forst said he envisions the 26-year-old Hendriks as a potential setup man to closer Sean Doolittle.

Hendriks is young, he’s under team control for four more years, and he’s coming off an excellent season in Toronto’s bullpen. That made him a target for an A’s team that carried the highest bullpen ERA in the American League last season (4.63).

“I think we see him as a guy who could potentially pitch in a setup role or at the back end of the bullpen,” Forst said. “He made a leap forward this year after being a starter most of his career. His velocity spiked up. We felt this is a guy that could become a fixture in our bullpen for a number of years.”

To get him, the A’s parted with Chavez, whose ability to start or relieve made him a valuable trade commodity. The A’s and Jays had discussed Chavez going back to July’s trade deadline, Forst said, and the addition of free agent starter Rich Hill made it easier for the A’s to part with Chavez. Hill’s one-year contract was announced Friday as part of a busy day of team transactions.

[STIGLICH: A's trade RHP Jesse Chavez to Blue Jays]

Chavez was at home in Pomona, putting together a patio sofa, when he got the call from Forst. Chavez admitted the news left him “confused” because of the timing.

“We don’t need a roster spot. We weren’t at the winter meetings yet.”

But he said he had a great conversation with Forst and thanked the A’s for giving him the opportunity to fill so many roles and build his versatility.

Doolittle said Chavez will be missed.

“He’s been a late-inning guy, he’s been a long man and he’s been a starter. He’s so good working with guys on mechanics. It’s gonna be tough to fill that role.”

Hendriks enjoyed great success in 2015, his first as a full-time reliever. He posted a 2.92 ERA and struck out 71 in 64 2/3 innings, an average of 9.9 per nine innings. His four-seam fastball touches the mid 90’s and he complements that with a hard sinker and slider. It stands to reason he could split the eighth-inning setup role with lefty Drew Pomeranz, provided Pomeranz isn’t needed in the rotation.

[STIGLICH: Perseverance pays off for new A's starter Rich Hill]

Right now, it appears the A’s could have four of seven bullpen spots filled with Doolittle, Hendriks, Pomeranz and Ryan Dull, who showed promise in a September call-up. Forst emphasized the A’s are still looking to add to the bullpen, whether through free agency or trade.

“We’ve explored all those (avenues), some free agents, some trade possibilities already,” he said. “Obviously to trade for a (top reliever), the cost is high. There are some big contracts being thrown out there. We’ll stay on top of both. … Payroll is not a (deterrent). We’ve got room to spend. We’ve just gotta find the right guys.”

Top-shelf free agents like Darren O’Day and Joakim Soria reportedly are looking for three- or four-year deals near $9 million per season. At the other end of the spectrum are relievers like Trevor Cahill or Alexi Ogando, lower-cost options whose effectiveness is tougher to predict.

Forst added that even after signing Hill, the A’s are still on the lookout for starting pitching too.

“There’s probably not a better example than 2015 of us needing as many starting pitchers as we can get.”

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

Chris Bassitt’s stellar outing in the A's 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday almost wasn’t. But we’ll let the first inning be just a memory.

“I told myself after the first inning, I’m like ‘All right, you may be a little wild today, but don’t walk guys, make them earn everything,’ and it obviously smoothed itself out,” Bassitt told reporters in the postgame interview. 

Bassitt hit J.P. Crawford in the first with a curveball. After Dylan Moore hit into a fielder's choice and stole second, he came around to score on a single by Daniel Vogelbach.

Bassitt's performance more than smoothed itself out, and he had the help of rookie catcher Austin Allen in the process. In 5 2/3 innings, Bassitt allowed just one earned run, three hits and struck out seven. 

“Austin kind of guided me through the first inning and [got] going from there,” Bassitt said. “After the second inning, I just kind of felt myself out and I was kind of locked in from there on out." 

Allen came to the A's an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres for Jurickson Profar. And while he’s the new guy, Allen was able to form a bond with Bassitt quicker than usual. 

“Me and Austin spent a lot of time together over the last -- I would say two, three weeks just getting to know one another, talking about what I like, what I don’t like,” Bassitt said. “Obviously, a new catcher coming in, he’s got to learn basically me -- he’s got to learn who I am mentally, who I am physically, what I can and can’t do.

"I think we’re still learning each other, but at the same time, I think a lot more ahead of what we should be just because, again -- me and [Sean Murphy] are on the same page, and I think Austin’s done a great job of learning who I am.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

The fifth inning came fast, but before Bassitt was pulled, he wanted to make it count against Mariners rookie outfielder Kyle Lewis, who is hitting .425 with three home runs this season. 

Bassitt glanced over to the bullpen to see A’s reliever T.J. McFarland warming up, knowing Vogelbach was about to come to the plate. He had an internal message for Lewis. 

“All right, if you’re going to hit me, you’re going to hit my best pitch, so uh … here we go,” Bassitt explained. “So yeah, I knew that was my last batter.”

[RELATED: Luzardo to make first big-league start next week]

Bassitt struck Lewis out.

And Bassitt continues to improve.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Bassitt was fantastic and “seems to get better every time out.”

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in 3-2 win over Mariners

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in 3-2 win over Mariners

BOX SCORE

Coming off an extra-innings win over the Mariners the night before, the A's backed that up with another 3-2 victory in Seattle on Sunday.

The A's bats were quiet until Ramón Laureano crushed a three-run home run in the top of the fifth to give Oakland a 3-1 lead. Matt Chapman also had his first hit of the series with a line-drive single to left field in the eighth.

On the mound opposing the A's was a familiar face in Kendall Graveman, whose velocity looked stellar with a four-seam fastball he worked on during quarantine. 

Here’s what you might have missed during Sunday’s game:

Still depending on homers?

Just a couple days ago, Laureano told reporters that those on the outside might be worried about the team’s offensive production, but that is definitely not the case for him. His fifth-inning homer was his second of the young season. 

This exit velocity on that homer actually clocked in at only 98.5 mph which is low for homers, but that’s Laureano for you.

On Saturday night, Chad Pinder hit a home run to tie the game which ultimately would help the A's pull out the win, but are these homers being depended on too much?

They’re also not all base-clearing home runs … minus, of course, Matt Olson’s walk-off slam on Opening Day, but that’s the consensus around the league it appears. This season, the A’s have left 12.62 runners on base per game, which believe it or not, isn’t even the top eight worst in the league, so it could be a blanketed situation.

Perhaps this homer dependability is a thing, but it doesn’t appear the team minds at the moment.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Bassitt puts on a show

It was smooth sailing for Chris Bassitt, who made it through to 5 2/3 innings and threw 83 pitches. He allowed just one earned run on three hits, and struck out seven batters.

His flyball percentage has dropped drastically this season and that showed Sunday. Bassitt's curveball has lacked velocity, but is massive to add to his repertoire.

Heading into the season, Bassitt could have been pitched out of the rotation or the bullpen. With the delay of Jesus Luzardo’s arrival after he tested positive for coronavirus, and the setback from A.J. Puk, Bassitt easily worked his way into the starting rotation.

Last season, however, he made a great case for himself coming out of the bullpen when Blake Treinen struggled with a back injury.

"Hey, we know you."

Graveman, the former Opening Day starter for the A's, was impressive through the first four innings. Aside from his fastball, he also had a pretty impressive slider that he threw to Marcus Semien on a 3-0 count.

Gravemen spent four seasons with the A’s from 2015-18. He missed most of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The 29-year-old went 4 2/3 innings and allowed three hits and two earned runs. Graveman struck out three and walked two A's batters. Graveman was originally supposed to be a big part of the A’s rotation in 2018, but that ultimately wasn’t the case.

[RELATED: Grossman details adjustment that changed his season]

It's been two years since Graveman pitched in the big leagues, and after a pitstop with the Chicago Cubs, he's found a new home in Seattle. So, despite him no longer wearing green and gold, it was good to see Graveman healthy and back on the mound again.