Athletics

Frankie Montas returns to A's after PED suspension, will start Wednesday

Frankie Montas returns to A's after PED suspension, will start Wednesday

After serving his 80-game PED suspension, Frankie Montas has rejoined the A's in Anaheim and will start Wednesday night against the Angels.

Montas, 26, was Oakland's best starter in the first of the season, going 9-2 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 15 starts. The right-hander will be eligible for the final five games of the regular season, but not for the playoffs.

"I'm just here to help," Montas told reporters in Anaheim. "It feels good (to be back). I've had a tough time -- me and my family -- just waiting for the suspension to be over. I'm just happy to be back with my teammates."

Montas has been pitching simulated games every five days at the A's training complex in Arizona, though he has not seen real game action since June 20 when he limited the Tampa Bay Rays to one run in eight innings. He was suspended by MLB the very next day.

"I've built up pretty good," Montas said. "I've been throwing up to 100 pitches down in Arizona -- six innings. I think I threw like 40-something innings down there, so I'm pretty well-prepared right now."

Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "We'll see how it goes. You can simulate all you want, and he's pitching in some heat there and he's kept himself in good condition. ... His best work is done starting and this has been the best year he's ever had at the big-league level, so I think that factored into starting him tomorrow." 

Montas obviously was disappointed in himself for letting his team down, but his teammates have welcomed him back with open arms.

"A lot of these guys have kept in touch with him," Melvin told reporters. "I'm sure it's hard for him watching from afar, as key a piece as he was for us in the first half of the season. ... It's probably hard going through that, but I'm sure he's excited about being back. As a matter of fact, I know he is."

Added Montas: "I was at home just watching the team. I was proud of my teammates. I was sad that I wasn't there to give them my support, but I was watching every game."

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The A's will have to make a corresponding move on Wednesday to make room for Montas on the 40-man roster. Their options include placing Stephen Piscotty, Blake Treinen, or Lou Trivino on the 60-day injured list or designating someone for assignment.

Mike Fiers told J.D. Martinez about Astros cheating before 2018 ALCS

Mike Fiers told J.D. Martinez about Astros cheating before 2018 ALCS

November wasn't the first time A's pitcher Mike Fiers blew the whistle about the Houston Astros' sign-stealing nature.

After the Astros won the 2017 World Series thanks to a lot of help from trash cans, they returned to the American League Championship Series to face the Boston Red Sox. But if the Astros still were cheating, it didn't matter because the Red Sox knew it was coming. And not just because then-manager Alex Cora was part of the Astros' scheme the year prior.

"Alex Cora never influenced us and never told us about that thing," Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez told WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria." "The only way I ever found out was in the playoffs was when Fiers, who is a really good friend of mine, reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, make sure you’re doing this because this, because this is what these guys are doing in the playoffs.' I was like, 'What? How is this a thing?' And then I mentioned it to (Cora) and he told kind of me about the whole system and everything like that. That was kind of why it was so crazy. (Cora) was so relaxed going into those playoff games because he knew and we were ready for it."

Fiers also alerted the A's to the scheme in 2018 and they brought it to the league. It was only when nothing was done that Fiers went public to make sure the playing field was leveled.

That's why David Ortiz's comments Thursday in which he said he disagreed with Fiers outing Houston two years after he won the World Series with them were so misguided.

Fiers tried to go about the matter quietly and even helped make sure Ortiz's old team was prepared for what awaited them in the ALCS. He could have spoken up in 2017, but he tried to right those wrongs in 2018 before making sure the Astros had their trash cans confiscated.

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The Astros were able to bang their trash cans to one title, but Fiers made sure they wouldn't be able to repeat using the same old tricks.

Ryan Christenson tasked with 'grindy' chore of getting A's ready to go

Ryan Christenson tasked with 'grindy' chore of getting A's ready to go

For the last week, 64 players have been executing three-hour pre-planned morning workout sessions with the precision of a symphony.
 
The composer and conductor of all this is not A's manager Bob Melvin, but his bench coach Ryan Christenson.
 
“I was amazed on the second day I had it planned to end at 11:20 am,” Christenson said. “And we finished literally at 11:19, so it was a good day.”
 
With spring training games starting Saturday, the clock has been ticking to get pitchers, fielders and hitters to a certain readiness. Meticulous planning and monitoring are scattered between four fields, an extended bullpen and additional batting cages.
 
“I look around. I watch him running around sweating, he’s got that worried look on his face, I know that feeling,” Melvin, who used to run these camps when he was Phil Garner's bench coach, said.

Being tasked with getting everyone ready to hit the diamond is an important responsibility for a club that wants to get out of the gates faster this season than in years past. 
 
“This is my big chore you could say for the year, a little grindy,” Christenson admitted. “I find myself working on the schedule for a few hours even after the day is over.”

Christenson's meticulousness makes him the perfect man for the job. 
 
“He’s very attentive to detail,” veteran outfielder Stephen Piscotty said. “I just don’t think things slip by him, he’s on top of things, very organized.”
 
In near-identical fashion to Oakland’s current core of young, home-grown players, Christenson has been a manager at every level of the A’s minor league system, starting in 2013.  At one point or another, he has crossed paths with almost all the A’s who recently have arrived at the big league level.
 
“The timing of him getting here with the players he had in the minor leagues is a nice resource for me,” Melvin, who is beginning his 10th season with the A's, said.
 
“You get up in here and you already know what makes them tick, how they operate, what they’re like in the clubhouses, and that goes a long way,” said Christenson. “If you don’t have the relationship of trust with the players, and try to do some coaching or instruction or criticisms or compliments, it doesn’t have the same resonance.”

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The A’s not only are lucky to have Christenson, but they’re also lucky to have kept him. This past winter, the former Oakland outfielder interviewed to be manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
 
“If they had happened to choose me, it would have been a difficult decision,” admitted Christenson, who said enjoyed experiencing the process.
 
“I’m not in a big hurry to jump in that [manager] chair. I love where I’m at. The opportunity I have here to be around guys that I know, guys that I pull for and know are great individuals. We have such a good nucleus here, great momentum going. Right now this is really where I want to be. I love sitting next to Bob Melvin.”