Athletics

Homer Bailey impresses new teammates, bests Mariners in A's debut

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Homer Bailey impresses new teammates, bests Mariners in A's debut

OAKLAND -- Homer Bailey hadn't taken the mound for 13 days when he was asked to make his A's debut Wednesday afternoon at the Coliseum. No problem.

The veteran right-hander shook off some early rust before turning in a strong outing, leading Oakland to a 10-2 win over the Seattle Mariners.

"I was kind of a little rusty early and then I was able to kind of find that tempo where I wanted to be," Bailey explained Wednesday. "The way that this team fights for nine innings is outstanding, so it definitely gives you energy, and you know if you can keep it close, they're going to score runs and play great defense for nine."

Bailey allowed two runs on four hits in the second inning, but after that, he completely shut the Mariners down. The 33-year-old ended up going six innings, allowing just the two runs on seven hits, with six strikeouts and no walks.

"I thought he did really well," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "For a guy who hadn't pitched in basically two weeks, to go out there -- I wouldn't say he was rusty -- they got some hits off him early in the game, but then (he) shut it down when (he) needed to. Sometimes there are nerves with a new team and some expectations. ... I thought it was a really good start for him."

The A's acquired Bailey from the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, hoping he would bolster their starting rotation, which has been decimated by injuries and Frankie Montas' PED suspension. So far, so good.

"They're so welcoming," Bailey said of his new teammates. "Just from top to bottom, it's been a good experience so far."

Last season was a rough one for Bailey, who finished with a 1-14 record and a 6.09 ERA in Cincinnati. This year didn't start much better, as his first 12 starts with the Royals resulted in a 6.05 ERA.

But it appears that something has clicked since then. In his last seven starts, Bailey is 4-0 with a 2.85 ERA.

"It's a combination of things," Bailey said of the turnaround. "It's a team effort, it's good defense, it's a catcher being invested in what you're doing, it's communication between yourself and a pitching coach. It's a lot of things."

Bailey threw 54 of his 87 pitches for strikes, using a variety of pitches along the way. His variety impressed his new manager. 

"He's got a really good split," Melvin said. "I didn't realize how good it was. And then as the game went along, he started using his slider and curveball a little bit more. He does have a true four-pitch mix."

[RELATED: Chapman's ankle 'didn't feel right,' forces him to exit Wednesday's game]

For the season, Bailey is now 8-6 with a 4.69 ERA. If he can perform anywhere near as well as he did on Wednesday, the A's should be in good shape. It certainly helps when the offense provides 10 runs on six homers.

"That's obviously a comfort, the fact that they can score so many runs," Bailey said. "But I feel like what makes winning teams and what probably helps these guys is not just their offensive production, but they play both sides of the baseball. ... To see the way that they play both sides of the ball and the energy that they bring for the entire game is really spectacular."

2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft: A's lose Mark Payton, acquire minor leaguers

2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft: A's lose Mark Payton, acquire minor leaguers

As teams headed down south to the Winter Meetings in San Diego, the two main goals for the A's appeared to be finding a left-handed bat at second base, as well as continuing conversations with relief pitchers.

While the A's didn't make any huge acquisitions during the meetings, the 2019 Rule 5 Draft came and went as it does every year. With that, Oakland selected three players in the minor-league phase of the draft and had a couple more transactions as well.

Second baseman Vimael Machin was acquired from the Phillies for cash considerations. He will be competing for a roster spot.

The 26-year-old slashed .295/.390/.412 with seven home runs and 65 RBI across the Double and Triple-A teams in the Chicago Cubs organization last season. 

Jason Krizan was selected from the Mets during the Triple-A phase. The 30-year-old outfielder hit .275 across two teams last season. 

The Athletic's prospect writer Emily Waldon says he's going to be a solid addition to the A's organization.

"His walk rate has always been impressive," Waldon told NBC Sports California. "He doesn't have a ton of swing and misses, with some raw power, with eight to ten home run seasons. He's also a dependable defender with a good veteran presence." Waldon also joked Krizan has "80-grade sarcasm."

The A's also selected catcher Jose Colina, who put up some massive numbers with the Arizona League Indians Blue after signing with Cleveland as a minor-league free agent in June. The 21-year-old slashed .372/.443/.744 with eight homers and 20 RBI.

Right-handed pitcher Deivy Mendez rounds the group out. In 25 appearances across Single-A and Short-A last season with the Padres organization, he went 2-1 with six saves and a 4.20 ERA, striking out 33. 

[RELATED: A's interested in acquiring Lowrie for third time]

The Cincinnati Reds selected outfielder Mark Payton, who was claimed off waivers by the A's in December of 2018. Payton was selected during the major league phase of the draft which, according to Waldon, has the A's losing some muscle at the plate.

However, scouts reportedly didn't see the 28-year-old "doing a great deal outside of filling some needs." That power is what has gotten the most talk around Payton. 

Payton took advantage of the PCL last season with Triple-A Las Vegas and slashed .334/.400/.653 with 30 home runs and 97 RBI in 118 games. 

Why A's are focused more on keeping young stars than MLB free agency

Why A's are focused more on keeping young stars than MLB free agency

The AL West is moving and shaking early this MLB offseason, with players coming in and out of the division. 

Star third baseman Anthony Rendon reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $245 million contract to join the Angels. The Halos also traded for former top prospect Dylan Bundy to add to their rotation, and reportedly are pursuing longtime Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. The Astros, who have been the cream of the crop out west, lost pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Yankees, and Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto is bound to make 47 trades by spring training. 

A's GM David Forst says he's more focused on his own squad than what his division foes are up to, but he certainly isn't mad about the Cole news. 

"I'm not sad to see Gerrit Cole leave our division is the best way to put it," Forst said to NBC Sports California in a 1-on-1 interview Wednesday. "We try not to get too wrapped up into what other teams are doing."

The A's came to the Winter Meetings in San Diego looking to upgrade their roster like every other team, however, they're much more focused on who they have in-house as opposed to the free-agent market this year. 

Oakland should receive a big boost to its starting rotation with the additions of Jesus Luzardo (22) and A.J. Puk (24) next season. The A's infield also is full of young talent, including budding stars Marcus Semien (29), Matt Chapman (26) and Matt Olson (25). Franklin Barreto (23), Jorge Mateo (24) and Sheldon Neuse (25) will compete for second base. 

"We've got a really good foundation and we're not heavily invested in free agency right now because we have those guys," Forst said. "We have young pitching, we have the position player group. So our focus has been on filling holes -- looking for a left-handed bat, something in the bullpen. We're fortunate enough to not have to be out there in free agency." 

Semien, who finished third in AL MVP voting last season after hitting 33 homers with an .892 OPS, is expected to earn nearly $14 million in arbitration this offseason and becomes a free agent after next season. The Bay Area native also has reiterated his hope to stay with the A's long term. 

Chapman and Olson both are arbitration-eligible after next season and are set to hit free agency once the 2023 season ends. 

"Certainly our hope is to keep all these guys together," Forst said. "You mentioned Marcus, who's going to be a free agent potentially after this year. That's something we'll address as the season goes along, and the rest of those guys, we're looking for ways to keep them in Oakland as long as possible."

The A's real goal when it comes to 2020 is avoiding the AL Wild Card Game after falling two years in a row in the winner-take-all contest. Forst and the rest of the front office is focused on giving Oakland its best chance at winning the division to get a better shot at the World Series. 

[RELATED: Beane opens up on A's-Semien negotiations, Astros scandal]

"You want to give your guys a chance to play in a series with a better chance to advance," Forst said. "To do that, you have to win the division. We've obviously stayed close to Houston the last couple of years, but as we put this team together, we're definitely looking towards a way to win the division, to get out of the wild card game and give our guys a better chance at a division series."

The A's will need another big season from the Semien, Chapman, Olson trio for that to happen, and they hope to keep them together well into the next decade.