Athletics

How A's J.B. Wendelken has earned Bob Melvin's trust in big situations

How A's J.B. Wendelken has earned Bob Melvin's trust in big situations

OAKLAND -- The A's have been searching for a reliable eighth-inning relief option for essentially the entire season. They might have found one potential answer in 26-year-old J.B. Wendelken.

The hard-throwing right-hander was terrific last season, allowing just one run in 16 2/3 innings, with 14 strikeouts. But after a slow start in 2019, Wendelken was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he has spent most of this year.

Since returning to the A's earlier this month, Wendelken has pitched five perfect innings. That's right -- 15 up, 15 down.

"I've been feeling really good," Wendelken told NBC Sports California. "It's a little bit of an adjustment period, but that's the way it always is. I'm just coming in and giving the guys a chance to get ahead. That's all you can do out of the pen."

It appears Wendelken has already earned his manager's trust. On multiple occasions, Bob Melvin has utilized the young right-hander in late-inning, high-leverage situations.

"We've always felt like he was a guy that we could count on," Melvin said. "It's nice to have him here and he's pitched really well for us, so hopefully, he can gain some confidence from that."

"It's super exciting. It's one of those things where they put your faith in you and you have to step up," Wendelken said. "It's an adrenaline rush, but at the same time, it could be overwhelming. We all have a job to do. All we can do is go in there and be hard-nosed."

Throughout his career, Wendelken has relied on his mid-to-high 90s fastball, only occasionally mixing in a changeup and curveball. But during his time in Triple-A, he began developing a slider. 

"It's come a long way," Wendelken said. "It took a while to even get a swing and a miss. That was the big thing. We kind of laughed about it. In two months there (in Las Vegas), I didn't even get one swing and miss on it. I'm finally getting a little turnaround on it, so it's good to see some movement and some swings and misses."

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As the A's make their final playoff push, they will continue to rely on Wendelken in the late innings. If he can maintain his effectiveness, it will go a long way toward putting Oakland over the top.

Source: Free agent second baseman Eric Sogard interested in A's return

Source: Free agent second baseman Eric Sogard interested in A's return

Having a lefty bat at the second base position continues to be one of the A's main focuses this offseason

That could mean reuniting with Eric Sogard. A source tells NBC Sports California the 34-year-old is open to returning to Oakland.

Sogard, currently a free agent, had an exceptional campaign in 2019 slashing .290/.353/.457 with 13 homers across 110 games with the Blue Jays and the Rays. He was part of the Tampa Bay squad that came to the AL Wild-Card Game in Oakland and celebrated in the visitors' clubhouse.

A's fans remember the outcome of that. 

The second baseman spent six seasons with the A's from 2010-15 where he accumulated a .239 average with eight home runs and 105 RBI. 

The A's traded second baseman Jurickson Profar to the Padres on Dec. 2, so they have a need at the position.

Despite picking up a talented second baseman during Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, the team will still seek a more prominent starter at the position. 

[RELATED: A's are focused on keeping young stars]

The A's reportedly are interested in bringing current Mets second baseman Jed Lowrie back for the third time -- but there are 10 million reasons as to why the Mets wouldn't make a trade.

Did we mention Sogard bats left-handed yet?

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. 

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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.