Athletics

How Jurickson Profar's talk with Adrian Beltre helped A's second baseman

How Jurickson Profar's talk with Adrian Beltre helped A's second baseman

This was not the first impression Jurickson Profar had in mind.

The A's new second baseman was mired in a 5-for-47 slump, held without a single RBI through his first 12 games. He was pressing, trying too hard to impress his new team.

That's when Profar made a phone call to recently retired third baseman Adrián Beltré, a long-time teammate in Texas, to wish him a happy 40th birthday. Beltre responded by providing Profar with some helpful advice.

"I just asked him about how he handled himself when he went to a new team," Profar told reporters. "I asked him about my swing and everything."

Whatever Beltré said worked, because in the next theee games, Profar went 6-for-12 with two home runs and seven RBI.

"Just the confidence," Profar explained. "He told me that he knows I'm going to do well. Just relax and do my thing, and that's it. ... He made me feel comfortable."

"We knew he was going to swing the bat well," A's manager Bob Melvin added. "He's probably a little bit more relaxed than he was."  

Profar, 26, had spent his entire career playing alongside Beltré in Texas before being traded to Oakland this past offseason. Last year, Profar had a breakout season, slashing .254/.335/.458 with 20 home runs, 35 doubles, and 77 RBI. The A's believed he would build on that performance this year, but it didn't start out that way.

"When you're with a new team, you want to get some hits and show the new team what you have to offer," Melvin said. "He certainly did that in the (Baltimore) series, not that he needed to because we've been on the other side. Last year he beat us up some, so we know what he can do at the plate."

It's also been a struggle for Profar defensively early on. He has already committed four errors, including a couple of costly errant throws in key situations. But Melvin believes Profar will get more comfortable playing second base as the season goes on.

"It's still kind of a new position for him, based on the fact he was on the other side of the diamond for the most part last year," Melvin told reporters. "Learning the angles, learning new players with Marcus at short and so forth, that all takes time. ... I think he enjoys the fact that he can come out and just work on one position consistently and know that's where he's going to be." 

[RELATED: Profar reflects on his time with Rangers]

Profar has drastically picked up his play of late, both offensively and defensively. He has raised his batting average from .106 to .191, driving in nine runs in his last six games. He credits that conversation with Beltré.

"I have a good friend in him and I can always call him and ask him for tips," Profar said. "If I ask him, he always will help. He's that kind of guy."

A's starting pitchers taming Tigers, rest of American League in May

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AP

A's starting pitchers taming Tigers, rest of American League in May

The A's weakness this season was supposed to be their rotation. Recently, they've bucked that notion.

Daniel Mengden is the latest A's starting pitcher to have a dominant outing. He went seven innings Saturday in Oakland's 4-1 win in Detroit, and only allowed one earned run while striking out five. 

"He's got good stuff, he can mix his pitches really well," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Mengden after the win. "He's a true four-pitch guy."

In the last month, the A's five-man mix of Mengden, Frankie Montas, Mike Fiers, Chris Bassitt and Brett Anderson has been among the best in the American League. 

Mengden followed a career first for Montas. On Friday, Montas pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his career and struck out a career-high 10 batters. 

"We knew he had a lot of talent in him, but he's taking it to another level right now," Melvin told reporters Friday when asked about Montas' start.

Coming into their four-game road series with the Tigers, the A's had lost three in a row. They're now riding a three-game win streak, thanks to their starting arms. The trio of Bassitt, Montas and Mengden combined to throw 23 2/3 innings while allowing only three earned runs. They also struck out 22 batters and only walked four.

And the A's soon could have more help on the way.

[RELATED: Melvin raves about Montas after longest outing of his career]

Jharel Cotton pitched in his first rehab assignment in Class A for the Stockton Ports on Thursday. Sean Manaea quietly has been throwing bullpens, and top prospect Jesus Luzardo threw his first bullpen Tuesday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Oakland's starting pitchers' ERA now is just outside the top five in the American League. Though they're still in the bottom of the AL West, the A's are trending up, with reinforcements coming down the road.

A's vs. Tigers lineup: Khris Davis scratched from matinee at Comerica Park

A's vs. Tigers lineup: Khris Davis scratched from matinee at Comerica Park

The A's arrived in Detroit looking for something to snap them out of their funk, and they found exactly what they were looking for in the struggling Tigers.

Bob Melvin's club pummeled the Tigers 17-3 in Game 1 of the series Thursday, and Frankie Montas struck out a career-high 10 batters to lead Oakland to a 7-3 win Friday.

The A's lineup will look a little different Saturday at Comerica Park, though.

Khris Davis initially was scheduled to be in the lineup batting cleanup, but he was scratched from the order and replaced by Robbie Grossman. Grossman will bat sixth and play left field, and Stephen Piscotty will take over Davis’ designated hitter role and bat fourth.

Davis was scratched because of his sore left hip and is day to day. 

Oakland will give the ball to right-hander Daniel Mengden on Saturday. Mengden gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings during a 5-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians in his first start after being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Here are the full lineups for Saturday's A's vs. Tigers game: 

Oakland Athletics (21-25)
Marcus Semien, SS
Mark Canha, 1B
Matt Chapman, 3B
Stephen Piscotty, DH
Chad Pinder, RF
Robbie Grossman, LF
Ramon Laureano, CF
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Nick Hundley, C

Daniel Mengden, RHP (0-1, 6.75 ERA)

[RELATED: Olson's power hasn't been affected by hand surgery]

Detroit Tigers (18-25)
Josh Harrison, 2B
Dawal Lugo, 3B
Nicholas Castellanos, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Ronny Rodriguez, SS
Christin Stewart, LF
Brandon Dixon, DH
Grayson Greiner, C
JaCoby Jones, CF

Matthew Boyd, LHP (4-3, 3.15 ERA)