Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

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OAKLAND — Game time arrived at the Coliseum on Friday night, and Sonny Gray took the mound in an A’s uniform.

Then he showed exactly why he’s such a hyped-up trade target.

The right-hander continued a midseason hot streak on the mound, firing six scoreless innings as the A’s hung a 5-0 defeat on the Cleveland Indians to open up the season’s second half.

In the minds of many, the hourglass is running out fast on Gray’s time in green and gold. He’s been linked to several different pitching-hungry contenders, and the speculation only heated up after lefty Jose Quintana was dealt from the White Sox to the Cubs, leaving Gray as the best starting pitcher available who is team-controlled for the next two seasons.

A bogus report even surfaced Friday, about an hour before first pitch, that Gray had been scratched, fueling speculation that perhaps he had been dealt. It was quickly shot down by the A’s.

But his performance Friday only increases his attractiveness to buyers. Gray struck out five, walked one and allowed just two hits, lowering his ERA to 3.72. Over his past four starts, Gray is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA.

RETURN OF RAJAI: Rajai Davis, nearly a World Series hero for the Indians last fall after his Game 7 homer off Aroldis Chapman, went deep against his former club Friday. That was one of two homers the A’s hit in the fifth to open up a 4-0 lead. Yonder Alonso, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, hit his 21st of the season three batters later.

AGGRESSIVNESS ON THE BASES: Manager Bob Melvin talked before the All-Star break of the need for Oakland to show better base running. He got it Friday. In the third, Matt Joyce doubled and Davis scored all the way from first. Joyce took the opportunity to break for third on the throw, and that aggressiveness put him in position to score on Marcus Semien’s sacrifice fly. In the sevneth, Matt Chapman stole another run for the A’s by scoring on a wild pitch that didn’t skip very far away from Indians catcher Yan Gomes.

FOLLOWING THE BLUEPRINT: By jumping out to an early lead, and with Gray’s strong six-inning outing, it set up the A’s late-inning bullpen combo of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla. They blanked the Indians over the final three innings, and the A’s opened the second half with a shutout.

NO FACTOR: Melvin talked before the game about Cleveland’s dominant bullpen. But by getting to starter Carlos Carrasco for five runs over 6 1/3 innings, the A’s didn’t let the Tribe’s bullpen play a role in this one.

HELP ON THE WAY?: There was encouraging news on the injury front for the A’s as the second half gets underway. Utility man Chad Pinder is scheduled to run the bases Saturday at the Coliseum to test his strained left hamstring. If that goes well, he’ll likely begin a minor league rehab assignment right after that.

The A’s have been without reliever Ryan Dull for nearly two months due to a strained right knee, but he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday, and he too seems close to a rehab assignment. Dull’s goal is to be back by the end of July.

Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

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Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

OAKLAND – It really was a freak injury. One swing of the bat, a seemingly inconsequential foul ball.

But during Thursday's loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Matt Olson knew right away something was wrong.

"I generally have a pretty high pain tolerance," the A's first baseman said Sunday. "I couldn't grip the bat when I came back (to the dugout) so I knew something was up."

It turned out Olson had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He underwent hamate excision surgery Friday in Los Angeles, and will be out indefinitely.

"It sucks," Olson admitted. "The timing of it is good and bad. Good because I get five or six days here to get ahead, but it sucks because it's the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point."

A's manager Bob Melvin added: "There are certain guys who you feel like are a little more replaceable than others. He's a tough one. ... He makes everybody in the infield better. All you've got to do is get it over in his direction. He's got a wide wingspan and he picks everything out of the dirt.

"It's tough not having him out there, but that's why we have a Mark Canha, a (Jurickson) Profar, and a Chad Pinder. It gives somebody else an opportunity."

Olson was not given a timetable for his return, but he noted a wide variance in other players with the same injury, anywhere from four to eight weeks. While he's obviously disappointed, he believes the team can survive without him.

"We've got guys -- Canha, Pinder, (Franklin) Barreto, and Profar -- all of those guys are very established and have good at-bats," Olson said. "They're guys who are going to get more at-bats because of it. I don't think it's a bad thing. It sucks for me, but I'm glad these guys are going to get a little more regular playing time."

[RELATED: A's have options at first base in light of Olson injury]

Although he hasn't missed any games yet, Olson joked he has already experienced the effects of sporting a cast on his right hand in his everyday life.

"I had to go to the store today to get stuff for my apartment. I got a ton of stuff. Then I got to the apartment complex, and thought I was going to have to make like five trips because I can only carry things with one hand," he laughed.

As Olson adjusts to life with just one functional hand, the A's must adjust to life without Olson's powerful bat in the lineup and his slick glove in the field. In both cases, it will be a difficult process.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.