Athletics

Jesús Luzardo's injury a major blow for A's, as team scrambles for options

Jesús Luzardo's injury a major blow for A's, as team scrambles for options

Oakland's already shaky starting rotation took a major blow Wednesday night when it was revealed that 21-year-old left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

While Luzardo has not yet thrown a major league pitch, the A's top prospect appeared poised to make the starting rotation following a phenomenal spring training. His big league debut will now have to wait and Oakland will have to scramble to shore up its rotation.

In the short term, the competition for the A's number five starter job is likely down to right-handers Chris Bassitt and Aaron Brooks. Bassitt still has a minor league option remaining while Brooks does not, giving the latter a slight edge.

In the bigger picture, the A's will likely have to add another starting pitcher to the mix. Veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson remains available on the free agent market and the team has been in contact with him throughout the offseason. The 35-year-old put together a strong 2018 season in Oakland and was a critical presence in the clubhouse.

As it currently stands, the A's starting rotation features Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, and either Brooks or Bassitt. Right-hander Jharel Cotton and southpaws Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk are still recovering from injuries but should be back in the mix sometime this season.

[RELATED: Matt Olson exits game with hand discomfort]

Unfortunately, the A's can't afford to sit around and wait for their potential returns. Signing Jackson has gone from a luxury to a necessity. His return would at least give Oakland four veteran starters to hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive. 

Oakland still features one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, which means they don't need their starters to go more than five innings. They just need pitchers who can keep them in the game early on. Jackson has certainly proven more than capable of that.

Khris Davis agrees to contract extension with A's through 2021 season

Khris Davis agrees to contract extension with A's through 2021 season

The A's are committing to designated hitter Khris Davis for two more seasons, the team announced Thursday:

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the deal is worth $33.5 million over two years, keeping the slugger in Oakland through the 2021 season.

NBC Sports California confirmed Passan's report. 

"Oakland has been a special place for me since I arrived,” Davis said in a press release. “I love playing here in front of our fans, and my teammates make this feel like a family. I never hid the fact that I wanted to stay in Oakland because that is how I feel, and I'm glad that I can continue to call the city of Oakland my baseball home. This team has a bright future, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it."

He wasn't the only one looking forward to his future with the team.

"This is a great day for everyone here with the A's and everybody who follows the A's because we're going to have Khris Davis around for a few more years," executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said as part of the announcement. 

"Khris is a special talent who has made a tremendous impact both on and off the field during his time here,” Beane added in a press release. “He’s become one of the most beloved players to have worn an A’s uniform, and his commitment to Oakland has never wavered. He made it clear from the beginning that he wants to play, and win, right here. We're thrilled that Khris will continue to be an A.”

Davis has said before he wanted to stay with Oakland and his wish has come true. He envisions himself winning a championship with the team and he likes where he is -- which is great news for fans, and, of course, the A's.

Manager Bob Melvin has spoken to Davis and the 31-year-old has expressed to the skipper that he loves playing in the green and gold.

"Such a big part of this team, so embraced by the community, loved by the players -- obviously his numbers and what he's done with the team speaks for itself -- just the perfect guy to be extended," Melvin said.

Since coming to the A's in 2016, Davis boasts a .247/322/.539 slash line with 143 home runs and 355 RBI.

He led the majors in home runs last season with 48 long balls and is currently leading the league with 10 home runs this season.

[RELATED: Davis dubbed 'most interesting player in baseball']

The A's are celebrating Davis by offering two-for-one tickets during the A's series against the Blue Jays from Friday to Sunday. Two dollars from every ticket sold will benefit Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area.

The team will hold a press conference with Davis, Melvin, and general manager David Forst on Friday at 2:00 pm PT at the Coliseum. 

Frankie Montas turning into the pitcher the A's hoped he would become

Frankie Montas turning into the pitcher the A's hoped he would become

OAKLAND – Frankie Montas has always had the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher at the major league level. Now, at the age of 26, he's converting that potential into reality.

Montas spun 6 1/3 sparkling innings Wednesday night, limiting the red-hot Astros to a single run on just three hits, with six strikeouts. The talented right-hander improved to 3-1 as the A's snapped Houston's 10-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory at the Coliseum.

"You can see his confidence grow every time he goes out there," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "It's starting to be dominant stuff at times."

"I feel like I'm throwing more strikes and having more command of my fastball in and out of the zone," Montas added. "The splitter really helped me a lot too."

That splitter is a new addition to Montas' arsenal, a pitch he sort of stumbled upon this spring.

"Honestly, I kind of just started playing with it in spring training," he said. "I was not really serious about it, but I saw that I could throw it and get good results. I was just trying to get something else for hitters."

Melvin highlighted the importance of the new pitch.

"It's been the key," Melvin said. "It's a true third pitch. His slider was really good too. Sometimes it's tough to tell the difference between the slider and the split. But a mix of pitches like that...he's a tough guy to hit when he's ahead in the count and feeling pretty good."

In four starts this season, Montas has allowed a total of seven earned runs in 23 1/3 innings for an ERA of 2.70. His 0.94 WHIP ranks first among A's starters as does his .190 opponents' batting average.

This is the pitcher the A's were hoping to someday see when they acquired him from the Dodgers in 2016. Early in his career, Montas suffered injury setbacks to his knee and later his ribs, but the ability never went away.

[RELATED: A's place Estrada on IL]

"There was a point in his career where he was on the path to do this," Melvin said. "The injuries sidelined him a little bit and he ended up being a reliever. He got humbled a little bit in relief and had to find a different way to do it, and he did. We saw it all spring and we've seen it all season."

Now fully healthy and brimming with confidence, Montas appears ready to fulfill his destiny as a big-league ace.