Athletics

Joakim Soria looking like pitcher A's envisioned after nightmare start

Joakim Soria looking like pitcher A's envisioned after nightmare start

Joakim Soria has already enjoyed a long and successful career.

Entering his first season with the A's, the 35-year-old reliever had a 2.88 ERA and 220 saves over 11 career seasons, with a pair of All-Star Game appearances.

That's what made Soria's first nine outings with Oakland so stunning. The right-hander allowed nine earned runs in just 7 1/3 innings, for an ERA of 11.05. This was not the pitcher the A's were expecting when they signed him to a two-year, $15 million contract.

Since mid-April, however, Soria has completely turned things around. In his last 12 appearances, he has surrendered just three earned runs in 15 1/3 innings for an ERA of 1.76.

"It's just the command," Soria said of his improvement. "I'm commanding the fastball. I'm making some more quality pitches and the results are better."

During those 12 most recent outings, Soria has notched 17 strikeouts against four walks, allowing just five hits for a 0.59 WHIP.

"He's got some confidence," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's got some life in him right now. You get off to a slow start with a new team and it can be a little bit demoralizing, but he has a long history of doing what he's doing right now. It is good to see him string a few outings together."

Soria admits it was difficult to get off to such a slow start with a new team, but his years of experience in the majors helped him stay level-headed and get back on track.

"A major league season is a roller coaster," he said. "There are a lot of ups and downs. When there are downs, you have to try to go back to the basics and enjoy it."

Soria has arguably been the A's most reliable reliever the last month, and that's great news for Oakland. Between Soria, Blake Treinen, and Lou Trivino, Melvin has some terrific options for the late innings, whether the A's are leading or tied.

Soria also provides value in his ability to pitch multiple innings. Four of his last five appearances have been more than one inning, including a perfect 1 2/3 in Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Indians.

In Soria's mind, the more he pitches, the better he is.

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"Obviously with outings, it means you're in the game more and I think that's the only way that you can succeed," he said. "Go out there, keep having fun, and do what you love to do."

If Soria can continue to pitch at this level, it will undoubtedly take the A's bullpen to another level.

How Marcus Semien has thrived as A's everyday leadoff hitter this year

How Marcus Semien has thrived as A's everyday leadoff hitter this year

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin could probably talk about Marcus Semien forever and still not run out of superlatives.

Oakland's shortstop is one of the hardest workers in all of baseball, as evidenced by his massive improvement defensively over the past few years. This season, Semien has taken his offensive production to another level as well.

The 28-year-old is slashing .280/.365/.443 with 10 home runs, 36 RBI, and 48 runs scored. He's on pace to set career-highs in nearly every major offensive category, including hits, walks, runs, and RBI.

"He's just become a complete player," Melvin praised. "Offensively, defensively, he's got leadership qualities, he's out there every day. There are a lot of things to like about Marcus Semien. He continues to get better and I don't see that slowing down either. He's very aware of what he needs to work on and what it takes to get better.

"Nobody works harder."

It probably seems crazy now, but Oakland actually entered the season without a set leadoff hitter. That changed in a hurry, as Semien grabbed the role and didn't let go.

"I just want to get on base," he said. "That's what I've been trying to do more of this year and just stay in the strike zone. ... I've been walking more too. I'm just trying to get on base for the middle of the order."

Semien has certainly done that. He is currently riding a career-high 14-game hitting streak, batting .390 with three home runs, four doubles, and 11 RBI during that stretch.

"Better direction, better timing with the fastball and then being able to take the pitches out of the zone, those offspeed pitches," Semien explained. "You get in better counts, and when you're catching up to the fastball and hitting in good counts, good things will happen."

Semien's .365 on-base percentage ranks fifth among major league shortstops. Prior to this season, he had never posted an on-base percentage higher than .325.

"I used to lead him off against lefties and not righties," Melvin said. "Now we're comfortable leading him off (against either). ... He sets the table for a lot of guys. You see the RBI through the lineup. A lot of it has to do with him being on base quite a bit."

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Semien has also reduced his strikeout rate from a year ago, punching out just 47 times in 296 at-bats (15.9 percent). Last season, he struck out 131 times in 632 at-bats (20.7 percent).

"I can't say enough about what he means to this team," Melvin said. "He hits the ball the other way. If you shift on him, he'll shoot the ball in the hole. He's just very aware of what's going on out there and he shows up on both ends."

How A's first-round pick Logan Davidson evokes Dodgers' Corey Seager

How A's first-round pick Logan Davidson evokes Dodgers' Corey Seager

The A's signed 2019 first-round pick Logan Davidson on Monday, and introduced him to the media prior to their game against the Orioles.

The Clemson shortstop was joined by his parents, sister, girlfriend and agent Scott Boras at the Coliseum.

"I know that the Oakland area likes Clemson people," Davidson quipped. "I thought that was pretty cool for sure with the Raiders and everything."

In case you missed it, three of the Oakland Raiders' nine 2019 draft picks -- Clelin Ferrell, Trayvon Moreau and Hunter Renfrow -- hail from Clemson University.

Davidson, who grew up in Charlotte, N.C., was asked to describe himself as a player.

"I'm a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate," Davidson told the media in Oakland. "I play the game with a little spark. Pretty good shortstop, I'd say. I like to play defense. I just get after it."

For A's director of scouting Eric Kubota, that description sounds like another kid from the Queen City who ended up being a first-round pick.

"I'm on record as saying he reminds me a bit of Corey Seager," Kubota said. "It's the same offensive profile, shortstop who can impact the game with his bat and the glove, so that's who I thought of."

Seager isn't a switch-hitter like Davidson, but the Dodgers shortstop went on to win NL Rookie of the Year in 2016 and has been named to two All-Star Games. So if Davidson can replicate Seager's talent, the A's have themselves a good player.

While the A's see a bit of Seager in Davidson, the 21-year-old patterned his game after a future Hall of Fame catcher.

"As a young kid, my dad and I liked Joe Mauer, so the left-handed swing is modeled after him with the balance and the smooth left-handed swing," Davidson said.

Now that Davidson has put pen to paper and been introduced to the media, he will begin his professional career Tuesday.

[RELATED: A's 'pleasantly surprised' Davidson was available]

A's general manager David Forst announced that Davidson will fly out to Burlington, Vt. and start playing for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters.

"How quickly he moves is up to him," Forst said.