A's to keep using openers in 2019 as strategy spreads to rest of MLB

A's to keep using openers in 2019 as strategy spreads to rest of MLB

LAS VEGAS -- Love it or hate it, the opener isn't going anywhere.

After experimenting with the strategy of starting a relief pitcher in September, not to mention the AL Wild Card Game, the A's plan to continue employing it next season.

"Yeah, I think that is here to stay," manager Bob Melvin told reporters Tuesday. "I think we're used to it, so to speak. And you're seeing other teams do it, too. I think you'll see more of it next year."

General manager David Forst added: "I think it may continue to be a necessity going forward. It's not easy to find starting pitching. We are exploring all avenues, but I think we recognize that there are different ways to get 27 outs and we're going to have to consider all of them." 

Oakland primarily used right-hander Liam Hendriks in the opener role last season. He figures to be a logical choice again next year after signing a new one-year, $2.15 million deal last month.

"I think depending on who we identify as guys we need to get innings from and then maybe if there's some vulnerability with some other guys, maybe that's the route we go as far as the opener," Melvin explained.

The Tampa Bay Rays were the first team to start using an opener last season. Since then, the trend has grown beyond just Oakland.

As Melvin mentioned, more and more teams are open to the idea, no pun intended. Even Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he would consider the strategy next season.

The opener certainly makes sense for a team like the A's, who boast an incredibly strong bullpen while lacking depth in the starting rotation. If they can work out some of the kinks, the tactic could ultimately prove quite successful.

Just ask the Rays.

How Esteban Loiaza went from A's pitcher to cocaine dealer, prison


How Esteban Loiaza went from A's pitcher to cocaine dealer, prison

It’s a wild tale of a baseball player who had the world at his fingertips only to now find himself in federal prison.

Two-time All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza spent his 14-year MLB career across eight teams including 2006-07 with the A’s. He signed with the team on a three-year, $21.4 million contract after the 2005 season. He finished his campaign with Oakland hosting a 4.62 ERA and 1.376 WHIP.

It was around this time that he was arrested after clocking over 120 mph in his Ferrari on an Oakland-area freeway.

He would be convicted of reckless driving and was given a three-year probationary sentence.

This was where it appeared the player filled with so much promise, shifted as was detailed in an incredible piece by Bleacher Report's Scott Miller.

"He was just a knucklehead guy with some decent stuff upon occasion," longtime Oakland radio broadcaster Vince Cotroneo told Bleacher Report. Cotroneo also called Texas Rangers games when Loaiza was there. "He wasn't a bad guy. He was always helpful for what we needed to do. He was a little quirky, but you can say that with a lot of people.

"I went to Oakland and so did he in '06,” Cotroneo added. “This was the Lamborghini-driving, Maserati-driving, DUI Loaiza that we got. The paint was starting to dry. You were starting to capture the full portrait of the guy. When he got to Oakland, it got stranger."

Fast forward to 2018 and Loaiza would be detained by sheriff’s detectives in the San Diego area several miles north of the Mexican border. Loaiza had been under surveillance for a while in a federal narcotics investigation. And while law enforcement didn’t find anything in his Mercedes-Benz SUV that day, they did discover a note in the garage door opener that had an address written on it.

That address led them to a nearby townhouse that possessed a minivan that held 44 pounds of cocaine hidden in the rear floor panels underneath baseball bags. 

[RELATED: A's should break protocol, sign Semien for long haul]

He was ultimately sentenced to 36 months in prison on March 8, 2019. 

Loaiza was with the White Sox at one point in his career where he was dubbed a hero of sorts. He made his last public appearance at the team's Fan Fest in 2018 just two weeks before his arrest.  

Oakland A's to stop paying minor leaguers' $400 weekly stipend in June


Oakland A's to stop paying minor leaguers' $400 weekly stipend in June

The A's announced Tuesday that they will stop paying a weekly stipend to minor league players beginning in June.

With the minor league season on hold due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the A's had been paying all players on minor league contracts $400 a week.

A's owner John Fisher confirmed the news in a lengthy email to staff members and fans.

"I am very saddened to let you know that we have implemented a significant temporary furlough of staff positions, and reduced compensation for staff members who are not furloughed," Fisher wrote. "We are also suspending compensation for the A's minor league players."

Fisher explained why the A's decided to make this move.

"I know that many of you will wonder why the A's are cutting costs now," Fisher wrote. "Nobody knows how this pandemic will evolve over the long term. What is clear is that our revenues will be dramatically reduced this year. None of this diminishes the pain of today's actions, but it is an honest acknowledgement of the circumstances of the moment."

The Score's Robert Murray obtained a copy of the email A's general manager David Forst sent to minor leaguers.

"Recognizing the hardship that not receiving a paycheck would have on you and your families, the Oakland Athletics agreed to continue to pay all of its players on the Minor League [Uniform Player Contracts] the sum of $400 per week through May 31," Forst wrote. "In addition, as Commissioner [Rob] Manfred said, all players will continue to receive medical and health benefits pursuant to the terms of their Minor League health insurance at least until the beginning of a partial 2020 regular season (and if no season is played, through the original 2020 regular season calendar). Unfortunately, considering all of the circumstances affecting the organization at this time, we have decided not to continue your $400 weekly stipend beyond May 31. This was a difficult decision and it's one that comes at a time when a number of full-time employees are also finding themselves either furloughed or facing a reduction in salary for the remainder of the season. For all of this, I am sorry."

[RELATED: Why A's should re-sign Semien]

The A's are the first organization to halt payments to minor league players.