Athletics

Kyler Murray hints he's looking at NFL, despite being A's first-round pick

Kyler Murray hints he's looking at NFL, despite being A's first-round pick

January 14 is becoming an extremely important date for the Oakland A's. It holds no significance on the MLB calendar, but it's a big day for the NFL.

And a big day for the A's 2018 first-round draft pick.

The A's signed Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to a $4.66 million signing bonus last summer by making the outfielder version of him the No. 9 overall pick in the MLB draft. Murray, now the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, could be a first-round pick for his talents on the gridiron, too.

So, why is Jan. 14, 2019, so important? Underclassmen must declare by that date if they will enter the NFL draft or stay in college. And despite signing with the A's and recently saying this will be his last year playing football, Murray might be having second thoughts.

Murray recently was asked by Tim Tebow, who's now in the Mets' minor league system after being a Heisman winner and an NFL first-round pick, how he will go about choosing baseball or football.

"I think that's something me and my family will talk about at the end of the season and weigh out the options of what the NFL thinks of me," Murray said Saturday. "Right now my future is already kind of planned out, but we'll see what happens."

That doesn't sound too definitive one way or the other. As a competitor who has been a two-sport star his whole life, Murray wants to at least hear what the NFL thinks of him, and that's understandable. He already might be hearing good things, as ESPN's top draft analysts have high regards for him as a football prospect.

"If he were three inches taller, he'd be the No. 1 pick overall, hands down," Mel Kiper Jr. said Wednesday. "I think the height issue is the reason why instead of a first-round pick, he'd maybe a second-round pick if the NFL was a possibility."

Murray is listed at 5-foot-10, but that easily could be a favor from his school. The NFL is changing, though, and with the likes of Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and 2018 No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield, height is becoming less of a concern for quarterbacks.

"I disagree, Mel," Todd McShay responded. "I think Kyler Murray would be a first-round pick. I think the league is changing. I think it's more about quick twitch and guys that can move, and he does that about as well as anyone in the country. And I think he's gonna win the Heisman because of it.

"He's made a decision to go play baseball, and it's probably a smart decision for the long term of his career, I would love to see him give it a shot in the NFL because I think he's got a shot to be a really good starting quarterback at the next level."

In his first season as the Sooners' starting quarterback, Murray has been nearly just as good as Mayfield through the air and adds another dimension on the ground with his elusiveness. Through 13 games, he has 4,053 passing yards while completing 70.9 percent of his attempts, and he has added another 892 rushing yards.

With his right arm and both legs, Murray has totaled 51 touchdowns to seven interceptions. If he torches Alabama's defense in the College Football Playoff, he could solidify himself as a first-round pick, win or lose. 

It was three weeks ago that Murray recreated Bo Jackson's iconic photo in shoulder pads with a baseball bat hanging over his shoulders. And it's looking more like he wants to be Bo 2.0 at the next level. 

MLB teams are issued an equivalent pick in the next draft if they fail to sign a player drafted in the first two rounds. This is different, though. The A's signed Murray, but he might just be too good at football to pass up years on a bus in the minor leagues.

Buy your 2019 calendar now, Billy Beane, and put a big question mark on Jan. 14. Save some room for a happy face or frowny face. That will come later.

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

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AP

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

OAKLAND -- After Shawn Kelley's stellar stretch run with the A's last season, it seemed likely he would return to Oakland as a free agent.

The 34-year-old right-hander appeared in 19 games last August and September, registering a 2.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, with 18 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. But while there was initially mutual interest in a reunion, the A's decided to go in a different direction and Kelley signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract with the Texas Rangers.

"We talked from the very end of (the season) about getting something done," Kelley told NBC Sports California. "I think when they got (Joakim) Soria and gave him that money (two years, $15 million), my agent called right away because we were kind of worried. We had been talking to (A's general manager David) Forst. Both sides were like, 'Yeah, let's get something done.' When Soria signed, we kind of saw the writing on the wall. And then (Forst) wished me luck in whatever decision I made. He said, 'We spent a little on a couple of guys and so we wish you the best and thanks for everything you did coming over, but we're out of money.'"

Kelley says he carries no hard feelings toward his former squad, as he understands the business side of baseball. He still has a great relationship with his old teammates and manager.

"I talked to all the guys when they came to Texas and I talked to them (Tuesday)," Kelley said. "I went over and gave BoMel a big hug and told him, 'Man, I'm sorry. I wanted to be here. It just didn't work out.' That's part of it. It wasn't for a lack of effort. There was obviously genuine interest from me and definitely some genuine interest from their side. Things just go different ways sometimes in free agency."

Kelley has carried last year's success into this season with the Rangers. He is already 3-0 with a save and a 1.80 ERA, as well as a 0.80 WHIP. He has notched nine strikeouts in 10 innings without issuing a single walk.

"It's been great," Kelley said. "It's a good group. It kind of reminds me of what we had over there last year (with the A's), as far as a good mix of young guys with some veterans, a lot of energy, and a lot of will to not give in and keep fighting. It's been a good experience."

Kelley is extremely thankful for the opportunity the A's gave him last season, especially after the Nationals let him go following his now infamous -- and probably overblown -- glove-slamming incident. He believes his time in Oakland rejuvenated his career.

[RELATED: Versatile Pinder forcing way into everyday starting role]

"I had fun when I went over there and saw a renewed energy and passion for just going out and having fun and enjoying it, and it not feeling like work every day," Kelley said. "It was a great experience. I loved it."

For now, Kelley is happy to be a Texas Ranger, although he doesn't rule out a return to Oakland down the road.

"Hey, you never know," he smiled. "One day, I may be back."

Chad Pinder making strong case to A's for everyday starting lineup

Chad Pinder making strong case to A's for everyday starting lineup

OAKLAND – Chad Pinder is making it extremely difficult for A's manager Bob Melvin to keep him out of the starting lineup.

The A's utility star continued his breakout season Wednesday, going 2-for-5 with the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, as Oakland completed a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers with a 6-5 win.

"I'm just trying to stay short and put a good swing on a pitch that I can handle," Pinder said of his first career walk-off hit. "It was awesome. That was a big one for us, a three-game sweep, especially after taking three losses from the Blue Jays."

Pinder also got it done with his glove Wednesday, making a diving catch in left field to rob Shin-Soo Choo of a base hit in the fifth inning.

"He contributes," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Pinder. "If he has a slow offensive day, he contributes defensively. He gets big hits. He does timely things, as you saw again today. ... He's a smart player on top of everything."

Pinder is slashing .320/.342/.507 in 75 at-bats this season, with three home runs and 11 RBI. The 27-year-old started all three games this series against the Rangers -- two in left field and one at second base -- and proceeded to go 6-for-14 with three RBI and three runs scored.

"It's nice," Pinder said of his current hot streak. "When you're getting consistent at-bats, it gets you on a little bit of a roll. It's been good for me."

Pinder's .320 batting average leads the entire team and his .848 OPS ranks third, behind only Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien.

"The more he gets to play, the more he contributes," Melvin said. "You watch his day today, he didn't have great swings but he shoots a ball over there to right field with two strikes. In that at-bat, he's not trying to do too much.

"There are days that you feel really good about yourself and you feel kind of invincible. There are other days where maybe you're not feeling great and you do the best you can and identify how you're going to be pitched and not try to do too much. He's aware of all those things."

[RELATED: A's will get first look at phenom Vlad Jr. on Friday]

Pinder has already proven he can play just about any position on the diamond. Now he's proving he belongs in the starting lineup every game.