Athletics

Kyler Murray wins 2018 Heisman Trophy; could he pick NFL over A's?

Kyler Murray wins 2018 Heisman Trophy; could he pick NFL over A's?

Add the Heisman Trophy to Kyler Murray’s growing list of accolades. Likely add increased speculation about his future, too.

Murray, an Oakland A’s prospect who also plays quarterback for Oklahoma, was voted the recipient of the Heisman, which is given to college football’s most outstanding player.

Murray beat out two other quarterbacks -- Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins -- for the award, which he received Saturday in New York. Being so honored will do nothing to quiet talk that he could change his mind and pick football over baseball.

This past summer, Murray signed a $4.66 million contract with the A’s, who drafted him No. 9 overall as an outfielder, and he has said he’ll join them for spring training next year. Scott Boras, Murray’s agent, said Thursday that his client remains committed to playing baseball.

“Kyler has every intention of fulfilling his agreement with the A’s, and he’s grateful he has had the chance to pursue his college goals,” Boras told The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser. “He will be in spring training with the A’s.”

Murray himself hasn’t been as clear, though. He told ESPN last week that pursuing a football career is “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.” He also said Friday that he’d like to play both football and baseball, but he wasn’t sure if doing that would be possible.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 14 to declare their intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft. So, if Murray wants to pursue a football career, he’ll have to decide by that date. He also could decide to return to Oklahoma for his senior season, although that seems unlikely, given all the atention he has received as a potential first-round NFL draft pick.

[RELATED: Murray recreates iconic Bo Jackson photo in Heisman campaign]

Murray is listed at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, but that slight size is countered by his unique play-making ability. In his first season as Oklahoma’s starting QB, Murray has thrown for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns, and run for 892 yards and 11 more scores in 13 games.

Murray will lead the Sooners (12-1) against top-ranked Alabama (13-0) in the Dec. 29 Orange Bowl, with a berth in the Jan. 7 College Football Playoff national championship game on the line.

That game will be played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. A’s fans hope it won’t be the last time they see Murray play in the Bay.

A's Khris Davis explains how he fools fans with fake Foot Locker career

A's Khris Davis explains how he fools fans with fake Foot Locker career

Khris Davis agreed to a two-year, $33.5 million extension with the A's on Thursday, an experience very few of us can relate to.

However, Davis is a very relatable guy, at least when it comes to his desire -- or lack thereof -- to discuss his work outside of it.

It turns out that Davis isn't the least bit alone among MLB players when it comes to disguising their true profession. As ESPN's Eddie Matz wrote Thursday, pro baseball players tend to get creative when coming up with fake careers to tell inquiring fans, hotel concierges, and anyone else who might ask what they do for a living at an inopportune time.

Construction worker. Financial advisor. Blimp folder?

Like I said, creative.

Davis keeps his faux career a little more realistic, and one that he can speak on if need be.

"I tell them I work at Foot Locker," Davis informed. "I wouldn't pick a profession that I don't know anything about. I know a little something about shoes. Usually if I use that story, I'm on vacation or somewhere I don't want to be known. Nobody really cares about a shoe salesman, so the conversation doesn't last long."

[RELATED: Braden calls Khrush deal 'massive' for A's organization]

Considering the lucrative extension Davis signed, he should be able to afford plenty more vacations.

And more shoes.

How A's J.B. Wendelken overcame Tommy John surgery to become bullpen fixture

How A's J.B. Wendelken overcame Tommy John surgery to become bullpen fixture

OAKLAND – Back in 2016, J.B. Wendelken was just trying to establish himself as a consistent relief pitcher at any level of baseball. 

The Savannah, Georgia native made his MLB debut with the A's that May, but struggled in eight appearances out of the bullpen. He allowed 14 earned runs in just 12 1/3 innings.

Wendelken wasn't much better in Triple-A, registering a 4.11 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 46 innings for the Nashville Sounds. As it turned out, there was a reason for his struggles: He needed Tommy John surgery.

"It was very tough to stay positive because I knew something wasn't right," Wendelken recently told NBC Sports California. "Every day you go out there, it was something else – some ache, some pain. You knew something wasn't right but I did my best at the time. ... Deciding to do surgery was actually the best decision of my life."

Wendelken missed the entire 2017 season as he recovered from the procedure. He admitted the rehab process was difficult, and often lonely, but he had help staying positive.

"Family. My lovely wife. Everybody kept me on track," Wendelken said. " ... I had some bumpy times coming down that rehab road, but overall, just overcoming that situation, it's eye-opening that you still have family there behind you no matter how low your lows are."

When Wendelken returned to the mound in 2018, he was a brand-new pitcher. The young right-hander was throwing his fastball with precision in the mid-to-high 90s, while also locating his curveball and changeup with pinpoint accuracy. 

"It was life-changing after surgery," he said. "I felt stronger and my confidence was up. ... It was a change for me with the feeling of how healthy I really was and that I could pitch here."

Even Wendelken couldn't have imagined how well he would pitch for the A's last season. In 16 2/3 innings, he allowed just one run, translating to a 0.54 ERA. He notched 14 strikeouts against five walks, and quickly became a trusted member of Oakland's bullpen.

"He was on the playoff roster for a reason," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "It all came together for him after his surgery to where the (velocity) was back and the command was back. His mechanics are as good as they've ever been."

"I definitely outdid my own expectations," Wendelken added. "My goal coming into last year was just to play for myself, try to enjoy the game again, and get back into it. I think I did that well with how I carried myself and went about my business."

[RELATED: Braden calls Krush extension 'massive' for A's]

This season, Wendelken has picked up right where he left off, striking out 14 batters in 12 1/3 innings while walking just two. His 3.65 ERA is a little deceiving based on a stellar 0.81 WHIP and 2.65 FIP, which actually is better than last year.

"We expected him to be in this type of role based on what we saw last year," Melvin said. "A lot of guys have compared him to Lou Trivino's ascent. He's got a little bit to do before he gets to that level, but he's pitched himself into a role now where we're using him typically in plus games and, a lot of times, more than one inning."

Now 26 years old, Wendelken's patience and determination have paid off. He is firmly entrenched in the A's bullpen as one of the team's most reliable arms.

And he’s only just getting started.