Athletics

Morning trade 'put a little fire' under A's as they complete sweep

Morning trade 'put a little fire' under A's as they complete sweep

OAKLAND — Sean Manaea is in just his second major league season, but he’s wise in the ways of the A’s ever-changing roster.

Manaea was around last summer when the A’s dealt away Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. It wasn’t easy to see another pair of teammates go Sunday morning, as Oakland dealt relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals, but at least Manaea could view it with some perspective.

He sensed the A’s cranked up the intensity a notch when they took the field Sunday afternoon looking to complete a sweep of the Cleveland Indians.

“Seeing that news kind of put a little fire under everybody,” Manaea said.

It’s a funny twist that on a weekend that brought a major trade and rumblings of more moves to come, the A’s played some of their best baseball of the season. They secured that sweep of the defending American League champs with a 7-3 victory at the Coliseum, helped along by Manaea’s seven strong innings and a four-run outburst in the first inning.

“Whenever you say goodbye to a couple guys like that, certainly there’s some sentiment that runs through the clubhouse,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I think the runs early in the game were really important for us.”

The A’s outscored the Indians 17-6 over the three games. Their pitchers allowed just 17 hits combined and their defense — which has committed a major league-high 79 errors — had just one over the entire series.

If Manaea’s theory is correct, it has to be encouraging for Melvin that the A’s responded in a positive way on the field after the morning trade. Surely more deals are on deck before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Starter Sonny Gray is a particularly hot name in the rumor mill and All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jed Lowrie also are prime candidates to be dealt to contenders.

Manaea said waving goodbye to Doolittle and Madson was no small thing. Both are respected veterans — Doolittle being the only player left on the roster who had been on all three of the A’s postseason teams of 2012-14, and Madson a sage pitching presence who owns two World Series rings.

“I really felt their presence in the clubhouse, on the plane,” Manaea said. “It’s going to be hard to fill those shoes, but I think this team is headed in the right direction and it’s just an exciting time right now.”

Melvin stayed with Manaea in the seventh, with his pitch count soaring past 100 and two runners aboard with Oakland up 5-2. Manaea struck out Brandon Guyer with men on the corners to finish his outing at 115 pitches.

With the trade of two late-inning relievers, Melvin said he’s likely to lean on his starters a bit more heavily. But Sunday’s decision to stick with Manaea also reflected his rising confidence in the lefty, who is benefiting from an improved slider that’s giving him a true three-pitch mix with his fastball and changeup.

With more veterans likely to depart, young players will be asked to step up more, and Manaea is one of the leaders of that pack.

“He’s a guy that’s up for that now, and has matured into that role,” Melvin said. “He’s got 113 or whatever it is pitches, but at that point in time that was his game. I think he takes away a lot from that too.”

Here are three questions facing A's as 2019 season opens Vs. Mariners

Here are three questions facing A's as 2019 season opens Vs. Mariners

The A's and Mariners are officially just hours away from opening the MLB season in Japan. For those die-hard fans (and insomniacs) who plan to stay up all night to watch the game, here are four questions to keep an eye on:

Who bats third?

Jed Lowrie's departure leaves a huge hole in the middle of the A's lineup. Oakland has a few candidates to fill that void, including newly-acquired second baseman Jurickson Profar. However, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Olson are probably the best options at this point.

With the A's facing left-hander Marco Gonzales in the season opener, expect to see the right-handed hitting Piscotty batting third. If he performs well, it could be his job to lose, though Olson figures to get some opportunities against right-handed pitchers, at least early in the year.

Who starts at catcher?

The A's also lost their starting catcher from last season as Jonathan Lucroy signed with the rival Angels. With Chris Herrmann injured, the starting job will go to either Nick Hundley or Josh Phegley, both of whom performed well in spring training.

Hundley figures to have the edge to start the season due to his better offensive numbers over the years. The 35-year-old has a career OPS of .706, compared to Phegley's .635.

Is Mike Fiers ready to be a number one starter?  

Fiers gets the honor of starting on Opening Day. The 33-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, going 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA between Detroit and Oakland in 2018. He was rewarded with a two-year, $14.1 million contract this offseason.

Throughout his career, Fiers has primarily been a fourth or fifth starter. This year he finally has his chance to be an ace. The right-hander certainly has the right mindset to handle any added pressure, but the A's would like to see him get off to a good start.

A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series

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USATSI

A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series

What does a professional baseball team do when traveling to Japan?

It’s pretty simple for the Oakland A's, who are currently there to open up the 2019 regular season against the Seattle Mariners on March 20 and 21.

-Eat sushi
-Play baseball
-Eat more sushi

The A’s have already played two exhibition games against teams from Japan, and the Japanese crowds are loving the Green and Gold.

A “Let’s go Oakland!” chant even broke out in the middle of a game.

If you feel so inclined to cheer on the A's during their two regular season games in Japan, there will be a watch party (not so) bright and early for first pitch at 2:35 a.m. PT