Athletics

New A's ballpark likely wouldn't be as pitcher-friendly as Coliseum

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USATSI

New A's ballpark likely wouldn't be as pitcher-friendly as Coliseum

With all the speculation about where the A’s will build their new ballpark, much less attention has been given to the potential characteristics of the playing field itself.

It appears all of that vast foul territory that is a hallmark of the Coliseum — and such a safety net for pitchers — will be left in the past.

A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said he anticipates the foul ground to be reduced considerably once the A’s start designing the playing surface in a potential new ballpark.

“I think most people would say that you’re trying to create intimacy, so minimizing foul territory is probably the direction most teams and stadiums have gone and are gonna continue to go,” Beane told NBC Sports California. “You want to create an experience for fans that’s as close to the field (as possible).

“Some of that is stuff, it’s utilitarian — what’s the advantage baseball-wise for us? (But) what we would consider as baseball guys, (team president) Dave (Kaval) will be looking at from the fan standpoint.”

Before any of this becomes a factor, the A’s first need to announce their location in Oakland to build. Kaval says that will happen before this calendar year ends. The three locations being considered: one right across the street from the Laney College baseball field, just off Interstate 880; the Howard Terminal site that’s a short walk from Jack London Square; and the current Coliseum site.

Beane said in-depth conversations about the playing field itself have yet to take place, such as the outfield dimensions, location of the bullpens, etc. But he talks as if a much smaller foul territory is a given, and that would mark a significant change for the A’s when they play at home.

Seats at the Coliseum are located so far back from the field, and that spacious foul ground makes the venue arguably the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the majors. Pitchers who join the A’s often comment on the foul territory being a huge positive in their decision to sign with Oakland.

Of course, there’s a flip side. Free agent hitters who get frustrated that so many Coliseum at-bats result in foul pop-outs might view the A’s more favorably if they provide a more hitter-friendly home ballpark.

Beane said he believes he and his baseball operations staff will definitely get their say in what characteristics they want the new field to have. But creating a cozier atmosphere, with fans sitting closer to the action, is a key element for the A’s wherever they build.

“To take fans farther away from the game in this day and age would probably be crazy,” Beane said. “… I think we’re all gonna be on the same page. When you get a new stadium, the reason you build it is to get people to come watch games. You have to keep in mind that the fan experience is probably the first thing.”

Mike Fiers makes case to start AL wild-card game in A's win vs. Rangers

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AP

Mike Fiers makes case to start AL wild-card game in A's win vs. Rangers

OAKLAND -- I guess it's safe to say that Mike Fiers' hand feels just fine.

After leaving his last start early with numbness in his pitching hand, the right-hander responded with eight scoreless innings Saturday night, allowing just two hits with five strikeouts, as the A's shut out the Rangers, 8-0.

"I felt fine," Fiers confirmed after the game. "Just a sigh of relief that everything was good, so now (I have) peace of mind that I can go back out there and pitch."

Fiers improved to 15-4 on the season, marking the most wins by an A's pitcher since Scott Kazmir won 15 in 2014. He also looked like the Mike Fiers we've seen for most of the year, following three straight disappointing outings where he allowed 16 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings.

"The last three starts haven't been ideal, so I wanted to show these guys I've still got it," Fiers said. "When you have those starts back-to-back-to-back, only going one inning in two of those games, it just looks bad. It's a bad look. Everyone's throwing well, so if I do that, it might set in their mind that, 'Hey, we need to get this guy some more work.' So coming out today, I needed to make a statement and show them I could still pitch and (I'm) still the guy out there fighting."

Fiers, 34, has been especially effective at the Coliseum this season. In 16 home starts, he has gone 9-1 with a 2.54 ERA.

"(He has) a lot of confidence," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "When he takes the mound here, you know he feels good, and the numbers would suggest that. It's a really good ballpark for him. When he's got all his pitches going like he did tonight -- his slider and changeup with his fastball and curveball -- he's a tough guy to deal with."

"I like pitching here. I feel comfortable," Fiers said. "The weather's great. It's not humid. It just feels like home and I love pitching here. I think the confidence is just a little bit higher. I love it here."

[RELATED: Beane vows to enjoy playoff run]

That certainly makes Fiers an intriguing option to start the AL Wild Card Game, especially if it's in Oakland. While the A's lead the Rays and Indians by just two games in that race, Fiers admits to looking forward to that opportunity.

"Everyone wants to make it tough on Bob (Melvin) to choose who it's going to be or what plan we're going to go with," Fiers said. "But it's all about winning that game today."

A's vs. Rangers lineups: Mike Fiers makes first start since hand issue

A's vs. Rangers lineups: Mike Fiers makes first start since hand issue

OAKLAND -- The A's open their final home series of the regular season Friday night when they welcome the Texas Rangers to the Coliseum.

Oakland swept the Rangers last weekend in Texas to improve to 11-5 in the season series. The A's enter Friday's action with a two-game lead in the AL wild-card race, ahead of both Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

Right-hander Mike Fiers will get the start for Oakland after leaving his last outing in Texas with numbness in his right hand. The 34-year-old had an MRI earlier this week, which came back clean, and he felt fine during Tuesday's bullpen session.

For the season, Fiers is 14-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 31 starts. In 12 career games against Texas, he is 3-3 with a 6.50 ERA.

The Rangers will counter with left-hander Mike Minor. The 31-year-old is 13-9 with a 3.33 ERA this season, but the A's knocked him around for seven earned runs in five innings his last time out. Minor is 2-3 with a 4.83 ERA in eight career appearances against Oakland.

The A's have loaded up their lineup with right-handed bats, as they typically do when facing southpaws. First baseman Matt Olson is the only left-hander in the lineup, batting third.

Here are the full lineups for the A's-Rangers game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. PT, with first pitch at 7:07

Texas Rangers (74-79)
DH Shin-Soo Choo
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Willie Calhoun
RF Nomar Mazara
3B Danny Santana 
2B Rougned Odor
1B Ronald Guzmán
CF Delino DeShields
C Jose Trevino
LHP Mike Minor (13-9, 3.33 ERA)

Oakland A's (92-61)
SS Marcus Semien
3B Matt Chapman
1B Matt Olson
CF Mark Canha 
RF Ramón Laureano 
DH Khris Davis
C Sean Murphy
LF Chad Pinder
2B Sheldon Neuse
RHP Mike Fiers (14-4, 4.09 ERA)