Athletics

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

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)