Athletics

Notes: New replay rules pose challenge; A's get green light on bases

Notes: New replay rules pose challenge; A's get green light on bases

MESA, Ariz. — A’s manager Bob Melvin doesn’t foresee a problem with the rule modifications Major League Baseball announced Thursday regarding instant replay, including a 30-second limit on the time in which a manager must decide whether to challenge a call.

“It looks like that’s an issue for managers but it’s not,” Melvin said. “It’s an issue for the video guys, because they’re the ones that report back to us.”

Every team has a person stationed in the clubhouse responsible for examining borderline plays where replay could be an option. That person must quickly communicate to the dugout whether it’s worth challenging a play, and then the manager signals the umpires.

Adam Rhoden, the A’s video coordinator, handles those duties for the A’s. Melvin said the number of replay angles available factors into how quickly a team makes the call on whether to challenge.

“Sometimes the issue is when you get the slow mo, and sometimes there’s more angles than others depending on who’s (broadcasting) the game. As of right now, I don’t see that being a problem. But we’ll see how it goes.”

MLB also is putting a flexible two-minute limit on the time a decision must be handed down by replay officials, although there will be some exceptions to that rule that have yet to be announced.

**

The A’s aren’t known as a team that runs the bases with abandon, but Melvin said pretty much every player has a green light to steal during the spring. He wants players to gain an awareness for how aggressive they can be on the bases without running carelessly into outs.

“You’ll probably see our percentage in the spring (of getting caught) be a little higher,” he said. “We want our guys to find out how far they can go and have some awareness. I want everybody to have an awareness of what they can do. If you give someone a green light who hasn’t had it before, all of a sudden he has an awareness. ‘Is this guy paying attention to me? Is he slower to the plate?’ “I want guys to be aggressive and know what they can do, so you might see a few more guys thrown out in the spring than what we like as a percentage in the regular season.”

The A’s are 2-for-5 in stolen base attempts so far through five games. Rajai Davis is 2-for-2, Franklin Barreto is 0-for-2 and Kenny Wilson is 0-for-1.

Asked about Barreto specifically, Melvin said he thinks the middle infielder has a chance to be a good base stealer in the majors.

“Now, it doesn’t mean you just run” with a green light in the spring, the manager said. “It means you run when you feel like the opportunity is there.”

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In the bullpen, Ryan Madson and John Axford will make their Cactus League debuts Thursday afternoon against the Texas Rangers at Hohokam Stadium. Highly touted prospect Frankie Montas also is scheduled for his first appearance.

Sean Doolittle will throw a bullpen session as he gets closer to his first outing.

Still no word from the A’s on when reliever Santiago Casilla will be cleared to report from the Dominican Republic.

**

Outfielder Jake Smolinski (sore right shoulder) is feeling a bit better and will hit in the cage Thursday, Melvin said.

With playoffs looming, Brett Anderson shows A's a glimmer of hope

With playoffs looming, Brett Anderson shows A's a glimmer of hope

OAKLAND -- In what is now a 10-game season for the Oakland Athletics, every game not started by Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson or Bull J. Pen is essentially a mini-referendum on how manager Bob Melvin decides to set his postseason pitching rotation.
 
Or, to use Melvin’s words after the A’s 10-0 dance party over the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, “We’re obviously going to need than just the two guys, so yeah, I guess you can put it that way.”
 
And then he knocked on the dry wall he was leaning against in the A’s clubhouse to ward off bad juju. The A’s aren’t a playoff team yet, and superstitious old goat that he is, Melvin never leaves anything available for hexing.
 
“That is,” he said, “if we get in.”
 
Enter Brett Anderson, throwing nothing but sliders and sinkers and becoming the first A’s starter in almost a month to reach, let alone get an out, in the seventh inning. In limiting the Angels to three harmless singles and forcing them to pound 12 ground-ball outs, Anderson left an impression that both he and his manager hopes can linger awhile, if only to minimize the temptation to bullpen a playoff game.
 
Knock dry-wall.
 
“It was good to be a reason we were winning instead of a reason we were losing,” Anderson said, referencing his skittish start in Baltimore against the laughable Orioles a week ago. “Tonight, it was pretty much just having early control and quick outs.”
 
And a six-run fourth inning doesn’t hurt, either. Two two-run doubles by Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty jumped Angels starter Felix Pena, followed up an inning later by Piscotty’s three-run homer off Parker Bridwell, gave Anderson all the cover he could have wanted, and the rest was him showing Melvin that he can be a trustworthy part of a playoff rotation.
 
Knock dry-wall.
 
“It’s been hard (to extend starters into a third swing through the opposition order) the way we’re set up,” Melvin said, “but Brett was just so efficient tonight. I think he threw two breaking balls the whole night, and I thought he had a pretty good one in the bullpen.”
 
Pitching coach Scott Emerson thought it might have been three, and Anderson barely remembers any. But the two pitches Anderson did favor were more than plenty to stop the trickle of blood caused by a three-game losing streak and the refusals of either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays to lose when the A’s need them to do so the most.
 
As it was, the A’s whittled one unit off their magic number for clinching a playoff by taking matters into their own hands, and moved back to four behind Houston, which lost to Seattle. Thus, the earliest they can clinch their place in October would be Saturday, and that presumes that the Rays will ever lose again, which in their present state may simply be too much to conceive.
 
So let’s just say that the A’s will have to do what must be done without the kindnesses of the strangers closest to them in the standings. Let’s also say that the most important of the 10 important games left will be the ones in which either Anderson (this coming Monday in Seattle and Sunday in Los Angeles) or Trevor Cahill (Friday against Minnesota and Wednesday in Seattle) start. I mean, bullpenning is a kicky little way to get through a day here or there, but the playoffs are a difficult time to go experimental. Besides, the wild card game is essentially a bullpenning game anyway if the starter struggles early.
 
And with that last reference to the postseason, we take our nightly leave of Oakland, where Bob Melvin is frantically knocking on his desk, which is made of actual wood rather than mere dry-wall. He is nothing is not devoted to his superstitions.

Stephen Piscotty drives in five, A's crush Angels to snap losing streak

Stephen Piscotty drives in five, A's crush Angels to snap losing streak

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Stephen Piscotty hit a three-run homer and matched his career high with five RBIs, and the Oakland Athletics beat the Los Angeles Angels 10-0 on Wednesday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

Oakland moved within four games of first-place Houston in the AL West and stayed 2 1/2 behind the New York Yankees for the top wild card. The A's are 5 1/2 games ahead of streaking Tampa Bay for the second wild card with 10 to play.

Jed Lowrie and Piscotty each hit a two-run double in a six-run fourth inning to back Brett Anderson (4-5).

Ramon Laureano added an RBI single and a sacrifice fly for the A's, who had lost four of five.

Anderson pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up three hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Three relievers finished the four-hitter as Oakland's 14th shutout of the season took just 2 hours, 23 minutes.

Anderson delivered the longest outing by an A's starter in 26 games, becoming the first to go more than six innings during that stretch - which has included manager Bob Melvin starting games with a reliever who works just one inning before giving way to a regular starter. The 25 straight games with a starter going six or fewer innings was the second-longest in franchise history.

The left-hander made his second start since coming off the disabled list and taking the loss last Thursday in Baltimore, where he lasted only 3 1/3 innings. He has walked one or fewer batters in each of his past 10 starts, with just five free passes over 54 2/3 innings during that stretch.

Anderson retired his first eight batters and got through the second inning on five pitches.

Angels starter Felix Pena (3-5) was done after the fourth, allowing six runs on six hits with three strikeouts and a walk. The right-hander retired his first nine batters.

Los Angeles shortstop Sherman Johnson made his major league debut in the sixth for the Angels, who were shut out for the 10th time.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Angels: RF Kole Calhoun, who was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts a night earlier, had the day off. ... Rookie 2B and utilityman David Fletcher, who exited Sunday's game against Seattle in the first inning with a strained left hamstring, missed a second straight game and won't be rushed back.

Athletics: RHP Trevor Cahill, scratched from his scheduled Saturday start at Tampa Bay with a strain in his upper back before getting trigger-point injections, threw a 35-pitch bullpen and could start this weekend against the Twins if everything feels right Thursday. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow. If he feels good tomorrow, then we'll probably slot him in some point in time on the weekend," Melvin said. ... LHP Sean Manaea had arthroscopic shoulder surgery performed by Dr. Neil ElAttrache in Los Angeles that included posterior labral repair. The A's said Manaea will begin his rehab program Monday in Arizona.

UP NEXT:
Angels: RHP Matt Shoemaker (2-1, 3.98 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season after returning Sept. 3 from a strained right forearm. He is 6-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 13 career appearances (12 starts) against the A's.

Athletics: RHP Edwin Jackson (5-3, 3.17) beat the Angels in a 7-0 A's road win on Aug. 11.