Athletics

Now with A's, Jurickson Profar reflects on his time with Rangers

Now with A's, Jurickson Profar reflects on his time with Rangers

When Jurickson Profar arrived at Globe Life Park on Friday prior to the A's 8-6 win over the Rangers, it was familiar territory with unfamiliar circumstances.

Profar was acquired by the Oakland A's from the Rangers as part of a three-team deal. Before putting on the Green and Gold, Texas was all he knew. 

"This was home for a long time," Profar told reporters before the game.

The infielder spent five seasons with the Rangers, and is now entrenched as the A's second baseman, so this reunion was bittersweet -- and a bit confusing.

"It's different -- the other side of the building," he said. "It was the first time I got to see the visitor's clubhouse. I've never been in there."

He got a little lost on the opposite side of the park and smiled as he said he had to ask where everything was.

Alas, he saw his former teammates and it appeared he was happy to be "back home."

This was a couple of days after Profar called up his former teammate Adrian Beltre on his birthday. Beltre may have retired, but he was not too busy to give Profar some hitting tips -- and they appeared to have worked. The 26-year-old went 4-for-5 with a home run and five RBI in Tuesday's 13-2 win in Baltimore.

It's understandable Profar misses the Rangers, but I think it's safe to say the A's are more than happy to have him on the team.

Oh, and it has to be said: In Profar's first at-bat against his former team, he hit a double. 

Mike Fiers already 'ahead of schedule' preparing for crucial A's season

Mike Fiers already 'ahead of schedule' preparing for crucial A's season

MESA, Ariz. -- A’s pitchers threw live batting practice on Tuesday morning, the first time they faced hitters this spring. It was clear right away that Mike Fiers was locked in.

That’s a bit unusual for the veteran starter, who takes time to build up toward regular-season form. Fiers normally is near ground zero at this point in the calendar.

Not so this year, and that’s no accident.

“It feels like I’m ahead of schedule,” Fiers said in a Tuesday afternoon conversation with NBC Sports California. “That’s a good feeling, especially for me. I try to time it up so that I’m ready at the end of March. Now I feel like, after pitching two innings (of live BP), getting up and sitting down again, my arm was healthy. That’s important. So is being locked in.

"I felt like, if I was facing another team, I would be pretty much ready to go. Now it’s about building stamina.”

Fiers cranked it up a bit earlier than usual to make up for what he considered a sloppy start to last season.

And, yeah. That’s the reason. This isn’t a direct response to the intense scrutiny Fiers has faced from misguided factions of the baseball industry and loyal-to-a-fault fans after blowing the whistle on Houston’s sign-stealing scandal. He has taken criticism since speaking on the record about the Astros' illegal activities, so much that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred vowed Tuesday to protect Fiers when he enters hostile environments.

Fiers isn’t out to fight flak with strong starts.

Getting ready earlier was a baseball decision. And, yes, this is a baseball story. Fiers only has been referenced lately in regard to the Astros and sign stealing, but let's not forget the man has a job to do. It doesn’t entail answering Astros questions every second of every day. He’s charged with winning games and leading an excellent starting rotation. He takes great pride in that. 

Fiers will be integral to the A’s success this season, and he feels an obligation to start the season stronger than he did in 2019.

“I felt like that first month of last year was rough for me,” Fiers said. “I would be really good and then really bad. I wasn’t consistent. I don’t think I was 100 percent, and that’s on me.”

[RELATED: Why Melvin has sky-high expectations for A's this season]

Fiers made up for it down the stretch, logging career-highs with 15 wins over 184.2 innings. His ERA stayed under 4.00 for a second straight season, leading an A’s rotation that rarely was at full strength.

The 34-year-old saw room for April improvement and wanted to enter early games that count in top form.

“There’s a timing aspect where you don’t want to start too soon but you don’t want to start so late that you’re not ready,” the right-hander said. “Last year I think I wasn’t ready physically and it took a bit longer to find my stride. Those games in April count. Not being ready cost me and this team.”

Fiers pointed to a poor 2019 Opening Day start in Japan as a major mistake. He went just three innings in an odd outing overseas during a two-game international series with the Seattle Mariners before returning to the Cactus League.

“When you feel like you’re being the eight ball, it’s tough,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “With the circumstance we had last year with Japan, playing two games and then returning to spring training mode, maybe you can feel a little rushed.”

Fiers responded well once the regular season began in earnest, without allowing a run over two straight starts. Then came a string of three outings with six earned runs allowed. The A’s lost four of his seven April starts, a sum that proved unacceptable.

“I wanted to start a bit earlier, so I was more ready to pitch in a big league game,” Fiers said. “I felt like that first month of last year was rough for me. I would be really good and then really bad. I wasn’t consistent. I don’t think I was 100 percent, and that’s on me.”

Fiers believes it is 100 percent on him to lead a talented, young rotation through what should be prosperous times.

“It puts pressure on me,” Fiers said. “I want to lead this pitching staff the right way and lead by example. We have a lot of guys here with electric stuff and I want to keep up. I have to go out there and battle, throw strikes and get guys out and go deep into games. Everybody has great stuff, even well above me. It’s about going out and competing and carrying the load.

"They still look to me and rely on me to lead the way. That’s a responsibility I welcome.”

LeBron James speaks out on Rob Manfred's handling of Astros scandal

LeBron James speaks out on Rob Manfred's handling of Astros scandal

The way MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has handled the Astros' cheating scandal left many fans, and players, outraged.

Angels superstar Mike Trout, who isn't one to be controversial or outspoken, said he didn't agree with the lack of punishment toward members of the 2017 Astros team. And on the other side of the country, Yankees slugger Aaron Judge admitted to taking down a photo he shared with Astros second baseman Jose Altuve because he didn't feel it held any meaning anymore. 

The latest athlete to have a say in what's going on in the world of baseball? LeBron James.

Yes, he doesn't play baseball, but the NBA superstar and global icon took to Twitter on Tuesday to make his opinion known.

The extra-long hashtag alone truly shows how the 16-time All-Star and four-time MVP feels on the subject.

At the end of the day, they're all playing sports, and King James wants something to change as well. He explained if he were to go through something similar in the basketball world, he would be just as upset as the rest of the MLB players have shown.

Manfred spoke to the media earlier on Tuesday and addressed the Astros' wrongdoing during that 2017 World Series run.

[RELATED: Fiers says Astros 'cheated as a team']

He complimented A's pitcher Miker Fiers, the "whistleblower" who shed light on the subject back in November. Manfred said Fiers "did a service" for the industry by going on the record, noting that it would have taken longer to clean up the mess this has caused without Fiers coming forward.

The players will continue to be angry if more is not done on the issue.

The ball remains in Manfred's court.