Athletics

A's release struggling pitcher Marco Estrada after constant back issues

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USATSI

A's release struggling pitcher Marco Estrada after constant back issues

OAKLAND -- The A's have released starting pitcher Marco Estrada after less than one full season with the team.

Estrada, 36, has been on the injured list since April 17 with a lumbar strain. He made a handful of rehab appearances with various A's minor-league affiliates, but his long-lasting back issues have not gone away.

Estrada signed a one-year, $4 million contract with Oakland on January 25 and began the season as the team's No. 2 starter. However, the right-hander struggled in five outings, going 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA before being placed on the IL.

With Sean Manaea nearing a return and several other bullpen options ahead of him, Estrada didn't fit on the A's pitching staff, even in September when rosters expand. One of those bullpen options, left-hander A.J. Puk, was promoted to the majors on Tuesday.

Since Estrada was on the 60-day IL, his release does not open a 40-man roster spot, which remains full at 40.

A's Matt Chapman is 'definitely frustrated' due to summer camp delays

A's Matt Chapman is 'definitely frustrated' due to summer camp delays

A’s position players have only been working out since Monday night, and they had to wait a while in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot just to get in the building for the first time. Delayed test results slowed things down and put the A’s a bit behind the competition in terms of time to prepare for the 2020 baseball season.

With only three weeks to prepare, every practice is precious. Manager Bob Melvin recalls being anxious over the wait.

Star third baseman Matt Chapman was definitely bothered by it, a sentiment he expressed in a Thursday video conference with the press.

“Definitely frustrated. I know this is uncharted territory for everyone, including MLB, front offices and players. You like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it is frustrating from a player’s standpoint,” Chapman said. “This year, we feel like we have a really good ballclub and we have a chance to make a run. With the short season, anything can happen, so we know how valuable every single day is in training [camp].

“We were frustrated that we weren’t able to start on [July 1]. You look around the league and other teams are starting training on the 1st and guys were flying into cities days prior to that to get tested and make sure they were on top of it. We were disappointed that our organization took those extra few days and it ended up costing us even more than a few days when we were all ready to go on July 1. We’re on the field now and that’s all that matters. That’s all we can control. We want to move forward.”

While MLB has incurred some hiccups getting test results back in time for all workouts – the Giants, for example, had to temporarily pause proceedings over delayed test results -- Chapman didn’t absolve the A’s themselves.

“I think that it’s an honest mistake, but I think that had we been a little more proactive getting guys to town a little earlier like some other organizations did and gotten testing done a couple of days before [July 1]I think there wouldn’t have been a testing delay because we wouldn’t have even cut it that close.

“It’s not anybody’s fault per se but, when you wait until the last minute to do things, eventually things are going to catch up to you. We would’ve liked to have seen them be a little more proactive and get us out there early and be more well prepared for when things were given the green light to go.”

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The A’s had a bit more prep work to do given the Oakland Coliseum’s constraints. The A’s were given the green light to start preparing Oakland Coliseum for a training camp until June 26 and the A’s equipment truck didn’t show up until June 29, per the San Francisco Chronicle. The facility needed some major work in terms of sanitation and preparation for a training camp. That included preparing the old Raiders locker room for the A's, an expanded dining facility and getting a weight room and intake facilities built under tents in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot. 

The A’s position players were tested Friday, per Bay Area News Group, in hopes of working out Sunday. Shipping delays, further complicated by the Fourth of July holiday, slowed things down and created some frustration.

“I know they were doing everything they can,” Chapman said. “I’m not trying to point the finger at anybody. It’s a weird situation and there’s a lot more things that go into a season this year than just getting guys to show up. I understand that, but from a team standpoint, we want to be given every single opportunity that the other teams were given knowing that everyday matters. We’re not just some other team. We think we’re one of the best teams in the big leagues and we want to have all the same opportunities and chances.”

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That’s important to Chapman and the A’s, who rightfully believe they have a shot to win the World Series. While they were delayed a bit, the third baseman knows taking advantage of the time afforded is the focus now.

“I don’t think that we’re going to dwell on that and let it affect us,” Chapman said. “We don’t have a choice. We have to continue to move forward with the season and we can’t let five or six days set us back even more. We have to take advantage of the time we have. I think our team is really good about not focusing on the negatives and focusing on the positives and try to make the most of the situation we’re in. We know it’s going to be a weird year no matter what. A lot of things got thrown at us in 2020. We just have to keep rolling with it.”

Ramón Laureano: Everything to know about A's do-it-all outfielder

Ramón Laureano: Everything to know about A's do-it-all outfielder

One thing that most of us reading this never will have to do is test Ramón Laureano's defense in center field. We can thank our lucky stars for that.

He also had possibly one of the best catches of the season in 2019 when -- well, just watch:

Shameless NBC Sports California plug aside, Laureano made that catch look easy, robbing Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto of a home run in the process.

So we know he can catch, he can throw, he can hit and do all of the typical baseball things. But what else?

The numbers

It has to be said we have yet to see the best of Laureano.

The 25-year-old slashed .288/.340/.521 last season which, was good for an .860 OPS.

Then there’s that arm. 

Laureano is properly nicknamed “Lazor” for the way he’s able to dart a ball from the deepest point of center field to anywhere there was a runner attempting to get an extra bag.

It was one night in August 2018 against the Los Angeles Angels when an “Oh my God!” was shouted by NBC Sports California’s Dallas Braden on the broadcast to see Laureano throw from center TO FIRST BASE for a double play. At 321 feet, it had been the longest throw to complete a double play in the Statcast era.


The background

Born in the Dominican Republic, Laureano was drafted out of Northeast Oklahoma A&M in the 16th round of the MLB draft by the Houston Astros in 2014, and was traded to the A’s in 2017 for minor leaguer Brandon Bailey. He made his A’s big league debut on Aug. 3, 2018, against Detroit. 

When Laureano was a younger prospect, he was compared to another Astros youngster Teoscar Hernandez in a scouting report by MLB Pipeline in 2017, but was said to be more of a “pure hitter" with less power potential. He was also called an “above average defender,” which we already knew.

If you’re a fantasy baseball player, he’s also listed as a top-30 outfielder heading into the 2020 season.

Now for the important stuff

Long-time friend of Laureano, Ricky Rivera, gave NBC Sports California some details about the star-studded outfielder’s off-the-field hobbies.

During quarantine, Laureano picked up golf and really wanted to perfect his craft at playing the video game MLB: The Show. He was playing the game a lot during quarantine to pass the time and had a group of eight or so guys get together and play. It sounds like it got quite competitive as well.

He’s also a dog lover, as Rivera described. Which at first, he didn’t think was a very random fact about Laureano, but we can all agree dog people are the best people.

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If you look anywhere for content written about Laureano, one notion that sticks out is his work ethic. In an interview with Rivera, who played with him at Northeast Oklahoma A&M, he said even though they were on the same team, Laureano would arrive at practice hours earlier. He was probably also the last one to leave.

“He’s always working out or talking baseball,” Rivera said.

It shows.