Athletics

A's spring training Day 17: Hahn shines in win over Rangers

A's spring training Day 17: Hahn shines in win over Rangers

MESA, Ariz. — Jesse Hahn threw three scoreless innings Thursday in a 5-1 A’s victory over the Texas Rangers, a strong early statement in his bid for Oakland’s fifth starter spot.

The right-hander became the first A’s starter to complete three innings in the early going of the Cactus League schedule. After giving up Delino DeShields’ single to lead off the game, Hahn struck out three in a row to end the first and followed up with a 1-2-3 second. He stranded a runner on third in his final inning and finished with three hits allowed and zero walks. “I’m just going out there to compete,” Hahn said. “That’s my goal this spring is to get a spot in the rotation, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to try to achieve that.”

Catcher Stephen Vogt liked the four-pitch mix Hahn had going with his fastball, curve, changeup and slider, and manager Bob Melvin was pleased with Hahn’s work out of the stretch, noting the right-hander utilized his slide step occasionally without any signal from the dugout.

“He did some really good things today in the stretch, was quicker to the plate,” Melvin said. “He threw his breaking pitches out of the stretch for strikes. I thought he threw the ball really well.”

But the No. 5 starter battle is no runaway. Raul Alcantara, who is out of minor league options, pitched in relief and gave up one run over three innings, striking out two and walking one.

If those two remain on the same turn pitching, Melvin said he’ll probably flip-flop them at some point so Alcantara gets a chance to make a start. Andrew Triggs is another primary contender to be the fifth starter.

NOTEWORTHY: Two veteran relievers were slated to make their exhibition debuts Thursday, but only one did.

John Axford looked rusty with his command, walking two in his inning of work but emerging unscored upon with help from a double-play grounder. That will be his only outing before he leaves Sunday to join Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic.

Ryan Madson’s debut was pushed back because he’s experiencing some “general arm soreness” according to Melvin, who didn’t sound overly concerned.

The A’s still don’t have a firm read on when Santiago Casilla will arrive, due to a prolonged visa process in the Dominican Republic.

If you’re wondering where Thursday’s good news was regarding the A’s four options for closer, it came with Sean Doolittle, who felt very encouraged after a 30-pitch bullpen session in which he threw his slider and changeup for the first time in camp. He said he’ll throw at least one more time off the mound before possibly getting into a game.

PROSPECT WATCH: Reliever Frankie Montas also made his Cactus League debut, throwing two scoreless innings and hitting 97 and 98 on the radar gun, according to Melvin. Montas has been brought along slowly this spring coming off an injury-plagued season. The A’s plan to get a look at him as a starter, though his pitch count is unlikely to be built up enough to where he draws a spring training start.

ICYMI: Axford recalled in vivid detail the chaos of being in the middle of the Canada-Mexico brawl in the 2013 WBC. Also, check out this feature on catcher Bruce Maxwell, who has enjoyed his stint as a volunteer coach for a Phoenix-area high school team.

ODDS AND ENDS: The A’s got all the offense they would need in a two-run first against the Rangers. Rajai Davis lined a single and scored on Marcus Semien’s RBI double. Ryon Healy’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0. … Jaycob Brugman started in left field and had a two-run single in the sixth.

Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

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Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

OAKLAND – It really was a freak injury. One swing of the bat, a seemingly inconsequential foul ball.

But during Thursday's loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Matt Olson knew right away something was wrong.

"I generally have a pretty high pain tolerance," the A's first baseman said Sunday. "I couldn't grip the bat when I came back (to the dugout) so I knew something was up."

It turned out Olson had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He underwent hamate excision surgery Friday in Los Angeles, and will be out indefinitely.

"It sucks," Olson admitted. "The timing of it is good and bad. Good because I get five or six days here to get ahead, but it sucks because it's the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point."

A's manager Bob Melvin added: "There are certain guys who you feel like are a little more replaceable than others. He's a tough one. ... He makes everybody in the infield better. All you've got to do is get it over in his direction. He's got a wide wingspan and he picks everything out of the dirt.

"It's tough not having him out there, but that's why we have a Mark Canha, a (Jurickson) Profar, and a Chad Pinder. It gives somebody else an opportunity."

Olson was not given a timetable for his return, but he noted a wide variance in other players with the same injury, anywhere from four to eight weeks. While he's obviously disappointed, he believes the team can survive without him.

"We've got guys -- Canha, Pinder, (Franklin) Barreto, and Profar -- all of those guys are very established and have good at-bats," Olson said. "They're guys who are going to get more at-bats because of it. I don't think it's a bad thing. It sucks for me, but I'm glad these guys are going to get a little more regular playing time."

[RELATED: A's have options at first base in light of Olson injury]

Although he hasn't missed any games yet, Olson joked he has already experienced the effects of sporting a cast on his right hand in his everyday life.

"I had to go to the store today to get stuff for my apartment. I got a ton of stuff. Then I got to the apartment complex, and thought I was going to have to make like five trips because I can only carry things with one hand," he laughed.

As Olson adjusts to life with just one functional hand, the A's must adjust to life without Olson's powerful bat in the lineup and his slick glove in the field. In both cases, it will be a difficult process.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.