Athletics

A's spring training Day 28: Hahn stating his case for rotation spot

A's spring training Day 28: Hahn stating his case for rotation spot

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — He entered camp as one of the A’s players with the most to prove, and so far Jesse Hahn is delivering.

The right-hander fired four scoreless innings Monday, one of the lone bright spots in Oakland’s 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds that snapped the A’s six-game winning streak.

Hahn has a 3.12 ERA in three appearances (two starts), but that doesn’t include a scoreless three innings against Team Italy, which doesn’t count toward his official Cactus League stats. Include that outing, and Hahn has surrendered just three runs in 11 2/3 innings, with 11 strikeouts and two walks.

“That’s the way we expect Jesse to pitch,” manager Bob Melvin said of Monday’s outing. “Even if he has to back off the throttle on fastball velocity, the sink is what made him successful two years ago, so it was good to see. The ball was down in the zone, he was getting a lot of balls beat into the ground. And when we’ve seen him in the past pitch well, that’s what he’s done.”

Though Melvin wouldn’t address it directly, Hahn is pitching his way into strong consideration for one of the two available spots that exist in the A’s rotation in light of Sonny Gray’s injury. Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton line up as the top three starters, with Graveman setting up well to get the Opening Night call on April 3 against the Angels. Melvin hasn’t made an announcement yet.

Regarding Hahn’s rotation candidacy, Melvin offered only: “We’ve got a long way to go, but he came into camp with that in mind, and certainly what he did a couple years ago would suggest he’s got the ability to pitch well at the big league level.”

Hahn posted a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts for Oakland in 2015 but fell on hard times last year, failing to make the club out of spring training and seeing his ERA rise to 6.02 in nine major league starts.

NOTEWORTHY: Graveman started against the Reds and went 3 2/3 innings, his day spoiled on his last pitch, when Brandon Dixon hit an elevated fastball for a two-run homer in the fourth that gave Cincinnati a 3-0 lead.

Other than that, Graveman was pleased with his ability to mix in some breaking balls and changeups effectively. He allowed four hits and three runs, with one strikeout and one walk.

Last season, Graveman hit his stride when he began showing confidence in his sinker and throwing it often. Figure he’ll ride that strength heavily again if the sinker is dialed in, but the right-hander also sees the value in his off-speed pitches.

“Today was the first day (this spring) we flipped the lineup a time or two,” he said. “The third time facing some of these guys, you realize they’ve seen a lot of fastballs. I think you can start getting ahead of hitters with some off-speed stuff.”

LIGHTER SIDE: Somehow, Trevor Plouffe’s No. 3 jersey never made it to Goodyear, and the A’s third baseman wound up taking the field wearing No. 94. That made Plouffe look primed to rush a quarterback, but on a serious note, he made a nifty barehand pick-up and throw to first to retire Dilson Herrera in the fifth.

ODDS AND ENDS: Non-roster outfielder Chris Parmelee homered in the ninth to help the A’s avoid a shutout. They mustered just three hits in a game that wrapped in a tidy 2 hours, 15 minutes. … Reliever Sean Doolittle remains on target to make his first Cactus League appearance Tuesday against the Rockies in Mesa.

 

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.