Athletics

A's spring training Day 31: Pinder will get a look in the outfield

A's spring training Day 31: Pinder will get a look in the outfield

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — He’s played all over the infield in his career.

Now Chad Pinder will have his duties expanded even more.

The A’s will look to give the utility man some time in the outfield, trying to pave an easier path to a full-time spot in the majors. Oakland is stocked with young players at third base and second base. Marcus Semien is entrenched at shortstop, with 2015 first-round pick Richie Martin progressing through the pipeline too.

The A’s think highly of Pinder’s bat. He got his first taste of the majors in September, but it’s tough to envision how he fits into the current major league mix.

So the A’s will utilize the “V” word — versatility — that they love so much.

“I think if you’re looking at the next ‘Rosie’ type guy in our organization, it could be Pinder,” manager Bob Melvin said, referencing jack-of-all-positions player Adam Rosales.

Given the surplus of infielders — and relative lack of prime outfield prospects — in the A’s farm sytem, it makes sense to experiment. Renato Nunez, a young third baseman whose bat is ahead of his glove, will see time in left field now that he’s been sent to minor league camp.

HEALTH UPDATE: Stephen Vogt was back behind the plate for the first time in a week after being hindered by right heel soreness. His mobility got tested very early, when he hustled out a double in the top of the first.

“It was a good day,” Vogt said. “It felt very good. I had to work a little bit behind the plate too.”

NOTEWORTHY: Ryon Healy smoked a two-run homer deep on the grass in left-center at Goodyear Ballpark, the most impressive blast of the three home runs the A’s hit in a 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians. It was the third spring homer for Healy, who leads the A’s with 12 RBI.

Franklin Barreto and Rosales also went deep.

CAMP BATTLE: Andrew Triggs started on the hill for Oakland and labored through a three-run first that included lots of hard contact. He steadied himself over the next two innings but got touched for three more runs in the fourth and was done after 3 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on five hits and two walks.

“Obviously I wasn’t happy with the results,” Triggs said. “Once we settled, the fastball command was better. … You work yourself into lousy counts, you can’t expect to have a whole lot of success. My goal coming in was to get to the fifth and I didn’t do that, so that’s what I was frustrated about.”

On the bright side, Triggs faced the dangerous Edwin Encarnacion twice and struck him out both times. The A’s made a big-time run at Encarnacion in the winter but lost out to Cleveland for the slugging first baseman.

Triggs, trying to win a rotation spot, hadn’t given up more than one earned run in any of his previous three outings.

FAMILIAR FACE: Former A’s reliever Dan Otero threw a scoreless inning against his old team. It was Otero’s first time facing Vogt since he joined the Indians’ bullpen last season. He coaxed a pop out.

“We were smiling, texting back and forth last night saying ‘I hope we get it out of the way during spring training,’” Vogt said. “He’s one of my best friends in all of baseball.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Lefty Ross Detwiler, who got knocked around in his previous outing, rebounded with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. … Jharel Cotton threw in a Triple-A game Wednesday as the A’s were off. He went four-plus innings and allowed a run, getting his pitch count up over 70.

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.