Athletics

A's spring training Day 37: Triggs strengthens his bid for rotation spot

A's spring training Day 37: Triggs strengthens his bid for rotation spot

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Last year Andrew Triggs was one of an assembly line of starting pitchers the A’s ran out to the mound after injuries took their toll.

This spring, Triggs looks ready to assume a more instrumental role. On Wednesday, he stepped up with his best effort of the spring in Oakland’s 5-3 victory over the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

He fared well against a Chicago lineup saturated with left-handed hitters. He commanded his fastball. His curve had bite to it. And with his cutter lacking, Triggs kept hitters off-balance with his changeup and threw five innings of three-hit ball. He gave up two runs, struck out four and didn’t issue a walk.

In short, it was everything manager Bob Melvin needed to see as he evaluates whether this late-blooming right-hander is ready for the starting rotation.

“This was his best outing so far,” Melvin said. “His best command, sharpest breaking ball. He had good movement on his fastball. Once you’re getting out there to 75-80 pitches, you’ve got a chance to not only evaluate performance, there’s endurance involved. Everything.”

Triggs, 28, had surrendered six runs in just 3 2/3 innings his last time out against Cleveland. He was much more efficient Wednesday.

“I felt like I had a pretty good feel for most everything in the arsenal,” he said.

Most of Triggs’ major league work last season, in his first taste of the bigs, came in relief. If he’s to pitch every fifth day in 2017, he needs to show he can retire lefties consistently, and remain effective two and three times through a batting order.

Catcher Stephen Vogt believes Triggs has the repertoire to do that.

“The nice part about a four-pitch mix is very rarely are you gonna have all four on any given night. So if two go away, you've got two more to back it up,” Vogt said. “Today his cutter, usually one of his better pitches, wasn’t that great. He needed to rely more on the changeup and he did.

“Then he gets those swings and misses with the big breaking ball. It’s fun to make the crowd kind of ‘woo.’ It’s always a good sign.”

STOCK RISING: Another pitcher who helped his cause Wednesday was Frankie Montas, who struck out four over two scoreless innings to seal the victory.

“He continues to do what he continues to do,” Melvin said. “He’s throwing more and more breaking balls too.”

In Montas’ four outings, he’s allowed just one earned run over eight innings for a 1.13 ERA. He’s struck out nine and walked one. In light of Melvin saying his bullpen could use a reliever that can handle multiple innings, Montas has positioned himself squarely in the conversation for a 25-man roster spot.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s have collected 10 doubles over their last two games, and Wednesday they jumped ahead with big offense early once again. Ryon Healy went 2-for-3 with an RBI and is hitting .359. Vogt is also swinging it well. He doubled home two runs in the first and is batting .324.

FAMILIAR FACE: : Tyler Ladendorf, who spent the previous seven-plus seasons in the A’s organization, entered mid-game at shortstop for the Sox and struck out in his only at-bat. Ladendorf signed with Chicago on a minor league deal earlier this spring.

ODDS AND ENDS: With their 13th victory, the A’s (13-10) eclipsed their win total from all of last spring with 11 games still to go. … Sonny Gray (strained lat muscle) felt good a day after playing catch for the first time in two weeks. He was set to do so again Wednesday. … Rajai Davis (1-for-3) scored two runs and notched his fifth stolen base. … Ryan Madson gave up a run in his one inning of work. His ERA is 7.50 through six outings. He’s allowed 10 hits over six innings. … Santiago Casilla, in his fourth appearance, threw a scoreless inning with one hit and one walk.

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Sweeping '89 WS vs Winning '74 WS

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AP

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Sweeping '89 WS vs Winning '74 WS

PROGRAMMING NOTE: NBC Sports California is looking back at the A's 50 Memorable Moments since the franchise relocated to Oakland in 1968. Below are the next two moments you can vote on. Tune into A's Pregame Live today at 6:30 p.m. to watch highlights of the two moments. After the A's and Twins conclude on Friday, tune into A's Postgame Live to see which moment emerges as champion!

1. A's sweep Giants in 1989 Earthquake World Series (Three-time winner -- Defeated Winning 1973 World Series)

(From 1989 World Series MVP Dave Stewart)

Fortunate for us, we played the Giants a lot in spring training, and we beat the crap out of them in spring training, so we were real comfortable playing against them.

I knew I was going to be the Game 1 starter, and I wanted to give it my best shot and put my best foot forward. i ended up shutting them out, then Mike Moore comes back the next night and we end up beating them in Game 2. Then we have the 10-day layoff because of the earthquake. We go to Arizona, we find out we're going to start playing again, and Tony (La Russa) gives me the news that we're going to go Game 3 and Game 4 with the same guys we started with, which I was glad to hear.

Game 3, I pitched extremely well again, deep in the game and then we swept them the next game. So to win the MVP, I really had mixed emotions about it because Rickey Henderson played really, really well, putting on an offensive show for the whole World Series. And Rickey and I are best friends and I had said in the postgame interview that i would split the trophy with Rickey because we both played well.

After everything that had happened with the earthquake, I was pretty involved with the rescue missions too. It was one ball of emotions, wininng (the World Series), being from the Bay Area, the earthquake, helping out with the rescue missions, it was just a really, really good feeling.

There was a while lot of crap talking going on before the series. I remember the mayor of San Francisco saying that we weren't even worthy of being in the World Series. That kind of lit the fire.

I think the Giants would say it if they were being honest, they knew we were the better team coming in there, so coming in and beat the Giants, we expected to do it and there was pleasure in doing it because we really showed who was the best team in the Bay Area.

VS.

2. A's go back-to-back-to-back in 1974 and win third straight World Series 

(From then-A's catcher Ray Fosse)

VOTE HERE:

Stephen Piscotty's case for AL Comeback Player of the Year honors

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AP

Stephen Piscotty's case for AL Comeback Player of the Year honors

Contrary to popular belief, MLB's Comeback Player of the Year Award is not reserved solely for players returning from injury. The award simply goes to the American League and National League players who have best “re-emerged on the baseball field during a given season.”

By that definition (and with a nod to Brodie Brazil for the inspiration), A's outfielder Stephen Piscotty deserves serious consideration.

In 2016, Piscotty slashed .273/.343/.457 with 22 home runs, 35 doubles, 85 RBI, and 3.0 WAR as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The following May, his mother Gretchen was diagnosed with ALS, and baseball was suddenly an afterthought. Understandably, Piscotty's numbers dipped in 2017, as he slashed .235/.342/.367 with just nine home runs, 16 doubles, 39 RBI, and 0.6 WAR. How he even put up those stats, given what he was going through, is incredible.

Following the 2017 season, the Cardinals and A's combined to create one of the most heartwarming sports stories in recent memory, agreeing to a trade that would bring Piscotty home to Northern California so he could care for his mother and be with his family. Sadly, Gretchen passed away in May of 2018 at the age of 55.

After grieving for his mother and celebrating her life, Piscotty has been able to refocus on baseball and find a rhythm with the A's. And it has shown. The 27-year-old is slashing .265/.321/.481, setting career-highs with 24 home runs and 39 doubles, along with 76 RBI and 2.1 WAR.

That's an increase of 15 home runs and 23 doubles from 2017 to 2018, and the season is not over yet. Even more impressive, Piscotty has hit 21 home runs since June 13, third most in the American League. He has also played excellent defense in right field, making numerous highlight reel catches throughout the season.

There are certainly other qualified candidates in the AL, including Gerrit Cole, David Price, and Matt Duffy. Cole has improved his ERA from 4.26 last season to 2.88 this year. Price has recovered from elbow troubles to go 15-6 with a 3.42 ERA. Duffy is hitting .297 after missing all of last season.

But none of them have been through what Piscotty has. Throughout this entire devastating period, he has shown tremendous poise and mental toughness. A's manager Bob Melvin has said Piscotty has an angel on his shoulders now. Based on his performance, that's hard to argue.