Athletics

A's spring training Day 5: Rainfall makes for short workout

A's spring training Day 5: Rainfall makes for short workout

MESA, Ariz. — The rain indeed hit Saturday, cutting into the A’s plans for the morning.

They wound up sending a group of pitchers from the minor league facility back to Hohokam Stadium to get their throwing in. But by the time the A’s called it a day shortly before 10:30 a.m., manager Bob Melvin said everyone who was scheduled to throw off the mound got to do so.

Sunday’s forecast calls for possible rain to throw another wrench in things. But the weekend’s weather predictions haven’t exactly been spot-on with the timing of showers, so who knows how it will unfold as Oakland hits the field for its first official full-squad workout of 2017.

The workout will begin about 11 a.m. at the minor league facility (Lew Wolff Training Complex) if the current plans hold.

HEALTH UPDATE: Sean Doolittle said there’s no timetable yet for him to throw off a mound for the first time in camp. Part of that caution stems from last spring. Doolittle, who’s been sidelined for big portions of the past two seasons with shoulder issues, went full bore from the start of camp last year, then had to back off for a bit in the middle of camp and then cram several game appearances into the final stage of exhibitions to ensure he was ready for the regular season.

This spring, the idea is to go light early in camp before gradually ramping things up for the rest of the spring and leading into the season, Doolittle said. Melvin said once the lefty begins appearing in exhibitions, he’ll be on a regular schedule like the other relievers.

“It’s just a matter of when we get him in there,” Melvin said.

Doolittle already had thrown off the mound in pre-camp workouts, so he said he’s not concerned about being held back right now.

NOTEWORTHY: By Saturday, the most noteworthy position player who hadn’t yet been spotted in the clubhouse was left fielder Khris Davis. Players aren’t required to actually show up by reporting day, just check in with the team. The first full-squad workout is Sunday.

The A’s still don’t have a timetable for reliever Santiago Casilla’s arrival, though a team spokesperson said the wheels are in motion for his travel paperwork to soon be cleared in the Dominican Republic.

ODDS AND ENDS: Pitchers will throw live batting practice to hitters Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, the A’s will hold simulated games and Thursday will feature more of an intrasquad-style game with an actual defense playing behind the pitcher as he throws to hitters. It’s all in preparation for next Saturday’s Cactus League opener on the road against the Cubs.

Revisiting A's signing of Grant Balfour in free agency eight years ago

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Revisiting A's signing of Grant Balfour in free agency eight years ago

January 18, 2011 officially marked the beginning of "Balfour Rage."

The A's signed Australian relief pitcher Grant Balfour to a two-year, $8 million contract with a $4.5 million option for a third year. Balfour, who was 33 years old at the time, had spent the previous four seasons with Tampa Bay, seeing mixed results.

The right-hander was coming off a strong season in 2010, however, going 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 57 appearances. He had never been a closer in his big league career, but averaged better than a strikeout per inning as a setup man.

Performance

Balfour had a strong 2011 season in Oakland in a setup role. He went 5-2 with two saves and a 2.47 ERA, striking out 59 in 62 innings. Balfour eventually took over the closer role in 2012 and recorded 24 saves in 26 opportunities with a 2.53 ERA.

The A's exercised Balfour's option in 2013 and he posted a career-high 38 saves in 41 opportunities with a 2.59 ERA, earning his first and only All-Star appearance. He also set the A's franchise record with 41 consecutive saves converted.

Balfour quickly became a fan favorite, known for his fiery passion and screaming of profanities on the mound. "Balfour Rage," as it became known, sometimes rubbed batters the wrong way, but Balfour insisted it was just his way of pumping himself up. Needless to say, A's fans loved it.

[RELATED: How A's could learn from Coco Crisp signing nine years ago]

Lesson

The Balfour signing was a great success for Oakland. In three seasons, he went 9-7 with 64 saves and a 2.53 ERA. For just over $12 million, that was a bargain.

Balfour proved to be a late developer in his career. He didn't really put it all together until he was in his 30s. While the A's signed Balfour to be a setup man, they were open to an increased role for him and eventually he earned the closer job.

Of course, Balfour's personality was a big part of his success in Oakland. "Balfour Rage" resonated with fans and teammates alike. That became his identity and both he and his team embraced it.

2019 free agent comparison

It's not exactly "Balfour Rage," but Sergio Romo is quite flamboyant on the mound. Like Balfour, Romo wears his emotions on his sleeve and gets fired up when he records an important out, sometimes bothering hitters.

Romo, 35, went 3-4 with 25 saves and a 4.14 ERA last season with the Rays. For his career, the right-handed reliever owns a 2.86 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, averaging well over a strikeout per inning.

A's 2019 Projections: Josh Phegley could start unless team makes moves

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A's 2019 Projections: Josh Phegley could start unless team makes moves

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Unless the A's add another catcher, Josh Phegley is poised to get the most playing time of his big league career. Phegley and Chris Herrmann are currently the only catchers on the A's active roster and they figure to platoon behind the plate.

Last season, Phegley hit .204/.255/.344 with two home runs, seven doubles, and 15 RBI in 39 games. The 30-year-old re-signed with the A's in November for one year at $1.075 million.

Phegley has a career slash line of .223/.264/.372. His best season came in 2015 when he hit .249/.300/.449 with a career-high nine homers and 34 RBI.

Phegley has performed slightly better against left-handed pitching throughout his career, hitting .243/.279/.414. The right-handed hitter figures to get most of next season's at-bats against southpaws, with Herrmann starting against righties.

Phegley has also been solid defensively throughout his career, maintaining a .992 fielding percentage and throwing out 33 percent of attempted base stealers, five points above the league average.

Baseball Reference projects Phegley to hit .223/.285/.368 next year with six home runs, 15 doubles, and 28 RBI. They estimate him at 242 at-bats, which would be a career-high.

[RELATED: Chris Herrmann 2019 projections]

Phegley has done everything the A's have asked of him over the years and proven to be a consistent player and great clubhouse presence. We expect a slight improvement from last season, especially if he gets increased playing time.

Projection: .227/.297/.374, 6 HR, 12 doubles, 27 RBI