Athletics

A's starting rotation is still a concern as spring training begins

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A's starting rotation is still a concern as spring training begins

At the very beginning of the offseason, A's executive vice president Billy Beane made it clear the team needed to improve its starting pitching.

"We need to create a starting pitching group that Bob (Melvin) can rely on every day," he said in October. 

But with pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training this weekend, Oakland has yet to achieve that goal.

So far, the A's have signed only one new Major League starter in free agency -- 35-year-old Marco Estrada, who is coming off two straight disappointing seasons with the Blue Jays. Oakland did re-sign veteran right-hander Mike Fiers, but they have not brought back Edwin Jackson or Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill signed with the Angels.

That leaves the A's with a likely starting rotation of Fiers, Estrada, Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, and Frankie Montas, with Chris Bassitt and Aaron Brooks also battling for spots. Is that really any better than last year's rotation? If anything, it might be worse.

Oakland has essentially replaced Jackson, Cahill, and Anderson with Estrada and Blackburn. Sure, the team might get some reinforcements toward the middle of the season in the form of Jharel Cotton and Sean Manaea, with rookies A.J. Puk and Jesús Luzardo also possibly contributing. But on the eve of spring training, the A's starting rotation remains a significant concern.

The good news is there are still several starting pitchers available in free agency. Oakland has been linked to Gio Gonzalez and Clay Buchholz this offseason as well as Jackson and Anderson. Other affordable options could include James Shields, Ervin Santana, and yes, even 45-year-old Bartolo Colón.

[RELATED: Jharel Cotton shares progress after Tommy John surgery]

Gonzalez, Buchholz, and Santana may end up being out of the A's price range, though that could change if they remain unsigned much longer. Jackson proved to be a great fit in Oakland last season, both on the mound and in the clubhouse. There was mutual interest in a reunion earlier this offseason but the two sides never really got close on salary. Perhaps now that we're into February, Jackson's asking price will come down.

Shields and Colón struggled last season, as did Anderson, which could make them available on a minor-league contract. One way or another, the A's must still upgrade their starting pitching if they want to make good on their promise from October.

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse honored for huge week at plate in Triple-A

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse honored for huge week at plate in Triple-A

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse is making a whole lot of noise with the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators. 

The infielder was named to MLB.com's Prospect Team of the Week on Monday after hitting .500 with two home runs over a six-game span.

Neuse had his nine-game hitting streak come to an end Sunday when he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Prior to that, the 24-year-old was on fire at the plate. 

Neuse, the A's No. 9 prospect, hit .623 with three homers over his nine-game hitting streak. 

Though Neuse has the talent to join a long list of A's prospect who could make their major-league debut this season, it will be hard to find a spot for him on the big-league roster. Neuse's primary position is third base, and that's clearly locked up with star-in-the-making Matt Chapman.

He does have experience at a few other spots, however. 

While Neuse has played 64 games at the hot corner this season, he's also played two games at second base and four innings in left field, the first time he's put on an outfielder's glove in his minor league career. There has to be a place for his bat, though. 

[RELATED: Bob Melvin isn't sweating A's-Rays series split]

Neuse has hit at every level so far as a minor leaguer. He's batting .318 with a .928 OPS and 11 home runs this season. Since being picked by the Nationals in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Neuse owns a .290 batting average with a .787 OPS and 33 career homers. 

Neuse is not yet on the A's 40-man roster. For now, he'll have to keep doing what he's doing in Las Vegas -- hit, and then hit some more.

Bob Melvin isn't sweating A's-Rays series split, anxious for road trip

Bob Melvin isn't sweating A's-Rays series split, anxious for road trip

The Rays were the team to beat -- and not just for the A's who split the series against the team in Oakland after an 8-2 loss on Sunday.

Brett Anderson received starting honors, but his stuff wasn't what it has been recently and skipper Bob Melvin even said during his postgame press conference that it was the first time all season he believed Anderson didn't have his best showing.

"It's frustrating from my end we could've taken a series from a team ahead of us, but I don't really dwell on it too much," Anderson told the media scrum following his outing. 

The A's put up a heck of a fight, earning the split against a Tampa team that is off to a hot start, but they're eager to get back out on the road and create better numbers away from the Coliseum.

"You always want to play above .500 at home -- we did that and you know, it could have been a lot better," Melvin told the media. "You go out on the road -- couple tough games in St. Louis and then we got four more in our division so the guys are looking forward to getting out and trying to climb up on .500 more so than we are right now."

[RELATED: Manaea has minor setback to return]

Following the Cardinals' series, the team has a four-game stint against the Angels in Anaheim.