A's tab Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers to start exhibition games vs. Giants

A's tab Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers to start exhibition games vs. Giants

The A’s have two exhibition games coming up against the Giants next week, the only opportunities to face an opponent before the 2020 regular season starts.

Manager Bob Melvin announced Sean Manaea will start the July 20 exhibition at Oakland Coliseum, while Mike Fiers will start the July 21 preseason game at Oracle Park in a home-and-home with the A's geographical rival. Chris Bassitt scheduled to throw after that.

The A’s would have two days after that to prepare for Opening Day against the Los Angeles Angels on July 24.

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Melvin hasn’t made a formal announcement on that game’s starter, though he should in the next few days. Manaea, Fiers and Bassitt couldn’t start on July 24 on full rest, so it seems unlikely they’ll get the nod to start the season.

Frankie Montas came to camp largely ramped up, has been universally praised and was “borderline electric,” Melvin said, in his last intrasquad outing. All signs point to him starting the opener, though A.J. Puk shouldn’t be eliminated from consideration.

Bassitt wouldn’t be ready if he assumes a rotation spot previously earmarked for Jesus Luzardo before he tested positive for coronavirus. His return date and immediate role remains unknown.

[RELATED: Mike Fiers putting Astros cheating scandal behind him, moving forward]

Melvin was wary of reporters doing the math to draw conclusions on an Opening Day starter.

“I’ll have something for you in the next few days,” he said.

Scott Boras discusses Matt Chapman's contract status, A's philosophy

Scott Boras discusses Matt Chapman's contract status, A's philosophy

A’s third baseman Matt Chapman is really good at baseball. That could complicate things down the line.

The two-time Platinum Glove Award winner and 2019 All-Star is one of the best third basemen in the game, and according to his agent, Scott Boras, he should be treated as such.

Boras spoke to The Athletic’s Alex Coffey about how MLB's shortened 60-game season could pertain to Chapman and his upcoming arbitration process. If this were a normal 162-game year, the A's star could have been paid anywhere from $10-12 million via arbitration or with an agreement with the team.

But Chapman, playing on a minimum contract, just has adjusted season salary of $230,926, according to Spotrac. 

Yes, the guy who led all of baseball with 32 Defensive Runs Saved last season is making that little. This is the same guy who carries a .920 OPS this season after accumulating 8.3 WAR in 2018 and 2019.

It’s no secret he wants to get paid, and it’s even less of a secret he needs to get paid.

“Matt’s a star player,” Boras told Coffey. “He’s a franchise player. The right of arbitration means more to franchise players than anybody, no doubt.”

Boras also made it a point to list other prominent third basemen in the league. And there are plenty. Colorado Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado, a childhood friend of Chapman, has an adjusted salary of almost $13 million this year. 

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It’s the same story for the Kris Bryants and Alex Bregmans of the world, who will be making eight figures per year under their current contracts.

The A’s have spoken for years about building a new stadium, which would then allow the team to spend more money on their players. But Boras believes the stadium itself is secondary to Chapman.

“You build the stadium,” he said, “and then it’s ready to start. But you forgot to plant the grass. So you build the stadium, it’s beautiful, but you look at the field and you forgot to plant the grass. The grass is the players. Now you’ve got a beautiful stadium and you’ve got no grass. No one wants to go watch it. The players have to precede the stadium. That’s the rule.”

[RELATED: Chapman believes the defensive game deserves more respect]

Chapman will be a free agent after the 2023 season, which might seem far off in the distance right now, but we know quickly these things go by.

He wants to stay with Oakland and A’s fans want nothing more than for that to happen. While the pandemic threw a wrench in more than just the game itself, it's still yet to be determined what his future might be in Oakland.

What makes A's starter Chris Bassitt's slow curveball so effective

What makes A's starter Chris Bassitt's slow curveball so effective

A’s starter Chris Bassitt has this long, slow curveball that throws hitters off, often causing them to swing and miss beautifully. It almost forces hitters out of their helmets. 

It’s a pitch that A’s manager Bob Melvin brings up periodically when asked about Bassitt, as it’s simply just fun to watch.

Viral pitching Twitter account Pitching Ninja has tweeted out GIFs or this particular pitch multiple times. So you know it’s good.

On Wednesday, during the A’s 8-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels, Bassitt even impressed himself with the way his curve was looking.

“I mean, I think I can up the usage more than what I have been, but I mean overall I think it’s good, it’s coming along very well,” Bassitt said after Wednesday’s victory. 

So far this season, he’s only thrown the curveball about 9.3 percent of the time. That's quite a downfall from previous seasons where, from 2014-19, he utilized it 14.4 percent of the time. 

But that might change with how it looked against the Halos on Wednesday.

“Today was by far the best I had it,” Bassitt added. “I probably should have thrown it more, it’s just yeah -- the third inning, I threw way too many fastballs. Looking back, I wish I threw a lot more curveballs or offspeed pitches, I was trying to set my curveball up to [Anthony] Rendon in the last batter, I just never got to it. Yeah, I like where it’s at right now.”

Bassitt smiled and laughed when told his 69 mph pitch made it to the Pitching Ninja account. 

"I like when I make that,” Bassitt said.

Pitching Ninja, or Rob Friedman, enjoyed it as well.

“There’s something about a slow curveball that exemplifies the beauty of pitching,” Friedman told NBC Sports California. “That and the fact that it was 69 mph makes it even sexier. Seriously, Bassitt’s ability to take that much off the (velocity) of the pitch as a guy who can throw in the mid-90s and float it in there is impressive and really keeps hitters off balance.”

[RELATED: Bassitt, Austin Allen bonding quickly on the mound]

That curve's velocity has slowed down quite a bit over the years, averaging around 70 mph this season. So knowing he could top out around 95 with his fastball and quickly take off more than 20 mph is why that pitch is worthy of an article ... and a few Pitching Ninja GIFs.

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