Athletics

Thinking positive: A's players embrace Zen-like philosophy while on DL

Thinking positive: A's players embrace Zen-like philosophy while on DL

OAKLAND — This season obviously has been a trying one for the A’s, but they’re finding creative ways to cope with it.

There’s a Zen-like theme permeating the clubhouse, from the incense that’s occasionally burning, to a locker that temporarily housed bamboo and a Japanese rock garden, to the bonsai tree that now sits by the dugout during batting practice.

A baseball clubhouse isn’t the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of Eastern philosophy. But the A’s have a group of players who have spent large chunks of time on the disabled list, rehabbing together and trying to keep the inactivity from driving them batty.

It’s taken them on a search to ease the mind as well as heal the body.

“The DL’s a dark place,” right-hander Chris Bassitt said, “and you’ve got to kind of get out of that darkness.”

When the A’s leave on road trips, players rehabbing from long-term injuries usually stay back in Oakland and continue to rehab under the supervision of assistant trainer Brian Schulman. That develops a bond between players who can relate to what each other are going through.

Bassitt, knowingly or not, seems to have spurred the whole Zen-like vibe when he began listening to yoga music at the Coliseum one day. Pretty soon players were gathering in the training room with the lights off “just to relax for five minutes and let everything go,” as Bassitt explains.

Bassitt’s locker gradually became a shrine of sorts. Realizing he didn’t need all of the space while rehabbing, he temporarily moved his belongings out. Soon, players started decorating it with rain sticks, bamboo, a rock garden and other items.

Think of the locker belonging to Pedro Cerrano in the movie “Major League,” minus anything exploding during a team prayer.

“Some guys had some stuff and we found some stuff on Amazon,” reliever Sean Doolittle said. “It kind of came together pretty organically. Everybody had something in there.”

Bassitt knew something was up when he went off for a minor league rehab outing, and teammates were texting him asking for permission to fully take over the locker.

“I was expecting some small stuff, not fountains and fish and all that other stuff that was in there,” he said.

The whole idea has light-hearted roots but players agree that the benefits are real when it comes to relieving tension and keeping things loose through the peaks and valleys of coming back from injury.

Asked to name a player who perhaps surprised him with how much he embraced the whole vibe, Doolittle identified outfielder Jake Smolinski.

“He’s not going to talk about it, but Smo’s the chi master,” Doolittle said. “He plays it real close to the vest.”

Someone brought in a bonsai tree that reliever Michael Brady has become caretaker of. He was seen clipping its branches in the clubhouse earlier on this homestand, and he brings it out to the field for batting practice.

“I always wanted a bonsai tree and there was one here,” he said. “I looked at the soil. It was a little dry so I watered it. It looked like it needed some clipping. I read a quick Wikipedia article.

“I was joking around saying it’s a metaphor for the team: ‘The healthier the tree, the healthier the A’s.’ … I take it out every morning and I bring it in before games.”

Whatever symbols are put into use, the primary goal is to clear out the negative mindset that can set in for a player who’s navigating his way through the “D.L. jungle,” as Doolittle put it.

“Believe it or not, there’s a lot of guys that actually do use meditation a lot,” Bassitt said. “They’ll never say it, but there’s a lot of guys that do. You get positive thoughts and kind of re-set yourself.”

Watch A's Ramon Laureano rob Blue Jays of homer, start odd double play

Watch A's Ramon Laureano rob Blue Jays of homer, start odd double play

We're accustomed to Ramón Laureano doing incredible things with his arm. But on Sunday, the A's center fielder made one of the most incredible catches to rob the Blue Jays' Teoscar Hernandez of a two-run homer.

That wasn't the end of the play, though. Laureano fired the ball back toward first base in an attempt to double off Justin Smoak. The throw sailed over past first base and almost went into the dugout, so Smoak tried to advance to second. That's when A's catcher Nick Hundley, who backed up the play in Oakland Coliseum's expansive foul territory, fielded the ball and threw to second to get Smoak.

It was such an incredible play that A's broadcaster Dallas Braden lost his mind as the action unfolded.

Before Sunday's game, A's manager Bob Melvin spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle about what Laureano is doing on defense.

“We’ve seen [Laureano] do some big things, and now his name is getting around the league," Melvin told The Chronicle's Ron Kroichick. "Maybe they don’t run on him and you keep the double play in order. A lot of things transpire because of [a good arm], not just on the plays where he is throwing out guys.”

Melvin's words were prophetic, as Laureano made something incredible happen with his arm after the catch.

Keep doing incredible things, Ramón. We're enjoying this.

A's vs. Blue Jays lineups: Oakland tries to avoid laying egg on Easter

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AP

A's vs. Blue Jays lineups: Oakland tries to avoid laying egg on Easter

The A's have only won one of four home games since returning from their nine-game road trip, and they'll try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

Oakland might have the right man taking the mound in left-hander Brett Anderson (3-0, 2.62 ERA) to get the team back on the winning track, as he's arguably been the A's top starter in the early portion of the season.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, will counter with right-hander Aaron Sanchez (2-1, 2.86), who is coming off a start in which he gave up four earned runs and two home runs in six innings.

This will be the first-ever Easter meeting between Oakland and Toronto. The A's have a 13-17 record on Easter since moving to Oakland in 1968, including a 10-12 record at the Coliseum.

Here are the full lineups for Sunday's A's-Blue Jays game:

Oakland Athletics (11-12)
LF Robbie Grossman
SS Marcus Semien
3B Matt Chapman
DH Khris Davis
1B Kendrys Morales
RF Stephen Piscotty
2B Jurickson Profar
CF Ramon Laureano
C Nick Hundley

Brett Anderson, LHP (3-0, 2.62 ERA)

[RELATED: Piscotty calls out fan who ran on field, interrupted game]

Toronto Blue Jays (10-12)
2B Alen Hanson
SS Freddy Galvis
CF Randal Grichuk
1B Justin Smoak
LF Teoscar Hernandez
3B Brandon Drury
DH Rowdy Tellez
C Danny Jansen
RF Billy McKinney

Aaron Sanchez, RHP (2-1, 2.86 ERA)