Athletics

Watch Kyler Murray's rushing touchdown to end college football career

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USATSI

Watch Kyler Murray's rushing touchdown to end college football career

Fittingly, the final play of Kyler Murray's electric 2018 season for the Oklahoma Sooners saw him waltzing into the end zone. 

Murray read the Alabama defense and took off for an 8-yard touchdown with 4:23 left in the fourth quarter. He wouldn't see the ball again in Oklahoma's 45-34 loss to Alabama in the Orange Bowl. 

The A's top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft showed off his speed all year in his Heisman-winning season. Even in a loss, Murray made history with his legs. 

Murray and the Sooners started off slow and trailed the Crimson Tide 21-0 after the first quarter, and 28-0 shortly after. After the first quarter though, they outscored Alabama 34-24. On the night, Murray completed 19 of his 37 pass attempts for 417 yards and three touchdowns through the air while adding another score on the ground to go with his 109 yards rushing.

Though he came short of his goal of national championship, Murray put together one of the greatest seasons in college football history. He finished his junior year with 4,361 yards passing, 1,001 yards rushing, and 54 total touchdowns.

Now, will he report to spring training, try his hand at the NFL, or possibly both? 

“I really haven’t even thought about it right now,” Murray said to reporters when asked the NFL draft. “Sorry about that.”

Underclassmen have until Jan. 14 to decide on the 2019 NFL Draft. Until then, A's fans will be waiting, but not so patiently. 

Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk injury update gives A's reason for optimism

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AP

Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk injury update gives A's reason for optimism

MLB Pipeline ranks Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk as the A's top two prospects, as well as the No. 2 and No. 4 left-handed pitching prospects, respectively, in all of baseball.

Unfortunately for Oakland, both southpaws have dealt with arm injuries, delaying their major league debuts. Puk, 24, had Tommy John surgery last April, and Luzardo, 21, was shut down with a shoulder strain this March.

Now it appears there's finally reason for optimism. According to Athletics Farm, A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson expects the two lefties to begin pitching in games late next month.

MLB.com's Martin Gallegos reported more good news on Luzardo, tweeting that he threw live batting practice Saturday and hit 96 mph on the radar gun.

These obviously are welcome developments for the A's, who could use some depth in their rotation. If all goes well, both Luzardo and Puk might join Oakland later this season.

Right-hander Jharel Cotton also is on the mend from Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old already has made two rehab starts at Single-A Stockton, allowing five earned runs on six hits in five innings, with five strikeouts.

[RELATED: How Olson beats the shift with bunts]

Of course, the A's biggest second-half addition likely would be Sean Manaea. The 27-year-old lefty had arthroscopic shoulder surgery last September and could return sometime after the All-Star break. Manaea has been throwing bullpen sessions this month, and has avoided any setbacks.

If the A's can stay in the playoff race for the next couple of months, it appears they could have some valuable reinforcements for the stretch run.

How A's slugger Matt Olson is beating shifts with bunting ability

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NBC Sports California

How A's slugger Matt Olson is beating shifts with bunting ability

OAKLAND — When you think of the MLB leaders in bunt hits, A's slugger Matt Olson probably doesn't come to mind.

At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Olson is not exactly fleet of foot. He's also one of the game's premier power hitters, launching 58 home runs in his first 250 games, an average of 38 per 162 games.

Yet here we are, nearly a third of the way into the season, and Olson is tied for the American League lead with three bunt hits. And he has done it in just 19 games.

Olson laid down his most recent bunt single in Saturday's 6-5 win over the Mariners, beating the shift in the first inning.

"Honestly, I think it's always in play unless it's kind of late in the game and I'm a tying or go-ahead run, something where driving the ball would be big for us," Olson told NBC Sports California. "Other than that, it's free reign in my mind. As long as I keep getting shifted, I'm going to keep taking those free hits and see how the defenses adjust to it."

The 25-year-old has seen a steady diet of infield shifts since he rose to prominence last season. For the most part, opposing defenses will leave the entire left side of the infield open, almost daring Olson to bunt.

"Any time you have the ability to lay a bunt down to scoot the field back over, I think it's going to play to his favor," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I mean, they play everybody on the other side. They even had four outfielders on him (earlier this season), just giving up that side of the field. He's done it with one strike too.

"A lot of times, it's, throw a strike and then everybody moves back. He's done it a few times. The more he does that, the more honest they're going to have to play him."

[RELATED: Melvin expects Rodney to keep pitching after A's DFA'd him]

Olson laughed at the idea that he's an elite bunter. He works on it occasionally, but when the infield shifts are that extreme, he doesn't have to be anywhere near perfect to get the job done.

"Maybe once in a blue moon, I get out off the machine and just see some velocity and do it," he said. "It's something that I want to continue to do. As long as they're giving it to me, which I'm sure they will continue to do, I'm going to take advantage of it."