Athletics

Wendle's active winter takes him from Mexico to CBA meetings

Wendle's active winter takes him from Mexico to CBA meetings

As if Joey Wendle’s offseason wasn’t busy enough, he flew to Dallas this week to attend the Collective Bargaining Agreement meetings between the players’ association and Major League Baseball owners.

Wendle was one of five Athletics who were at the meetings, along with Yonder Alonso, John Axford, Daniel Coulombe and Andrew Triggs. That quintet didn’t play an active part in negotiations. But Wendle, a second baseman who received his first big league call-up in September, said it was time well spent as he made the effort to educate himself about baseball’s labor issues.

“It peaked my interest and I decided to come on out for a couple of days,” Wendle said while waiting to catch a flight back home to Pennsylvania. “I’m aware that we have probably the best sports union of any in the world. I just wanted to come see what it was all about.”

Wendle declined to discuss any of the major details in the CBA, saying he didn’t feel it was his position to comment as a player with so little service time. But he was proud that five A’s showed up, estimating it was among the largest contingent of players from any team.

Wendle, who used an impressive September to play his way into the second base picture, has been on the go since the regular season wrapped. He quickly went to Mexico to play winter ball with Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican League. Wendle played mostly second base, but, to his surprise, he also made a string of starts at shortstop early in the season. A shortstop who was originally in the team’s plans didn’t pan out, so Wendle found himself logging innings at a position he hadn’t played since high school.

That was OK with Wendle, who volunteered to play winter ball because he wanted to gain experience at another position besides second.

“When I went initially, I thought I’d play some third base,” Wendle said. “I showed up and they told me I’d be playing some shortstop. It’s something I got more familiar with as the games went on. I’m still most comfortable at second base. But anytime you can add a position and play the left side of the infield, it can help you as a player.”

A’s officials are happy with Wendle’s improvement defensively. His offensive numbers in his September call-up don’t jump off the page — .260, one homer, 11 RBI in 28 games — but he provided a spark for a stretch as the A’s leadoff hitter.

Wendle swung a hot bat during winter ball, hitting .307 with three homers and 25 RBI in 34 games. His 18 extra-base hits stand out for a player who had just two in his 28 games with Oakland.

“In that environment, I was able to focus on some areas I wanted to work on. I was able to take it on as a learning experience,” Wendle said.

Now, after an extended season that began back in February — plus a quick lesson in baseball labor relations — he’ll enjoy a well-deserved break.

Adding insult to injury: A's must regroup after rough start to season

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Adding insult to injury: A's must regroup after rough start to season

It's hard to imagine a worse start to the season for the Oakland A's.

Sure it's only two games, but the A's return home from Japan with a pair of losses on the field and two more off of it.

On Wednesday we learned that talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo will be shut down for four to six weeks with a strained rotator cuff. That's a significant blow to an already thin starting rotation.

Then in Thursday's game, first baseman Matt Olson left with right-hand discomfort after fouling off a pitch in the fifth inning. According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, Olson had trouble gripping a bat after the foul ball.

Of course, it's much too early to panic. Even if Olson has to miss some time, the A's have the infield depth to get by without him. Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, and Jurickson Profar can all play first base and Franklin Barreto can play second.

The real concern lies in the starting pitching. Luzardo wasn't a sure thing to make the rotation out of spring camp, but he certainly figured to be a factor at some point in the near future. Without him, the A's might need help.

Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada, the team's top two starters, both struggled in their season debuts. Fiers only lasted three innings, allowing five earned runs. Estrada got through five innings, giving up three earned runs and two home runs.

The A's are counting on Fiers and Estrada to pitch much better than they did in Japan. Whether they can anchor the rotation throughout the season remains to be seen.

Veteran left-hander Brett Anderson is penciled in as the number three starter, though he struggled much of last year, both with performance and injuries. Frankie Montas will start the year as the number four starter, with Aaron Brooks and Chris Bassitt battling for the number five job.

Starting pitching is clearly the weak point of an otherwise excellent roster. Oakland's hitting, defense, and bullpen are all good enough to reach the postseason and perhaps even the World Series.

[RELATED: A's running out of options following Luzardo injury]

The big question will be whether the A's starters can deliver five solid innings to give the offense and bullpen a chance. Fiers couldn't in his debut. Estrada did a bit better, but it still wasn't enough.

The A's now have a chance to regroup and reset before their home opener March 28 against the Angels. From there, they'll have 160 games to try to repeat last year's magic.
 

Jesús Luzardo's injury a major blow for A's, as team scrambles for options

Jesús Luzardo's injury a major blow for A's, as team scrambles for options

Oakland's already shaky starting rotation took a major blow Wednesday night when it was revealed that 21-year-old left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

While Luzardo has not yet thrown a major league pitch, the A's top prospect appeared poised to make the starting rotation following a phenomenal spring training. His big league debut will now have to wait and Oakland will have to scramble to shore up its rotation.

In the short term, the competition for the A's number five starter job is likely down to right-handers Chris Bassitt and Aaron Brooks. Bassitt still has a minor league option remaining while Brooks does not, giving the latter a slight edge.

In the bigger picture, the A's will likely have to add another starting pitcher to the mix. Veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson remains available on the free agent market and the team has been in contact with him throughout the offseason. The 35-year-old put together a strong 2018 season in Oakland and was a critical presence in the clubhouse.

As it currently stands, the A's starting rotation features Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, and either Brooks or Bassitt. Right-hander Jharel Cotton and southpaws Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk are still recovering from injuries but should be back in the mix sometime this season.

[RELATED: Matt Olson exits game with hand discomfort]

Unfortunately, the A's can't afford to sit around and wait for their potential returns. Signing Jackson has gone from a luxury to a necessity. His return would at least give Oakland four veteran starters to hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive. 

Oakland still features one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, which means they don't need their starters to go more than five innings. They just need pitchers who can keep them in the game early on. Jackson has certainly proven more than capable of that.