A's will give Blake Treinen 'soft landing' in return to closer's role


A's will give Blake Treinen 'soft landing' in return to closer's role

OAKLAND – Blake Treinen is back, in more ways than one.

The A's right-handed reliever was activated off the 10-day injured list Wednesday afternoon, and will return to the closer’s role despite some pre-shoulder ailment struggles and Liam Hendriks’ lights-out performance in his stead.

Oakland skipper Bob Melvin made that point clear before Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins.

The ninth inning still belongs to Treinen. Well, soon enough.

“We’ll give him one soft landing before we get him back doing what he’s normally doing,” Melvin said. “And congrats to Liam (on winning relief pitcher of the month). That’s quite a feather. He’s come a long way, not only from last year but from this year, where he started out to where he is now. It’s a credit to him for the hard work. It takes serious conviction, what he’s doing.”

Hendriks has been doing everything right lately. He was named the AL Reliever of the Month earlier Wednesday, after posting a 0.60 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 15 innings with two saves while filling in for Treinen in June. 

That excellence prompted questions about the closer’s role, as much or more than anything else.

But Melvin was crystal clear why he isn’t moving Treinen out of the ninth.

“He has had a pretty good body of work for us,” Melvin said of a closer with 67 saves over two-plus seasons with Oakland. “We want to make sure he’s healthy and he gets out there. You can do all the minor-league rehabbing you want. It’s different when you get to the big-league level, so we want to get him at least a game under his belt where he feels comfortable.”

Treinen made one rehab appearance with Las Vegas, allowing three runs on four hits Monday night.

That stint was more about health than results, and Treinen came away feeling strong.

“It’s good to see the body respond well,” Treinen said. “I was able to get out there and compete a little bit, but it’s important to get back here around the guys. I just want to help continue this good thing we’ve got going and win a few games heading into the All-Star break.”

This stretch before the break offers Treinen a chance to get back in proper flow. He struggled some before going on the IL, allowing 10 runs and nine walks in his last 11 innings.

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The A's are fortunate to have bullpen quality and numbers, so guys can slide in and stop individual skids before they impact the team.

“That’s why you try and create depth in your bullpen,” Melvin said. “When somebody gets hurt, or you’re not seeing the numbers you saw before, you have some depth and guys can step into different roles. That’s what we’re seeing right now.”

What if A's hadn't traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester back in 2014?

What if A's hadn't traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester back in 2014?

Editor's note: Twice a week, NBC Sports Bay Area will look back on biggest "What If?" moments in Bay Area sports history in our "Hindsight 2020" series. The second installment: What if the A's hadn't traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester in 2014?

Billy Beane added to the A’s starting rotation in 2014 with a massive midsummer trade, acquiring pitcher Jeff Samardzija on July 5 to strengthen a roster already performing better than any in major league baseball.

The A’s reversed field somewhat and became buyers in the trade market, a surefire sign they were going for it. Their offense could rake and a solid staff that got a lot better with a major transaction. That blockbuster seemed to be the A’s move.

But that’s why everyone was so shocked by what happened the day of the trade deadline.

Beane, then the A's general manager (he's since been promoted to VP of baseball operations), shipped star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance pick to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes and cash. It was a move that, even in today’s modern media landscape where nothing stays secret for long, was considered a legitimate shock.

“They made the Samardzija trade before that, and that was big deal for a starter who could help down the stretch,” A’s play-by-play broadcaster Glen Kuiper said in an interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “They made a big trade and that seemed like the one even though it came in early July. You just weren’t expecting another trade, especially another trade for a starting pitcher. That’s another reason why it surprised people.”

Lester gave the A’s a bonafide ace in the prime of his career -- though clearly a rental -- and cost a star outfielder in the prime of his career with another year remaining on his contract.

“My mind is blown,” then-A’s outfielder Josh Reddick told the San Francisco Chronicle right after the trade. “I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would give up ‘Cespy.’ But it makes sense in the long run to get another guy who is an ace.”

The A’s led the league in runs scored at the time. Beane built up the rotation during the season to include Lester, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Samardzija and Hammel. They already had Sean Doolittle in the closer’s role and seemed primed to finish the 2014 campaign as well as they started it.

They also acquired outfielder Sam Fuld back from the Minnesota Twins for Tommy Millone, reinforcing the outfield along with Gomes.

The adjusted roster did not produce great results. They had baseball’s best record on July 31 but floundered through a 12-17 record in August and a 10-13 September. The Los Angeles Angels surged in the opposite direction following an excellent July, with a 34-21 record the last two months.

That left the A’s clinging to a wild card spot and a one-game playoff. Lester was on the mound for the game he was acquired to pitch, but the A’s fell short, collapsing in the late innings as the Kansas City Royals stormed back and won in walk-off fashion in the 12th inning.

The season’s disappointing end put the A’s moves, the Cespedes trade in particular, in a negative light through hindsight.

Beane made one point clear to reporters after the A’s season ended: His team wouldn’t have made the playoffs without Lester. He’s probably right, considering Lester had a 2.35 ERA and the lowest WHIP of his career (1.07), over 76.2 innings in 11 starts. He even took a lead into the eighth inning of the wild-card game before it slipped away.

The trade’s detractors will point to the fact the A’s offense fell apart in mid-August and never got its groove back, but it’s hard to certainly say the Green and Gold made a misstep -- especially when viewed in context.

"The Angels were going to catch us," Beane told reporters after the season, via ESPN. "They played nearly .700 ball from a certain point. If you go back to my quotes from when we made those trades, despite the fact of where we were, at no point were those trades made for the playoffs. I was adamant about it. I could feel the Angels breathing down our necks.

"What I didn't reveal was that I was also concerned about us, which was the point of the trades. I have said this many times: It's not where you are, it's where you're headed. And I like to think being here every day, I have a feel for where we're headed."

If we’re going to project what might’ve happened if Beane didn’t trade Cespedes for Lester, maybe the GM is right. Maybe the A’s falter down the stretch and don’t reach the postseason.

Or ... maybe the keep their high-octane offense going down the stretch. There was no doubt the A's missed Cespedes after he was gone, on the field and in the clubhouse. He was a true cleanup hitter who made everyone around him better.

“I’ll never forget talking about him with Bob Melvin later, maybe a couple of years ago. Cespedes didn’t speak much of any English, but Bob said he was a leader,” Kuiper said. “He was a leader because he wanted the spotlight on himself. He wanted it. When you have a guy who is great and wants to be in the spotlight, it takes a lot of pressure off the guys around him. In that case it was (Brandon) Moss and (Josh) Donaldson and (Josh) Reddick.

"He had no problem taking it on and living in the spotlight. When he went out of the mix in trade, the spotlight shifted to those other guys. Then it was up to them to handle it. This is an in-depth, clubhouse way to look at it but, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.”

Losing a fan favorite and a productive player never goes over well with the fanbase, especially considering the trade’s surprise element and the fact that the slugger had another year left under his contract.

Cespedes bounced around after the A’s trade. Boston shipped him to Detroit after the 2014 season, and then the Tigers moved him to the New York Mets at the 2015 trade deadline.

[RELATED: Hindsight 2020 - What if Warriors had traded Klay for Love?]

It’s impossible to imagine the A’s would’ve inked him to a three-year, $75 million deal the New York club gave him before the 2016 season, a contract that included an opt-out clause after that campaign he exercised. Cespedes signed a four-year, $110 million contract with the Mets that he has been injured throughout. The A’s would have lost him to free agency or a trade with far less return than Lester.

The left-hander was a rental from the start, eventually leaving for the Chicago Cubs after the season on a massive, $155 million deal. Gomes didn’t stick around after the season, so no team came out ahead in the long run.

There’s disappointment in the 2014 season’s final results, but it’s clear what the A’s were trying to do by reaching the postseason with the pitching required to take them on a run.

“I will say, though, that the A’s had a plan,” Kuiper said. “We knew we’re good enough to get into the postseason and we needed an ace, a No. 1 guy. As it worked out, they had Lester for the wild card game. It didn’t work out as they had hoped, but if you look at the A’s plan, it all lined up for Lester.

"He pitched in the wild card game and threw pretty well up until late in the game. It got one inning away from working, but Lester ran out of gas a little bit.”

A's president Dave Kaval offers stadium update after deferred payment


A's president Dave Kaval offers stadium update after deferred payment

The A’s deferred a $1.2 million rental payment due to the Oakland Coliseum in April.

They told NBC Sports California last month that the stadium authority “has been unable to make the Coliseum available for use by the A's" due to the coronavirus. Dave Kaval, the team's president, told The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Thursday that the reasoning behind the deferment was due to lack of use.

“Being able to use the facility is obviously very critical,” Kaval said. “We’ve been adhering to the provisions of the lease, which specifically state the payment is due when you can actually use it. ... Hopefully, we can get in there and start training; some other teams already have been doing that and we haven’t been able to.”

Kaval also told The Chronicle there is a chance for a rent reduction if there's a shortened season, as the current agreement is on a per-game basis. 

“You pay the full amount and then there is adjustment based on how many games you play,” he said.

[RELATED: A's might have delay in 2023 targeted ballpark opening]

For now, there is no final decision on a 2020 season. After roughly four weeks of negotiations between MLB and the Players Association, the union called for a 114-game season that would begin on June 30 and end Oct. 31. While there are more details to the recent proposal including the health and safety of the players, time is ticking for that date.

If there's a season, there's a chance it would happen without fans. Kaval is not only prepared for the possibility, but he's fully embracing it. He’s ensuring the Coliseum is adhering to safety precautions and county guidelines. 

“I think they were impressed with the scope and how it was put together," Kaval said of Alameda County officials." ... We’re going to make sure we’re going to adhere to (county) guidelines because they’re the authority on business operating in this environment.”