October 2012

A’s to finalize 25-man ALDS roster Saturday

The A’s must finalize their 25-man ALDS roster by 10 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, and expect them to use nearly every second of the time that exists between now and then to turn it in. That doesn’t mean the decisions that come with it haven’t been made, though. Notably missing from the clubhouse today was Jemile Weeks, Daric Barton and Collin Cowgill, along with Dan Straily, who tweeted yesterday, “Just got to Phoenix. I’ll be staying ready in case my right arm is needed.” There are 13 pitchers here, not including injured hurlers Brandon McCarthy and Jordan Norberto, who made the trip, and 12 are expected to make the roster. I’d suspect Pedro Figueroa and Pat Neshek are on the bubble right now, and that the A’s may choose to keep Neshek off the list, as he continues to grieve from his baby son’s passing.

Should that be the case, and at this point it’s simply pure speculation, the A’s would carry these 12 pitchers through the series: (Starters) Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Brett Anderson, A.J. Griffin; and (Relievers) Grant Balfour, Travis Blackley, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Pedro Figueroa, Jim Miller, Evan Scribner

The position players: Chris Carter, Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, George Kottaras, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, Cliff Pennington, Josh Reddick, Adam Rosales, Seth Smith

Neshek rejoins team two days after baby son’s passing

A’s righty reliever Pat Neshek is here in Detroit, just two days after the sudden passing of his 1-day-old son, Gehrig. Neshek was kind enough and very brave to speak to a small handful of reporters on Friday and said he and his wife, Stephanee, are overcome by the support they’ve received.

Neshek says his son’s birthday “was probably the best day I ever had, the one day. I’d go through it all again just for that one day. It was pretty awesome.”

Just heartbreaking. Here’s more from Neshek:

On his decision to be here:

It was tough. We were locked up in the house and you can sit there all day. It was kind of what I imagine hell is like. But seeing a lot of support from the guys and other players around baseball and guys I’ve played with and fans of baseball was really helping us. If nothing else, we kind of wanted to do it in my son’s honor, to come here and do this.

On his wife, Stephanee, also coming to Detroit:

She loves baseball, and that was the tough this with this year, was she made a lot of sacrifices to stay back in Florida. When you’re pregnant you can’t fly and all, so that was the first thing she said was, ‘I need to get out of here and go watch some baseball.’ I was fine with whatever she wanted. I just wanted to be by her to get through this.

On the feeling of being here:

Really good. I’m sure she feels good too. When I got on the bus I saw a lot of the guys and I texted her saying, ‘It feels really good, actually.’ I kind of questioned it at first, but I know it’s the right decision.

On how he’s holding up:

I’m good, ya know, I got out there and started playing catch and it all comes back to you right away. It really takes your mind off all of the bad stuff. I think it’s a very good way of healing up a little bit and trying to get past it.

On the support streaming in:

It was hard, because we had the baby and put a lot of pictures up, and I went home and was watching the game and she stayed back [at the hospital] and I got a call about the fifth inning, and she said, ‘The baby stopped breathing.’ That was really hard. We sat all night. We didn’t know what to do, because people were sending us texts of congratulations and stuff and that really hurt. I put that up on Twitter and Facebook, and it was pretty amazing, just what talking with friends and talking with complete strangers, how much of that helps the grieving process. I don’t think we’ll ever get over it. This really helps. It’s a good way to start putting the pieces back together.

On the cause of his son’s death:

We’re going to have an autopsy. … We never found out and an hour later they were saying, ‘Do you want to bury your son?’ It’s hard to process any of it. We’ll get through it. And, like I said, this really helps. We’re a big baseball family, and my parents thought this was a great decision, my wife recommended it, and I just feel so much myself here.

Parker, Milone tabbed for Games 1, 2; Anderson hopes he’s next

DETROIT — The hearty A’s will start their improbable playoff run away from home, in front of what’s sure to be a raucous crowd in chilly temperatures at Comerica Park, against a stacked Tigers lineup they’ve decided to entrust a pair of rookies to handle.

Manager Bob Melvin likes their chances.

The A’s skipper has decided to start right-handed rookie Jarrod Parker in Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Saturday, with another rookie, lefty Tommy Milone, getting the nod in Game 2 opposite Doug Fister. No announcement has been made for the ensuing games, though a healthy Brett Anderson seems the likely choice for Tuesday’s start, with young righty A.J. Griffin a strong bet for Wednesday’s potential Game 4.

“We were comfortable with either,” Melvin said of Parker and Milone from Comerica Park on Friday. “We’ll keep Parker on turn. He’s been pitching well here recently. Both of them have been given a little bit of rest over the course of the season. But I think the way Jarrod’s been pitching here recently, coupled with the fact that we’ll keep him on his regular routine, was the final decision.”

Parker is the first A’s rookie to start the first game of a postseason series and, at 23 years and 317 days come Saturday, will be the second youngest pitcher to start Game 1 for the A’s. At 22 years and 67 days, Vida Blue did so during the 1971 AL Championship Series.

This after he compiled a 13-8 record and 3.47 ERA, numbers that proved similar to partner in crime Milone, who posted a 13-10 ledger and 3.74 ERA. In doing so, both set the Oakland record for most wins by a rookie pitcher, surpassing the previous mark of 12 held by Chris Codirolo (1983) and Joe Blanton (2005). 

“I’m excited,” said Parker, who will be opposed by Detroit ace Justin Verlander. “Obviously this team’s gone through a lot this year.  And you know we’re happy to be here. And it’s kind of a tribute to the work we’ve done as a team. And it’s an honor, and obviously I’m going to be as prepared as I can to get ready.”

It will mark Parker’s first career start in Detroit and second overall against the Tigers, to whom he surrendered two runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts spanning 5 2/3 innings in a May 13 outing this year.

Two days prior it was the 25-year-old Milone facing the Tigers for the first time in his young career, a task that proved rather easy for the lefty, who gave up just one run on five hits while fanning six and walking just one that day. Milone again pitched against them on Sept. 20, this time at Comerica Park, where he was rung up for 94 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs and nine hits along the way.

Milone’s home and road splits are telling, what with a 2.74 ERA and six home runs allowed in 15 starts made at the pitcher-friendly confines of the Coliseum, compared to the 4.83 mark he posted on the road, where he surrendered 18 homers in six starts.

Yet the postseason allows for a clean slate, and the A’s are confident in getting the job done with Parker and Milone, their chances of a series victory that much greater if they can depart Detroit with at least one win in tow.

“We wouldn’t have it any other way, given these are the two guys that have consistently been here for the most part and have done a tremendous job,” Anderson said. “These are two guys, their mentality is not going to make a difference. They’re two of the most even-keeled guys you’ll ever meet, so I don’t expect the atmosphere or the enormity of the game to get to them. They’re going to go out there and throw strikes like they’ve done all year. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

As for Anderson, the most veteraned arm of the starting staff at age 25, he’ll throw a bullpen on Saturday and, if all goes well, expects to take the ball for Tuesday’s Game 3 start, less than a month after he suffered a right oblique strain.

“I’ve been feeling good lately,” he said. “It was obviously a big win to win the division on Wednesday for multiple reasons but also to help me get a couple extra days of rest and, if I do start Tuesday, almost a weeks’ worth. That’s truly beneficial, for the oblique and for the team.”

A’s clinch playoff berth

OAKLAND — Still waiting for the A’s to flounder? It’s officially too late.

Oakland pulled off the improbable Monday, in less than a year’s time completing its transformation from a team rebuilding to one ready to construct a postseason roster by way of a Wild Card-clinching 4-3 victory over the Rangers in front of a roaring home crowd.

The division, too, still remains in reach, as the win pulled the A’s within one game of Texas in the American League West with two to play, after being 13 out on June 2.

No matter what transpires over the next two days, though, the underdog A’s have their first playoff berth since 2006. That is theirs to keep, as they’re at least assured of a spot in the one-game Wild Card playoff.

Out of the mix are the Angels — Oakland’s division foe spent more than $300 million last offseason in an effort to secure a postseason spot they never got — and the Rays, both of whom fell out of the race as soon as the A’s claimed victory. The Orioles, meanwhile, maintain hold of the other Wild Card spot, their record even with Oakland at 92-68.

While the Halos were busy writing checks to the likes of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson during the winter, the small-budget A’s kept plenty busy on the phone rather than at the bank, reeling in a crop of baby-faced talent in exchange for a trio of All-Star pitchers. In fitting fashion, several of the former contributed to Monday’s memorable win that paved way for a deserving celebration.

There was rookie righty Jarrod Parker on the mound, all of 23 years old, limiting a star-studded Rangers lineup to three runs over six-plus innings.

There was his battery mate, Derek Norris, also 23, making the calls in the pivotal game, which happened to be just the 58th of his career.

And there was 25-year-old Josh Reddick, his unruly hair flying beneath his cap, driving in his 84th run of the year in the first inning for a lead that was to be temporarily shared but never lost by the A’s.

Consider their second run of the night a gift courtesy of Rangers starter Martin Perez, who was charged with a bases-loaded balk in a two-run first that provided Parker, already equipped with a short but albeit impressive resume vs. the Rangers, some cushion.

Over the next three innings, Parker gave back both runs, the first coming on Elvis Andrus’ RBI single in the third and the second via a one-out shot from Michael Young in the fourth. But the A’s, always playing with a sense of urgency, brought that mindset to life in the next inning, when Adam Rosales and Coco Crisp tallied back-to-back doubles to regain the lead, which was extended to two on Brandon Moss’ sacrifice fly.

Mike Napoli’s leadoff home run off Parker in the seventh cut it back down to one, but Oakland’s steady bullpen, on this night led by the devastating trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour, kept it that way, securing the green and gold of work past Wednesday’s regular-season finale.