June 2013

Cespedes returns to lineup; Crisp, Donaldson sit

A right hamstring strain forced Josh Donaldson to sit for just the second time all season on Friday, though his injury is not considered to be serious.

In fact, Oakland’s third baseman is hoping to be back in the starting lineup for the middle contest of a three-game home set with the Mariners on Saturday, and manager Bob Melvin didn’t rule it out.

Donaldson, joined on the bench by Coco Crisp, who is still dealing with right heel pain, entered the day 7-for-14 against Seattle starter Joe Saunders. Crisp has had plenty success too, going 9-for-30 off the lefty, but their absences were slightly mitigated by the return of Yoenis Cespedes, who had been relegated to the sidelines since Wednesday with a left hamstring strain.

“He’s feeling much better,” Melvin said of Cespedes, who started at designated hitter. “I saw him run out here earlier today. He was running without any issues. He might not be 100 percent, but hopefully he’ll be guarded enough when he’s running around the bases.”

Crisp, Melvin said, felt better Friday morning despite playing four innings in Thursday’s 18-inning affair with the Yankees. But “whether he’s in the lineup tomorrow,” he added, “I’m not sure.”

Though there’s just as much uncertainty surrounding Donaldson, the infielder is encouraged by the progress he’s made in such little time.

Donaldson, who exited after 15 innings Thursday upon feeling his hamstring “lock up a bit,” says he is no longer experiencing “that knotting sensation” he endured for much of the night.

“It didn’t feel like a cramp but it could’ve been,” he said. “I felt like if I was going to run hard, it wouldn’t have been good. So I iced it, got treatment last night, and it’s a lot better already.”

“He felt a lot better than I thought he’d feel today,” Melvin said, “so we’ll hold out hope he can play tomorrow.”

With Donaldson out of the mix, Adam Rosales started at third base Friday.

A’s sign first overall Draft pick McKinney

MLB.com has confirmed that the A’s and first-round Draft pick Billy McKinney have agreed to a $1.8 million bonus, as first reported by Baseball America’s Jim Callis. That’s slightly less than the assigned value of $1,893,500 for the No. 24 overall pick.

According to a source, McKinney will fly to Oakland on Thursday to undergo a physical. Come Friday, he’ll be introduced to the media and take batting practice with the team.

Read more about McKinney, an outfielder out of Texas’ Plano West High School, here.

The A’s have not made his signing official, but they did announce on Tuesday that they’ve agreed to terms with 25 other Draft picks, including lefty Chris Kohler, their second third-round selection, and right-hander Dylan Covey, taken in the fourth round.

A’s select prep outfielder McKinney with first Draft pick

CHICAGO — Billy McKinney sounded slightly embarrassed when admitting he’s yet to see “Moneyball” but vows he’ll add it to his to-do list this week.

Excuse him if it doesn’t happen until next week, for McKinney has a dream to start living out.

The 18-year-old prep outfielder was selected by the A’s at No. 24 in the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas’ Plano West High School on Thursday.

McKinney committed to Texas Christian University in November but is likely to forego college plans in favor of beginning a career with the same club he grew up rooting for, despite living less than an hour from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

“My dream is to become a big league ball player, and hopefully I can start that dream soon,” McKinney said by phone. “I know the college coaches would love to have me there, but I’m just going to try to achieve my dream of becoming a Major League baseball player.

“Obviously growing up 45 minutes from the Texas Rangers, you can’t really be too proud about being an A’s fan without getting some heckling. I’ve always just like the way the A’s play. I’m just very glad I got picked by them.”

For the first time in the Billy Beane era, the A’s have opted for a high school player with their first pick in back-to-back years, having taken shortstop Addison Russell at No. 11 last June. Before that, the A’s hadn’t drafted a prep player in the first round since pitcher Jeremy Bonderman in 2001.

The A’s are hoping their decision to stray from the college pool and pluck from the high school level, before a rarity in the organization, shows Russell — playing at Class-A Stockton — and McKinney just how committed they are to grooming them into impact players at the Major League level.

Not one position player on the A’s current roster is homegrown, and only three pitchers (Sean Doolittle, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin) were drafted by Oakland.

The left-handed McKinney led Plano West to the Class 5A semifinals this season, hitting .394 (39-for-99) with six home runs and 32 RBIs to go along with a .585 on-base percentage using a swing he says he models after Josh Hamilton. He also drew 36 walks in 130 plate appearances and struck out only six times.

“Hamilton just has a beautiful swing,” he said. “I try to keep my swing as short and compact as it can be.”

Primarily a center fielder, McKinney noted he feels comfortable in any outfield spot. The same goes for first base, though remaining in center would be his preference.

“I believe in my abilities to stay in center,” he said. “I hope I can, but I just do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Oakland’s current center fielder, Coco Crisp, has a club option for 2014, with 2010 first-round Draft pick Michael Choice lingering in Triple-A Sacramento. Choice is expected to make his big league debut by 2014, while McKinney said he has no time frame in mind when it comes to getting to The Show.

The A’s will pick twice more Thursday, with their other two selections on Day 1 of the Draft coming at No. 63 and 71.

Doolittle makes adjustment, remains in setup role

MILWAUKEE — On the same morning Sean Doolittle identified a small mechanical problem that may be contributing to his recent struggles, his manager gave him a vote of confidence and said he has no plans to remove the lefty from his setup role.

Bob Melvin said he spoke with Doolittle on Wednesday morning, not much more than 12 hours after the sophomore reliever gave up three runs on just four pitches in the eighth, allowing the Brewers to tie a game they would eventually win in the 10th inning. It was the third straight outing Doolittle had allowed at least two runs, the same number he surrendered total in his first 23 appearances.

“I don’t know that we avoid him today or want to,” Melvin said. “He feels good, we still feel good about him. You’re constantly looking to make adjustments when you have tough periods, and he will, and he has. I’m sticking with him.

“Like any pitcher that’s ever pitched, you’re never going to be perfect over the course of your entire career, and I think going through something like this gives you experience, makes you better, makes you find out different ways to do it. He’ll be better on the flip side for it.”

Doolittle believes he has already bettered himself, after he watched video of his recent outings early Wednesday morning that showed mechanics that “weren’t even the same two weeks ago,” he said.

“I’m flying open just a touch,” Doolittle explained. “My hips were coming open a little bit too soon, and I think I was showing them the ball a little bit too early and it was taking away some of the life that I have on my fastball, because I wasn’t staying behind it as long. So we did some mechanic work this morning, felt really good throwing, so I feel really confident if I get in there today.

“Any time you can identify the problem, especially to have it be a relatively easy fix, that’s big.”

It’s mostly a relief for the 26-year-old converted first baseman, who took up pitching after injuries derailed his career as an infielder less than two years ago. Just as important is the trust he’s been awarded by Melvin, whose decision to stick with Doolittle proved rather easy.

“You take into consideration what kind of guy he is,” Melvin said. “Is he a confident guy? Is he someone you need to give a break to? He’s not that type of guy. He wants the ball and he wants it today.”

“That’s always really reassuring,” Doolittle said. “I think my track record up to this point has been pretty good, but it still kind of reinforces the confidence you have in yourself when your manager backs you like that. I really appreciate it.”

Reddick apologizes to Astros employee

MILWAUKEE — Josh Reddick routinely throws sunflower seeds at opposing mascots on the road. But a few happened to hit the face of an Astros employee in Houston last weekend, leading to an apology by Reddick on Tuesday when the woman publicized a letter expressing her anger at the incident.

The employee insinuates that Reddick intentionally hit her in the face with sunflower seeds while she was tossing free T-shirts into the stands from the top of the visitors’ dugout on May 25.

According to Reddick, “I was doing what I do in every ballpark, messing around and throwing seeds at a mascot,” he said Tuesday in Milwaukee. “She was complaining about being hit in the face when she’s doing her job and facing the other way.”

The Astros employee said she informed the A’s of the incident and was told by public relations director Bob Rose that the matter would be handled internally. Rose confirmed this, and manager Bob Melvin said he indeed spoke to Reddick about the issue the day after it happened.

“It had come to my attention [by a clubhouse manager], so we had spoken about it,” Melvin said Tuesday. “He feels bad about it. Nothing was done maliciously. He’s just trying, in his way, to have a little fun, and based on where we were and the proximity of it, he didn’t know he was going to hit somebody. But he feels bad about it. It wasn’t intentional.

“I had not heard anything since my conversation with him, and he expressed his remorse to me. This is now coming up again, and I had no idea it was coming up again.”

That’s because the employee, still waiting for an apology by Reddick, opted to release the same letter she wrote Rose to the public in the last day.

In it, she says, “I am sure hundreds of kids witnessed Josh hitting me in the face with sunflower seeds and that makes me more upset than anything. Where I come from, men don’t treat women like that, so I was shocked and appalled that any man would, much less a notable professional athlete. … I don’t care if he is fined or even penalized. Quite frankly, the only resolution I wanted from the entire ordeal was an apology from him, even if it was forced by the A’s organization.”

Though this letter was sent to Rose shortly after the club returned from Houston, Rose had not spoken to Reddick about it directly as of Tuesday, instead taking it to his bosses. Reddick said he found out about the letter via Twitter, and that’s when he decided to tweet this apology:

“For all of you who know or have heard about my sunflower seed incident in Houston. All I was trying to do was have fun with the mascot. I flip seeds in every stadium at the mascot. It was just unfortunate that I hits n employee throwing tshirts. I am deeply sorry for what I’ve done. It will not happen again”

Rose said he was going to encourage Reddick to speak to the employee when the A’s return to Houston in July. But when asked if he had any plans to, Reddick replied, “Nope.”