More to come on MLB.com, but here’s Billy Butler addressing a few topics on his first conference call with reporters after agreeing to a three-year, $30 million deal with the A’s:
Why the A’s?
This is definitely a situation I’ve never been in before. I’ve been with one organization for the last 10 years. There’s a lot of mixed emotions there, coming off the World Series. It’s a tough situation to leave, but from day one of free agency, Billy [Beane] was in contact with my agent showing his interest. I’m a very loyal guy, and him showing that kind of interest in me and expressing his expectations of what I can accomplish and his needs for what my role would be in Oakland, it hit me where it mattered most. He came to me first. I’m a very loyal man, and that kind of stuff goes far with me. I talked to Bob Melvin as well. I just have a good feeling with the group of guys that they have there and have really respected it from the other side for the last few years.
It shows the type of talent, the type of teams they’ve built. I’m happy to be a part of that, and hopefully I can contribute to that and take it to the next level where we can go deeper.
On splitting time between DH and first base:
I’ve always worked real hard at first. Eric Hosmer is obviously a Gold Glover and I played behind him and he obviously deserves to play first. I’m very capable of it. I played well in August. The team played really well. It really sparked what we were doing in Kansas City. I’m not saying it’s the reason why it happened, but it really kind of sparked my offense. Sometimes you just need a change to get your mind off hitting. It kind of makes you go out there and relax. It’s a lot of pressure on you when you’re DH’ing every day and you know you only have four chances a day to help the team, and when you don’t have a good day offensively, you realize you didn’t contribute much. That kind of stuff affects you mentally. Having the ability to go out there gives you that change of mentality that keeps you going. I know I can play first and contribute on a championship level there. I’ve worked really hard to do that, and I’m looking forward to having that opportunity with the A’s.
On his dip in numbers this year:
If I had an explanation for exactly why the power dropped off, I’d fix it right now. I think if you play the game long enough and look at all of the good hitters, they have down years. I believe that’s all it was. I believe I had a little bit of a middle-approach problem at the plate, and at that level you can’t do those type of things and expect to achieve. Granted, I hit .270 and nobody would say that’s a bad year for anybody’s standards, but the numbers I put up the rest of my career would prove that, wow, that’s not up to his par. I take pride in that, and I take pride in getting back to where I was. I’m 28 years old. I’m not on the other side of my career. It was just a year a lot of things didn’t go right for me, just mentally and approach-wise, and I’m going to do everything I can this offseason to get back to where I was and contribute at a high level for the A’s in the middle of the lineup. That’s my role, and I’m going to have the ability to play first base but that’s not why I’m in an Oakland A uniform. I’m in an Oakland A uniform because of my ability to be an impact bat in the middle of the lineup, and that’s what my job is, to drive in runs and be that anchor in the lineup.
The A’s are reportedly close to finalizing a three-year, $30 million deal with free-agent designated hitter Billy Butler.
The club has not confirmed the deal, but multiple sources tell MLB.com that both sides are in serious discussions.
It’s no secret the A’s have been on the hunt for a right-handed power bat following Yoenis Cespedes’ midseason departure to Boston. Butler would bring them just that, and a proven track record as a full-time designated hitter.
Should this deal come together as advertised, Butler would likely assume the same role with the A’s, despite their affinity for platoons.
Even in a down year, Butler still managed to hit .271 with a .323 on-base percentage this season, and he’s just two years removed from an All-Star campaign in which he totaled 29 home runs and 107 RBIs, finishing with a .313 average.
He’s a lifetime .295/.359/.445 hitter, including a .314 average against lefties, compared to .288 vs. righties, in his eight years with the Royals, who snagged him with their first pick (14th overall) in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Butler will be entering his age-29 season and is fresh off his first World Series appearance, after helping the Royals stave off the A’s in a theatrical extra-inning Wild Card game victory that buoyed them to an American League pennant.
The A’s will play 15 of their 30 Cactus League games next year in their new spring home: 10,000-seat Hohokam Stadium, which underwent $26.9 million in renovations. Here’s the full schedule:
Mar. 3 San Francisco Giants 12:05 pm PT
Mar. 4 @ San Francisco Giants 12:05 pm
Mar. 5 @ Chicago Cubs 12:05 pm
Mar. 6 @ Arizona Diamondbacks 12:05 pm
Mar. 7 Los Angeles Angels 12:05 pm
Mar. 8 Chicago White Sox 1:05 pm
Mar. 9 @ Texas Rangers 1:05 pm
Mar. 10 Arizona Diamondbacks 1:05 pm
Mar. 11 Cleveland Indians 1:05 pm
Mar. 12 Seattle Mariners 1:05 pm
Mar. 13 @ Kansas City Royals 1:05 pm
Mar. 14 San Francisco Giants 1:05 pm
Mar. 15 @ Milwaukee Brewers 1:05 pm
Mar. 16 @ Los Angeles Dodgers 1:05 pm
Mar. 17 San Diego Padres 1:05 pm
Mar. 18 @ Seattle Mariners 1:05 pm
Mar. 19 Off Day
Mar. 20 Los Angeles Dodgers (SS) 1:05 pm
@ Colorado Rockies (SS) 1:05 pm
Mar. 21 Cincinnati Reds 1:05 pm
Mar. 22 @ Cincinnati Reds 1:05 pm
Mar. 23 @ Cleveland Indians 1:05 pm
Mar. 24 Chicago Cubs 1:05 pm
Mar. 25 @ Milwaukee Brewers 1:05 pm
Mar. 26 @ San Francisco Giants 1:05 pm
Mar. 27 Texas Rangers 1:05 pm
Mar. 28 @ Chicago White Sox 1:05 pm
Mar.29 Milwaukee Brewers 1:05 pm
Mar. 30 Colorado Rockies 1:05 pm
Mar. 31 @ Los Angeles Angels 1:05 pm
Apr. 1 Los Angeles Angels 12:05 pm
Apr. 2 San Francisco Giants, Site & Time TBD
Apr. 3 San Francisco Giants, Site & Time TBD
Apr. 4 San Francisco Giants, Site & Time TBD
The A’s have promoted from within to fill out their 2015 coaching staff. Notably, Darren Bush has been chosen to replace Chili Davis as hitting coach, after serving as the club’s bullpen coach each of the past two seasons.
Scott Emerson will fill that role, his first Major League coaching assignment following more than a decade as a pitching coach and instructor in the A’s Minor League system, and Marcus Jensen will work dually as an assistant hitting coach and catching coach on manager Bob Melvin’s staff that’s received quite the makeover.
Earlier this week, Mike Aldrete was named Melvin’s new bench coach amid the departure of Chip Hale, who was elected Arizona’s new manager.
There’s still familiarity, though, elsewhere, with pitching coach Curt Young, third base coach Mike Gallego and first base coach Tye Waller all returning in their same capacities next year.
KANSAS CITY — A postseason start still eludes 14-year veteran Adam Dunn, who was missing from the A’s lineup in Tuesday’s AL Wild Card Game, despite the Royals throwing a right-hander in James Shields.
The decision, said manager Bob Melvin, was less about his designated hitter and more about his left fielder. Rather than play Brandon Moss in left field, the A’s went with the more speedy and sure-handed Sam Fuld, forcing Moss into the DH spot in place of Dunn.
“That’s a tough decision,” said Melvin, “but it did come into play. It’s a big outfield. It’s a fast opponent. [Fuld] plays the corners great. You’re talking about [starter] Jon Lester, righties that pull the ball, lefties that go the other way, so that definitely factored in.
“ At times we’ll go offense early, defense late, other times we’ll do defense early, which allows us to match up a little bit more so with Adam, too, on the bench a little bit later in the game. So we look at all sides of it when we make up the lineup.”
Dunn has played in 2,001 regular-season games without a postseason appearance, the most among active players and 14th most in Major League history among players with zero postseason games, making Sunday’s clinching win in Texas an emotional moment for him.
That made Tuesday’s conversation with him even tougher for Melvin.
“Look, he just wants to win,” he said. “I’m sure he’s probably disappointed some and wanted to be in there today, but in my experiences with him, he’s all about winning. When I told him when he first got here that he wouldn’t be playing against lefties, he said, ‘It’s fine by me. Whatever I can do to win, and I know that I can impact the game coming off the bench.’
“All our guys know that we do things a little differently here at times, and we’re trying to play for the day. He understands, too, that just because you don’t start a game for us doesn’t mean that you might not be prominent within the course of the game and may have the biggest at‑bat of the game, so he’s ready for that.”
KANSAS CITY — The A’s have opted to go with eight pitchers on their 25-man roster for tonight’s winner-take-all AL Wild Card Game in Kansas City.
As expected, the A’s are carrying just one extra starter not named Jon Lester, who will take the bump against the Royals for his 12th career postseason start. That would be right-hander Jason Hammel, who last pitched Thursday.
Lefty Drew Pomeranz is also on the roster, giving the A’s two true long men in their bullpen for the affair. They’ll be joined by closer Sean Doolittle, right-handers Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero and Ryan Cook, and left-hander Fernando Abad. Fellow southpaw Eric O’Flaherty is not on the roster because of a reported arm injury.
With just eight roster spots allotted to pitchers, the A’s have a deep bench on hand for the crucial game, featuring a slew of right-handed batters not expected to be in the starting lineup against Kansas City ace James Shields, including Derek Norris, Jonny Gomes and Nate Freiman. Oakland can also counter with switch-hitters Nick Punto and Alberto Callaspo.
Speed is there in pinch-run options Billy Burns and Sam Fuld, and so is infielder Andy Parrino, who provides excellent defense as a backup option to starting shortstop Jed Lowrie.
Pitchers (8): Fernando Abad, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson, Jason Hammel, Jon Lester, Dan Otero, Drew Pomeranz
Catchers (2): Derek Norris, Geovany Soto
Infielders (10): Alberto Callaspo, Josh Donaldson, Adam Dunn, Nate Freiman, Jed Lowrie, Brandon Moss, Andy Parrino, Nick Punto, Eric Sogard, Stephen Vogt
Outfielders (5): Billy Burns, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, Jonny Gomes, Josh Reddick
ARLINGTON — A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson has been playing through hip issues, hamstring problems and, more recently, a left knee injury. But he can still walk, and that’s all manager Bob Melvin needs to hear to keep his All-Star in the lineup.
Donaldson, who reinjured the knee in Friday’s win but remained in the game regardless, was reassured by the Rangers’ team doctor Saturday that everything is structurally sound. So he was back in the lineup for Saturday’s potential clincher.
Donaldson said of the knee, “It does feel better,” and vowed to play as close to 100 percent as the knee allows, noting that he’s hardly the fastest guy on the roster as is.
“As long as he can move around, and as you saw last night, probably wasn’t running his normal pace, but he’s able to play out there,” said manager Bob Melvin. “It’s an inspiration to get a guy in the lineup who’s that banged-up and to stay in the lineup like he did last night. I think we all felt good about that.”
Melvin never hesitates when asked about Donaldson’s place in the American League MVP discussion, as he was Saturday. The infielder finished fourth in voting last year and, though his average has slipped from .301 to .253 this year, his WAR rating, as calculated by Fangraphs, is 6.3, tying him with Jose Bautista for fifth in the AL. Mike Trout leads the pack at 8.1.
“What he means for our team is pretty significant, and that’s what you go by,” Melvin said. “Sometimes, if a guy’s not hitting .300 or whatever, nowadays, average probably isn’t the most important thing. It’s production, it’s defense, all of the above. He gives us exactly that. So I would say he’s definitely in the equation.”
ARLINGTON — Not playing is not an option right now for A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson, who refused to exit Friday’s 6-2 victory in Texas despite suffering what appeared to be an alarming left knee injury. Donaldson was examined after the game and deemed his prognosis “OK,” saying, “We’ll play it by ear tomorrow.”
“It’s just going to be how I feel,” he continued. “Obviously they’re going to look at it. But how I felt at the end of the game, it didn’t get any worse, which was good. So hopefully I’ll be in there tomorrow.”
The All-Star third baseman, who has already played banged-up for much of the second half with a left hamstring issue, injured the knee on an attempt at a foul-ball grounder in the third and looked to be in serious pain, bringing out manager Bob Melvin and the club’s head trainer, Nick Paparesta, while leaving his teammates greatly concerned.
Donaldson opted to stay in the game — “I was just like, ‘Let’s go,’ he said — and singled in his next at-bat, scoring a run in the same inning despite hobbling around the bases, helping the A’s inch even closer to their third consecutive playoff berth.
“It wasn’t fun,” Donaldson admitted. “That’s just with the hamstring thing, too. The hardest part is trying to push off that leg. My left leg wasn’t really working.”
“He wasn’t going to push it as far as running,” said Melvin, “but he obviously means a lot to us and he stayed in the game.”
Added closer Sean Doolittle: “It was very scary, but the kind of guy that Donaldson is, he’s tough as nails, he’s an absolute gamer. His legs are gonna have to be off his body for him not to stay in the game. We all breathe a huge sigh of relief when he got up, and then next at-bat got a knock, scored a run. That’s the kind of player that he is.”
Donaldson has played in a team-high 156 games, and it’s unlikely he sits out the next.
“I want to be out there for my team,” he said. “This is the most important time of the year and if I can move I’m going to try to be out there.”
“I didn’t even think he’d come back and do what he did,” said Josh Reddick. “It just shows how tough he really is and shows how important these games really are. To stay in was really big and to even come up with a big base hit like he did and get that rally going. Hopefully he’s all right because without him it’s going to be a tough task.”
Brandon Moss has been playing through a right hip injury for much of the year and is prepared to undergo surgery on it as soon as the A’s season concludes.
Moss has been dealing with the injury since mid-May, but only recently has it really become a concerning issue, which is why he opted to go for an MRI on Monday that revealed torn cartilage. He was unavailable Wednesday after receiving a cortisone shot but returned to the lineup for Thursday’s four-game series opener in Texas, playing in left field.
“As far as the pain, there really isn’t any right now,” said Moss. “Today it feels really good.”
But a cortisone shot can only mask an injury for so long, and Moss understands offseason surgery isn’t even up for debate at this point. It’s simply a matter of deciding what kind is best, be it microfracture surgery, which would sideline him through the majority of Spring Training, or a more minor clean-up procedure.
“Best-case scenario would be to go in there and just clean out what’s in there,” he said. “Obviously there are things floating around in there.
“Something has to be done. Can’t just leave it alone. Leaving it alone isn’t going to do it any good.”
Moss has gradually lost mobility and strength in the hip, but he does not want to use that as an excuse for his second-half struggles at the plate. He entered the day batting .179 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 54 games since the All-Star break, after batting .268 with 21 homers and 66 RBIs in the 89 games before it.
“When you have something going on, your body finds a way to compensate for it, so mechanical things change and such, but as far as how I felt at the plate, I didn’t feel any different,” he said. “There may have been some differences, but I didn’t feel that way. I felt like I was swinging at bad pitches. That’s all there was to it.
Moss later added what manager Bob Melvin echoed: “I have a hard time pinning all of my struggles on that. It progressively got worse through the season, but I was playing with it early in the season, too. It hurt, it bothered me, but until recently, I didn’t think it was nearly as bad as it was.”
KANSAS CITY — The A’s will push through the rest of August without shortstop Jed Lowrie, who is expected to go on the disabled list Thursday with a hairline fracture in his right index finger.
Lowrie has been playing through the injury for 10 days, but it was adversely affecting his performance to the point where he realized he couldn’t keep doing it through the rest of the season. Just Wednesday, he lobbed a throw over to first base on an Omar Infante grounder that resulted in an infield hit.
“He’s a fast runner, but I think that’s a play that I make 10 times out of 10,” Lowrie said Thursday morning. “There was no way that I could continue to put the same velocity on throws because the finger just wouldn’t allow it.
“I think the realization last night was it’s not going to get any better unless I take time off.”
Manager Bob Melvin agrees, but that still leaves him with a thin middle infield that’s already missing Nick Punto, who is expected to be out at least another week or two with a right hamstring strain.
The A’s are expected to call on Andy Parrino from Triple-A Sacramento when Lowrie officially hits the DL. Parrino can not only supplement Eric Sogard at shortstop but also play the outfield. Alberto Callaspo will continue to see the most time at second base.
Melvin hopes to have Lowrie back on board in September. That’s at least a month — likely longer, given the first-place A’s postseason chances — of a healthy, proven shortstop versus six weeks of one that could prove to be a liability.
Lowrie was mostly hampered by the fracture when throwing but also at the plate, too, since he was trying to avoid placing the finger on the bat at all. He was 2-for-15 in five games he played with the injury.
“We could get away with it for a week, but if I’m going through the rest of the season like this and into the playoffs with a broken finger, it’s going to catch up with us as a team,” said Lowrie. “Especially what we’re doing this year, that’s why I chose to try to play with it, because of where we are and what this team has done so far and what we’re capable of doing. But, in the same breath, I think it’s the right choice and once that focuses on the ultimate goal. So while, yes, it’s not what I wanted to do, I think it’s ultimately the best thing.”
Lowrie, a free agent after this season, is batting .238 with five homers and 28 doubles in 407 at-bats, after finishing with a .290 clip in 2013 – the first big league season in which he avoided the DL.