Lowrie: “Someone should own up for their actions.”

HOUSTON — Jed Lowrie remains befuddled by his place in what he believes to be “an internal issue that they have over there” in Houston’s organization.

Moreover, this strange fallout with the Astros should be no more, he believes, particularly since the A’s don’t plan to retaliate in any way for the dramatics that unfolded in the seventh inning Thursday, when Houston’s Paul Clemens drilled Lowrie in the backside with a pitch — after unsuccessfully attempting to do so twice last week.

Clemens denies the act was intentional, even though the series of events that led to it suggest it was clearly premeditated. That he was ejected immediately supports this notion.

Astros manager Bo Porter was not pleased with Lowrie bunting with a 7-1 lead in the first inning a week ago, even though a shift was activated. Porter later charged the field and yelled at Lowrie, shortly after Clemens nearly hit him with a pitch.

Even though he missed, Lowrie believed the antics to be over. Thursday, they were brought to life again, though Porter repeated Friday what he said last week: “The game takes care of itself.” To which Lowrie responded, “What does that even mean?”

“I don’t know what else to say, because, clearly, he’s just stonewalling,” Lowrie continued. “At the end of the day, it seems like an internal issue that they have over there. I don’t know if it’s frustration or self-realization, but it seems like such an internal problem, honestly.”

That’s why Lowrie shrugged his shoulders after being hit Thursday and calmly trotted down to first base. Had he motioned toward Clemens or sparked an argument, there’s no question his teammates would’ve charged the field. Instead, they went about their business.

The A’s are 4-0 against the Astros this season, outscoring them, 29-8.

“You don’t want to give them any extra fuel,” said Josh Donaldson, who homered behind Lowrie. “It really depends on what Jed wants to do. If he wants to play it cool and take his base, then we’re fine. But if they start talking back and forth with each other, it could’ve been different. But I think Jed handled it the way he wanted to handle it, and it was squashed.”

“I think it was pretty obvious what was going on, and no need to even dignify it,” added manager Bob Melvin, who has not spoken to Porter about the incident. “Just move on and hope it just goes away.

“Personally, I’d just like to move past it. It’s been going on too long for me, anyway. I thought we had moved past it when we were at home.”

So did Lowrie, who, believes the actions ultimately fall on Porter. The Astros manager, asked Friday if he ordered Clemens to hit Oakland’s shortstop, didn’t deny it, saying, “The game takes care of itself. I don’t think any of us would want to sit here and talk about conversations that take place in the dugout or in the clubhouse. It’s almost like, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Said Lowrie: “When his response is, ‘The game takes care of itself’ and ‘George Springer got hit, so I don’t see a problem with it,’ and then Paul Clemens says, ‘I wasn’t trying to hit him,’ that he cut a fastball and clearly it was a two-seamer coming back into me, they’re not on the same page. It’s pretty contradicting. It seems like someone should own up for their actions.

“The manager, with his comments, essentially said he didn’t see a problem with them throwing at me, and Clemens said he didn’t throw at me because he doesn’t want to get suspended. That’s the way I read it. Like I said last night, every way you look at it, it’s stupid, it’s embarrassing.”

So what’s next?

“Honestly, I’m so confused by the situation, I don’t even know where it stands,” said Lowrie. “I don’t know who’s keeping score in the situation. I’ve been confused from the beginning, and it’s become more convoluted.”

Lowrie: “It’s flat-out embarrassing.”

HOUSTON — This time, Paul Clemens didn’t miss.

Six days after unsuccessfully attempting to hit A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie on two occasions, Clemens plunked Lowrie in the backside with a pitch in the seventh inning of Oakland’s 10-1 win in Houston on Thursday and was immediately ejected by home-plate umpire Toby Basner.

That he even tried again is “flat-out embarrassing,” said Lowrie, whose payback came in the form of a run on Josh Donaldson’s ensuing two-run homer.

“There’s no other way to say it. Every perspective, every angle you look at it, it’s embarrassing. That kind of conduct should be condemned.”

The antics stem from Houston manager Bo Porter’s displeasure with Lowrie’s decision to bunt in the first inning with his team already leading, 7-0, on Friday. Except Porter had turned on the defensive shift, so Lowrie saw no other choice.

Later in the game, Clemens threw in between Lowrie’s legs, and Porter was seen yelling at the infielder. No matter, Lowrie believed the drama to be over.

“I still don’t understand why it was made into a big deal to begin with,” Lowrie said. “He throws at me twice in Oakland, and then throws at me again today. For a number of reasons it’s embarrassing. I had him in an at-bat before, I hit a double off him, and then he throws at me the first pitch. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It hit me in the back leg. I’d be curious what his answer was, or what Bo’s answer was. It’s pretty obvious that he was throwing at me on purpose for the third time.”

Porter’s response was identical to the one he fed reporters last week, saying, “The game of baseball takes care of itself.”

Houston’s manager added, “George Springer got hit tonight, too. It’s part of the game. … I don’t see it as frustrating. I don’t see it as something to get past. What are we getting past?”

“There was no carryover on my end,” insisted Clemens. “What happened in Oakland was squashed in Oakland. Bad pitch there and it just so happened I cut a fastball. Guy’s been hot, swinging a good bat. I wanted to let him know I’m not afraid to come inside.”

For Lowrie, he wants it to be known these actions are not acceptable. For that reason, he believes a suspension from Major League Baseball is “worth looking into.” He also noted, “The buck stops with [Porter]. He’s the one that’s responsible for his players’ conduct.”

“I thought it ended in Oakland. I said this then,” he said. “If they want to continue to hold a grudge, that’s up to them. Clearly they’ve taken it very personally.”

Griffin to get second opinion on elbow

HOUSTON — A’s right-hander A.J. Griffin, sidelined by a flexor strain for nearly six weeks, will get a second opinion on his pitching elbow in Houston next week.

The A’s hoped rest would be the cure for Griffin’s ongoing discomfort, felt since the later stages of last season, but it was still there when he attempted to begin a throwing program this week.

“He’s throwing a little bit and not feeling much better,” manager Bob Melvin said Thursday in Houston.

Now there’s concern that the issue, once believed to simply be a bout of tendinitis, could lead to surgery.

Griffin will meet with the Houston-based Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff on Tuesday to decide if that’s necessary. Mehlhoff performed Tommy John surgery on A’s reliever Fernando Rodriguez on March 27, 2013, and Rodriguez is nearing the end of what’s been a very successful rehab process.

Griffin, 26, was 14-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 32 starts in his first full season in the Majors last year, compiling a team-best 200 innings. But he was left off the American League Division Series roster because of elbow issues, which never went away. They only worsened with each start in Spring Training, and the A’s opted to send him for tests with Dr. Doug Freedberg, who suggested the pitcher undergo platelet-rich plasma therapy.

Griffin, originally penciled in as the club’s No. 4 starter entering spring,  did just that and was initially expected to return to the rotation in late May or early June — an encouraging prognosis for a team that knew it would already be without righty Jarrod Parker, who succumbed to his second Tommy John surgery, for the entire season.

Suddenly Griffin could be facing the same fate, though the A’s remain equipped with an enviable rotation that entered the day with an AL-best 2.80 ERA.

Johnson out as closer

MINNEAPOLIS — Jim Johnson is out as the A’s closer.

Manager Bob Melvin said Thursday morning he’s “going to give Jim a break” from the ninth inning and go with a closer-by-committee approach. Right-handers Luke Gregerson, Ryan Cook and Dan Otero and lefty Sean Doolittle are all options.

“There’s no timetable,” Melvin said. “Let’s just get him straightened out. And we have plenty options. That’s the good thing about our team, our versatility. We’ll play it by ear based on how the game’s going, who’s available on that particular day.”

The news comes a day after Johnson gave up two runs in the ninth inning to allow the Twins to tie a game the A’s ultimately won in extras. An All-Star closer with 101 saves to his name in the previous two seasons, Johnson is already 0-2 with a blown save and has allowed at least two runs in three of his five appearances and seven runs overall — tied for most among all American League relievers — in just 3 1/3 innings.

The 30-year-old right-hander has offered up nine hits and issued six walks in that span for a 4.50 WHIP.

Johnson wasn’t surprised by Melvin’s decision and told MLB.com and the San Francisco Chronicle, “He has to do what he has to do. I just gotta keep working. Nothing else I can do.

“I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. The ball’s not going where I want it to go consistently. Try to get it sorted out, try to get locked in … I wish I had an answer.”

The A’s traded for Johnson from Baltimore in December to offset the loss of Grant Balfour and are paying him $10 million, before he becomes a free agent at season’s end.

Lindblom called up to start nightcap

Right-hander Josh Lindblom has been brought up from Triple-A Sacramento to start the nightcap of Oakland’s split doubleheader with the Indians on Wednesday.

Clubs participating in split doubleheaders are allowed to employ a 26th man on their active roster for the second game, so the A’s will not have to take another player off their current roster to make room for Lindblom.

Acquired by the A’s with Craig Gentry in the trade that sent Michael Choice to the Rangers in the offseason, Lindblom went 0-2 with a 4.02 ERA in six games for the A’s this spring and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning in his final start against Seattle.

Lefty Scott Kazmir, originally scheduled to start Tuesday’s game that was postponed, gets the nod for the first game. Melvin said the decision for the second game came down to Lindblom and prospect Arnold Leon.

“A little more experience with Josh,” said Melvin. “He’s pretty similar to a guy like [Jesse] Chavez. He can give you the type of versatility, whether it’s an inning or two or long relief or starting. His last outing was his best for us, started throwing a little bit of a slider, too, and now a four-pitch guy, so we’re excited about seeing him perform.”

The 26-year-old was 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA in eight games (five starts) with the Rangers last year and is 5-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 109 big league appearances overall, including stints with the Dodgers and Phillies. He faced Cleveland once last season, allowing five hits and three runs in six innings with one walk and six strikeouts.

The lineup for Game 1: Crisp CF, Donaldson DH, Lowrie SS, Moss 1B, Cespedes LF, Reddick RF, Callaspo 3B, Norris C, Sogard 2B

Donaldson will be back at third base for the second game, said Melvin, who expects to use all of his position players today.

A’s forced to make tough roster decisions

First baseman Daric Barton and outfielder Sam Fuld have made the A’s Opening Day roster. Catcher Stephen Vogt will begin the season at Triple-A Sacramento, and Michael Taylor, one of the club’s former top prospects, was designated for assignment.

Those were just a handful of announcements made Saturday my manager Bob Melvin, who has also elected to start the season with a bullpen that will include lefties Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Abad and right-hander Evan Scribner. His other four relievers — Jim Johnson, Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero — were already locks.

As expected, righty Ryan Cook (shoulder) will begin the season on the disabled list, as will outfielder Craig Gentry (back). Both are expected to be back when eligible April 5.

Lefty Joe Savery, who was in battle for a bullpen spot, will pitch in relief for Sacramento.

“Certain times you look at Spring Training numbers and sometimes you don’t, and when you’re competing for jobs you do,” said Melvin. “Pomeranz and Abad had terrific springs, and we do need the length option. We feel like Pomeranz and Scribner give us that, and Abad gives us that lefty matchup we were looking for, and deservingly so.”

Melvin’s most difficult conversation Saturday came with Vogt, who hit .364 with three homers this spring, after enjoying a breakout stint with the A’s last year and collecting the walk-off hit in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

The A’s very much expect Vogt back in the big leagues this year, but they’ve opted to begin the year with only two catchers — Derek Norris and John Jaso — to ensure roster room for Barton, who will be entering his eighth season in Oakland.

Barton will start at first base against most right-handers, while the A’s other left handed-hitting first baseman, Brandon Moss, sees more time at designated hitter. Alberto Callaspo will start at first base against lefties.

“I went about my business all spring as if I was going to make the team,” said an emotional Vogt. “Obviously you never want to believe it until it happens. I believe in myself and I know at some point this year I’ll be back to help. It’s still a tough day to get that news.

“This is such a great team, a fun team, and it’s just hard to not necessarily be a physical part of it at the beginning of the year. I think that’s the hardest part for me. I love these guys.”

“That was maybe the most difficult one I’ve had to do,” said Melvin. “Not only what he’s meant to this team in the time he’s been here, but he comes into spring trying to make the team and proving he belongs here and he did. That’s a tough one on everybody, not only myself but the front office, the coaches, certainly him. Now, is he going to be here at some point in time this year? I don’t see how he can’t be.”

Emotions also ran high for Taylor, who spent four years in the organization, the bulk of it at Triple-A. He hit just .135 in 74 at-bats at the big league level but excelled this spring, batting .274 with three home runs.

“I’m obviously a little sad because I’ll be missing some of the guys I’ve grown up with in this game,” said Taylor. “I know they’ll have a great season. Now, for me, it’s just seeing what the next step is for me and my family.

“I think I have a lot to offer as a player. It didn’t really come out here at the big league level. I’ll just continue to work hard and hopefully, at some point, I get the opportunity to break through and stick.”

The A’s have 10 days to trade, release or pass Taylor through waivers to keep him in the system, though that’s not likely to happen, with outside interest thought to be high for the outfielder.

“I can’t imagine that it’s not better than it’s ever been for him,” said Melvin. “When you’re getting as much playing time as he had, all the big league scouts are watching at that particular time, and he really impressed and performed well, not only offensively, but defensively. As an organization, certainly we’d like to keep him. But as a human being, you want the best to happen for him.”

For Fuld, his place on the A’s roster could be a temporary one, since Gentry is anticipated back during the team’s first homestand. But considering he had an opt-out date March 26, the A’s are fortunate to ensure more time with him.

Fuld can play all three outfield spots “plus-plus,” said Melvin, and “deserved to make the team,” after batting .271 with six extra-base hits, including four triples, this spring.

“Obviously I’m really excited,” Fuld said. “All you can ask for when you come into a situation like I did is an opportunity, and I got a good opportunity to play, and I’m generally pretty happy with how I played.

“This is an easy place to feel comfortable. It seems like whether you’re Josh Donaldson or the 25th man, everybody has a role here. I feel like everyone is going to have an opportunity to contribute, and that’s great.”

Speedster Billy Burns, acquired in the offseason from Washington for lefty Jerry Blevins, will begin the season at Double-A Midland, according to Melvin, after totaling a team-high 22 hits in 72 spring at-bats.

“He was very appreciative of the opportunity, and from what we’ve seen,” said Melvin, “he’ll be a big leaguer at some point, I believe.”

A’s announce Opening Day roster

Your 25:

Catchers (2): Derek Norris, John Jaso

Infielders (7): Brandon Moss, Daric Barton, Eric Sogard, Alberto Callaspo, Nick Punto, Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson

Outfielders (4): Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Sam Fuld

Starters (5): Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone

Relievers (7): RHPs Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero, Evan Scribner; LHPs Sean Doolittle, Fernando Abad, Drew Pomeranz

  • Michael Taylor designated for assignment
  • Optioned to Triple-A: C Stephen Vogt, LHP Joe Savery, INF Jake Elmore
  • Billy Burns will begin the season in Double-A Midland

Ryan Cook, A.J. Griffin, Craig Gentry and Fernando Rodriguez will start season on the DL.



Projecting the 25-man roster

We’re nearly a week out from Opening Day, and the A’s roster is starting to take form. Bob Melvin announced Sunday morning that outfielder Craig Gentry and righty reliever Ryan Cook will begin the season on the disabled list, as expected, allowing us to further speculate who will be on the club come Opening Day. Furthermore, with Arnold Leon being reassigned Sunday — no announcement has been made, but his locker was cleared — and Drew Pomeranz and Josh Lindblom likely starting the season at Triple-A to be stretched out and provide starting depth, a once-crowded bullpen appears to be in place. Nothing is set, but based on what we know to this point, here is my 25-man roster prediction:

Catchers (2): Derek Norris, John Jaso

Infielders (7): Brandon Moss, Daric Barton, Eric Sogard, Alberto Callaspo, Nick Punto, Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson

Outfielders (4): Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Sam Fuld

Starters (5): Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone

Relievers (7): RHPs Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero, Evan Scribner; LHPs Sean Doolittle, Fernando Abad, Joe Savery

Stephen Vogt obviously deserves a roster spot, but he has been fighting for a job that was never available in the first place. Keep in mind, t’s never been about Vogt vs. Jaso. Jaso was a lock from Day 1. But the A’s desire to keep Barton on board doesn’t allow them to carry three catchers.

Gray named Opening Day starter

Young righty Sonny Gray has been named the A’s Opening Day starter.

Oakland’s 2011 first-round Draft pick, who made his debut just last July, has only 12 big league starts under his belt. Yet two of them came on baseball’s biggest stage, against one of the game’s best, and Gray’s ability to go toe-to-toe with Detroit’s Justin Verlander in Games 2 and 5 of the American League Division Series played a significant role in manager Bob Melvin’s decision.

The 24-year-old Gray is the A’s ninth consecutive different Opening Day starter, the longest such streak in the Majors.

“He’s very quickly become that guy for us — whether it was last year in the playoffs or being the Friday night guy at Vanderbilt, he was always that guy,” said Melvin. “He’s not afraid of the spotlight, not that anyone else couldn’t do it as well. But we’re comfortable with him.

“Not only the poise, but the competitiveness, how driven he is, and we’ve seen it all spring long here too. Whether he’s throwing in a bullpen, pitching in a game, it doesn’t matter to him, he’s the same guy all the time and takes his A game out there and is prepared every single time.”

Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone will follow in the rotation behind Gray, who is scheduled to christen the A’s season with a 7:05 p.m. PT start against the Indians at the Coliseum on March 31.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” said Gray. “I’ve had a big smile on my face, and I’m just excited for the opportunity.”

Gray was 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 12 games, 10 starts, last year, striking out 67 next to only 20 walks in 64 innings. He limited the Tigers to three earned runs spanning 13 combined innings over two starts in the playoffs.

In other news, Melvin made official what has been speculated all along: right-hander Ryan Cook and outfielder Craig Gentry will begin the season on the disabled list. They will only play in Minor League games this spring, allowing them to be eligible to return from the DL as early as April 5. Fernando Rodriguez, on the mend from Tommy John surgery, will also start on the Dl.

Parker: “I can do it again”

Jarrod Parker was back in A’s camp on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after learning from Dr. James Andrews in Florida that he needs a second Tommy John surgery, to be performed a week from today.

Parker, who was anticipated to make his first career Opening Day start, will miss the entire 2014 season. Understandably, he was visibly upset when speaking to reporters, but at the same time he spoke in positive terms, acknowledging his desire to do whatever it takes to get back on the mound again.

Said Parker: “There’s always that thought, ‘Why me? Why the guys that are working hard and we think we’re doing the right things?’ It’s that thought in the back of your head, ‘What am I doing wrong? What do I need to change?’

“But I think, to sit back and look and regret and think you did something wrong is not the right attitude.”

Here’s more of what he had to say:

On his initial reaction to hearing the news:

“I was upset. It’s one of those things where you say you go in prepared but you can’t really prepare for that. It’s tough to do alone, but I needed to go alone yesterday and hear it and let it sink in. I feel like it’s a speed bump at this point. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.”

On his conversation with Bob Melvin and his manager’s support:

“It’s big. He’s going to be in my corner no matter what. He knows as well as I do that you can’t put statistics on individual guys. You don’t want to categorize things and be a statistic. I want to be the different one, and hopefully things work out, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it work.”

On receiving Tommy John news a second time:

“It’s tough. It’s never easy news. I love this game. I love this team. It’s tough.”

On the mental aspect of such a long rehab:

“I think that’s going to be the biggest battle. Everything phsycially — I’m young, I’m healthy, I work hard — but it’s going to be a test. I’m going to be around the team, be around all the guys.I’ve gotten hundreds of texts already, and I’m going to seek out as much information as I can, as much support as I can.

“Some of them have made me laughed, some of them have made me a little teary-eyed. It’s good, but it’s tough at the same time.”

On Jesse Chavez and Tommy Milone filling out rotation:

“I think they’re more than capable. They’re Major League pitchers. It’s not like we’re searching and seeking and trying to find something. These guys are established Major Leaguers, they’re hard workers, they’re guys that are going to do whatever it takes.”


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