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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Coco Crisp tested out his strained left hamstring on the bases on Monday, and manager Bob Melvin was so encouraged by the results that, for the first time, he said the outfielder could potentially return to the lineup when eligible Wednesday.
“It went really well,” Melvin said. “He ran full out, didn’t look like there was hesitation, so he’ll take batting practice, some balls in the outfield today, and if everything goes well today and tomorrow we’ll look to activate him Wednesday. But, again, we have to get there first.”
Melvin didn’t sound as optimistic about Chris Young, who is on the mend from a left quad strain. The outfielder homered in an extended Spring Training game Monday but “wasn’t 100 percent,” Melvin said. Young went 1-for-5 and played seven innings in center field.
“He could feel it a little bit, probably didn’t let himself go all the way running down the line, so we’ll see on Wednesday,” Melvin continued. “He’ll play again tomorrow. If we feel like we have to push it back with the off-day [Thursday], we can do that, but we’ll see where it goes.”
Crisp and Young, responsible for 13 of the club’s 26 stolen bases, have both been out since April 30, and in that time the A’s are 4-8.
“These are key guys for us, but you don’t want to make excuses for anything,” Melvin said. “We have depth in this organization, guys that we like, and it’s their opportunity to shine. I think we probably miss Coco at the top of the lineup as much as anything, because he’s our igniter, but you don’t make excuses. You play through them and try to do the best you can.”
At some point, whether by way of Crisp’s activation or Young’s, Michael Taylor is likely to be sent back to Triple-A Sacramento. He entered Monday with just one hit in 14 at-bats, after going hitless in six at-bats during his first stint with the club and 3-for-21 over two stints in Oakland last year.
These struggles put into question Taylor’s future with the organization. He’ll be 28 by year’s end, with more than 600 games played at the Minor League level.
“He just hasn’t had the quality at-bats he’d like to have,” Melvin said. “We still feel like the ability is there. It just hasn’t translated at this point. You look at Chris Carter, and he had a tough time and finally got more of an opportunity to play on a regular basis and figured it out and had a productive year. We’d like to think that’s the same way with Michael, because the ability is there.
“He hasn’t gotten consistent time, where he’s gotten four, five games in a row, and he might not, but we still hold out hope that his ability will take over and he will have success here at some point in time.”
It’s not clear who will join Taylor back in Triple-A when both Crisp and Young are reinstated, though the decision is expected to come down to Daric Barton — who would first have to clear waivers — or Luke Montz.
Josh Reddick is not ready to commit to right wrist surgery until he attempts to swing a bat, but the A’s outfielder is also not ruling it out.
“Obviously I don’t want that,” Reddick said Monday, “but it’s something that’s not out of the question right now.”
The fact that Reddick is even considering surgery, which would put him out at least two months, is alarming, particularly at a time when his team is struggling to string together some wins. Entering Monday, the A’s had dropped 16 of their last 23 games, with six of their next nine to be played against the first-place Rangers.
Reddick was batting just .152 with one home run when he was placed on the disabled list with a sprained right wrist Wednesday, after hitting .242 with 32 home runs and 85 RBIs last year. But his Gold-Glove defense makes him an invaluable piece to the team regardless, and there was thought that his wrist pain may have contributed to his ongoing woes at the plate.
The 26-year-old received a cortisone shot in his wrist last week and said he hasn’t experienced much pain since, though his ensuing activity has been limited, mostly reduced to strengthening exercises. That’s all Reddick will continue to do for at least another week, and after that point he’ll test his wrist with a bat.
“That’s when we’ll actually know anything for sure,” he said. “I’m not going to make a decision now. If it was torn last week, I would’ve already been in a cast, but there’s no tear so I’m not going to jump to any conclusions and just take every precaution to get it right.
“If it works out then it works out, but if not then we may unfortunately have to go down that road [of surgery]. Hopefully there’s a road block sign out there.”
Reddick suffered the same injury in his left wrist in September 2011, but with his ex-Red Sox club in the middle of a playoff run that ultimately fizzled, he played through the pain — allowing just one day of rest after receiving a cortisone shot — and a week into the offseason learned he had a tear, leading to surgery.
“It’s in the same spot as the other one,” Reddick said, “but I don’t know how it’s going to project. Hopefully it’s something I can manage and strengthen back up.”
Manager Bob Melvin, like Reddick, is remaining cautiously optimistic about avoiding surgery.
“I wouldn’t say it’s out of the realm, but that’s a last resort at this point,” said Melvin, who is also without injured outfielders Coco Crisp and Chris Young. “We’d like to think that the strengthening that he’s doing right now gets better and better to where he can swing the bat. We hope that once he does that he’s fine. But I don’t think you rule anything out at this point.”
Should an openly gay player ever step foot in the A’s clubhouse, he’d have the full support of his teammates.
That was the sentiment shared by several Oakland players on Monday, the same day NBA veteran Jason Collins publicly declared he’s gay, becoming the first active athlete in the four major American sports to do so.
“A person’s a person to me,” manager Bob Melvin said. “If he’s a good person, a good baseball player, we’d welcome him here.
“We welcome all kinds here, and I think it’s good. We embrace that as an organization. We would absolutely have no issues with that at all.”
Collins’ announcement drew a vast array of encouraging comments from the sports world, many of which were heard in Oakland, particularly from team player representative Jerry Blevins, who spoke eloquently on the matter.
“I’m impressed. It takes such courage, especially in an environment of pro sports, to come out,” Blevins said. “I’m proud that I play sports in today’s era where somebody can be openly gay, and I’m excited for a future where kids that feel the same way that [Collins] does have someone to look up to and say, ‘I can be myself and I can also be a world class athlete.’
“I think once everyone gets over the initial shock and stops talking about it that people will start to feel open about it. Everyone talks about Jackie Robinson, but there were also a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth black guy that came to play the game. It’s not nearly the same thing, but it takes equal courage to be who you are and play when you’re not quite as accepted as you should be or as you deserve. There will be more to follow, and at some point it won’t be a story anymore.”
Added Coco Crisp: “For me, it’s not a big deal. There are people that are real religious and think a certain way, but as far as anyone that has something they want to share with the world and they feel like it’s going to help them and maybe others, then I’m happy for that person.”
It’s a conversation that will surely continue in the baseball realm until someone who is openly gay actually walks into a Major League clubhouse, where players engage in a rather unusual working environment, with players and coaches undressing and showering together on a daily basis for at least eight months out of the year. This stands as reason why some might have an issue with gays in a clubhouse — but it shouldn’t be, says Jed Lowrie, who attended Stanford University shortly after Collins did.
“We spend a longer period of time together and probably in a closer environment than other sports, but at the end of the day I think this is a place of business,” the A’s shortstop said, “and you have to have the separation between your professional life and your personal life. If someone can help the team win, that’s what it’s about.”
“I think if it happened in baseball, especially in our clubhouse, it would be about as easy as a transition as it could be,” Blevins said. “We already make fun of each other for every little thing. That’s kind of what brings us together.”
Upon Jed Lowrie’s arrival in Oakland, the organization’s thinking was that he would get a chunk of playing time at nearly every infield position this season.
Yet the versatile Lowrie has only appeared at shortstop through the club’s first 23 games, in large part because of Hiro Nakajima’s absence. So that’s why there was an element of surprise to Lowrie’s name attached to second base for game No. 24.
Adam Rosales, fresh off the disabled list, drew the start at shortstop against the Orioles, and that’s where he’ll likely be whenever he’s in the same lineup as Lowrie, whose last start at second base came on Sept. 6, 2010 while with the Red Sox.
“It’s more about Rosie,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Jed’s versatility probably works against him at times. Without Rosales here, he got to play shortstop every day. He’ll still play some shortstop, but his versatility would suggest he can probably play anywhere up the middle. And Rosales’ best position is probably short.
“We’ll see where it goes, but Jed’s good anywhere up the middle, and obviously his bat speaks for itself, too.”
Lowrie entered the day with 31 hits on the season, good for a second-place tie in the American League. They’re also the most hits by an Athletic over the first 23 games of the season since Carney Lansford posted 32 in 1992. The record is 33, achieved by both Stan Javier (1994) and Ben Grieve (1998).
ANAHEIM — Having already missed all of 2012 while rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee, A’s second baseman Scott Sizemore has re-torn the same ACL and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Sizemore initially felt pain in the knee while chasing after a fly ball in Tuesday night’s game in Anaheim, which marked just his second start since Sept. 2011, and he underwent an MRI administered by team orthopedist Dr. Will Workman in the Bay Area on Wednesday that revealed the tear.
Workman and the rest of the team’s medical staff are still discussing when Sizemore will undergo the surgery, which will be his third in the last five years. Aside from last year’s procedure, the infielder also underwent surgery on his left ankle for a fractured fibula in 2009.
“Unbelievable,” said manager Bob Melvin, visibly shaken. “It’s just awful. I’ve been with Scotty since I took over here. We actually came up around the same time. He had a great year, played out of position, and he’s one of those guys you really pull for, because he’s such a good guy and cares so much and wants to win. He’s coming off two difficult surgeries in the last several years, and to have a third one is devastating.
“We’re thinking about him, but I can’t imagine what’s going through his mind right now.”
With Sizemore out of the mix at second base, where he was platooning with Eric Sogard, the A’s will continue to rely on Sogard, as well as switch-hitter Andy Parrino, who was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday to take Sizemore’s place on the active roster.
ANAHEIM — A’s second baseman Scott Sizemore sprained his surgically-repaired left knee in Tuesday’s game in Anaheim and will return to the Bay Area on Wednesday to undergo an MRI.
Both Sizemore and his employers are holding out hope that the injury is minor, but with Josh Reddick also out nursing a sprained right wrist, the A’s have no choice but to place one of them — likely Sizemore — on the disabled list on Wednesday in order to ensure enough healthy bodies are on their bench.
Once they do so, Andy Parrino will be promoted, MLB.com has learned. The versatile infielder/outfielder, brought over the offseason trade that sent Tyson Ross to the Padres, enjoyed a nice spring with the A’s and was batting .174 (4-for-23) in six games with the River Cats through Tuesday.
Parrino hit .207 with one homer and six RBIs in 55 games with San Diego last year, appearing in 26 games at shortstop and 15 at second base, while also playing two games at third and one in right field.
Sizemore suffered the injury in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s contest while chasing after a fly ball off the bat of Mike Trout that fell in for a hit. He immediately exited the game and was replaced by Eric Sogard.
“I just kind of stopped, kind of with a straight leg, and it didn’t feel right,” Sizemore said. “It kind of tightened up on me, so obviously being safe than sorry we’ll get it checked out tomorrow and hopefully it’s something minor and won’t be anything too serious. But, as of now, we don’t know anything.”
Sizemore underwent surgery on that same knee just last spring as a result of a torn ACL, forcing him to miss all of 2012. Tuesday marked just his second appearance of the season.
Best-case scenario, Sizemore learns Wednesday that the pain is stemming from scar-tissue tearing.
“That would be good,” he said, “but at this point it’s just kind of all speculation, so we just wish for the best.”