Results tagged ‘ Billy Beane ’

Leftovers from The Day After

The Day After, as in the day following the 2010 season that was, placed Billy Beane inside Bob Geren’s office this morning, informally holding court with a handful of us reporters while the rest of the A’s clubhouse was turning into offseason mode. Most of Beane’s 30-minute session is highlighted in this story on the A’s site, but here’s some leftover bullet points that I figured would best be shared than left idling on a word document on my computer.

  • When asked about individual accomplishments that stood out, Beane first mentioned Trevor Cahill. Said Beane: “When you think about him starting the season on the DL — and he was probably going to start the year in Sacramento anyway — and for him to come out and win 18 games with a sub-three ERA and lead the league in opponents batting average, it’s hard to not look at that and have that one stand out.
  • That said, Beane said he wasn’t so much surprised by Cahill’s success, but more so in how quickly it came about. Same for Gio Gonzalez. “Both just developed so quick. This was where I hoped they’d be a year from now.”
  • Meanwhile, Beane admitted Craig Breslow was a pleasant surprise. Breslow ranked second among AL relievers with 75 games pitched, tied for fourth with 74 2/3 innings and tied for sixth with 71 strikeouts. “I think Craig not only established himself as a valuable member of the club, but he also brings a real balance and intellectual leadership for these young guys,” Beane said. “He’s the kind of guy who, as a general manager, is the kind of mature leadership you like these kids to be around. I know he’s been voted the smartest guy in the league, but to be around him every day, you really see how he carries and conducts himself, and how guys really turn to him.”
  • When approached about the long-term plan for Chris Carter, Beane said “I think it’s our intention” to keep him in the outfield. Continued Beane: “Daric Barton has solidified himself at first, and I think Chris is a good enough athlete to make the transition. He really just went out there a couple weeks before he came up, so I think we need to give him some time. He does have power. So getting back to Daric, he showed himself to be, in my opinion, the best first baseman in the league. He’s also made significant strides offensively. I was quite pleased with what he did there this year, and I have no intention of taking him off first base.” That’s quite a bold statement and only proves the club’s intent to stick with Barton.
  • With Carter slated to be the club’s Opening Day left fielder next year — though Beane noted he doesn’t want to make a definitive statement regarding that notion — the A’s could be looking at an outfield of Carter in left, Coco Crisp in center and Ryan Sweeney in right. It’s likely the A’s will pick up Crisp’s 2011 club option, and they “feel pretty good” about Sweeney’s ability to be ready by season’s start following knee rehab. However, Beane noted a lot of the outfield makeup “depends on if there are any adds as well. Some of the dynamics of the outfield will be affected by any trades or signings.”
  • Finally, general thoughts from Beane on moving forward: “I

    think
    we’re excited about the offseason. We came in with the youngest team in the big
    leagues, and we left with the youngest team in the big leagues, but I think we
    did some things and accomplished some things that you wouldn’t normally
    anticipate with a team with this kind of youth and experience. To have the No.
    1 pitching staff in the American League is difficult no matter what your
    payroll is, and to do it with these kids and their inexperience is quite a
    statement and quite a building block for us going forward.”

That’s all I’ve got for you today, but you can regularly check this blog along with the A’s site throughout the offseason for all your A’s news.

One cherry Tootsie Pop, please…

I’m starting to wonder if the A’s training room is handing out free lollipops or something. Or maybe stickers and Disney princess band-aids. That’s just my guess. I can’t seem to think of any good reason why the baseball gods, year after year, continue to sprinkle this A’s team with health problems. As expected, Kurt Suzuki became the 10th A’s player to go on the disabled list today. Justin Duchscherer could easily be next, and Dallas Braden’s numb foot didn’t exactly leave anyone feeling great after the lefty’s last performance.

After seemingly getting off to one of their healthiest starts in years, the A’s have quickly reminded us that the bad luck that has continually circled through the clubhouse hasn’t quite left. A total of 74 players have made use of the DL since the start of the 2007 season, and the A’s are now on pace to use it about 70 times this year alone. Anyone out there working on a medical thesis right now? Someone could easily do an exhaustive study on this injury-prone team.

Let’s take a look at who’s enjoying a Tootsie Roll Pop right now:

Kurt Suzuki is bored out of his mind thanks to an intercostal strain in his left side that will keep him out of the lineup until May 9 at the earliest. That’s when he’s eligible to return from the 15-day DL.

Mark Ellis didn’t make the team’s current road trip and is instead treating his strained left hamstring. He’s eligible to be reinstated from the DL on May 6, but the club isn’t making any promises that his name will be back in the lineup then. After all, Ellis returned April 20 after missing seven games due to the injury and left the game after five innings. No need to rush him.

Travis Buck, possibly the most frustrated of them all, is out with a strained right oblique muscle — which flared up during batting practice April 21 and had him on the DL by the next morning. He hit a monster of a home run the day before suffering the injury and appeared to be heading toward a hot streak, making the situation that much more disappointing. Story of Buck’s life, though. Right?

Coco Crisp probably wants to simply wave a magic wand over his fractured pinkie finger right about now, but he’s taking things in stride because he know there’s absolutely nothing he can do to make it heal quicker. He’s hopeful he’ll be able to resume baseball activity in less than two weeks, which means we could maybe see him make his debut in green and gold by the end of May.

Brett Anderson received quite the reward for signing a four-year contract extension last week. And I’m not talking about the $32 million he could potentially earn. Rather, Anderson is now being forced to celebrate his new deal with a strain near his flexor tendon that will force him to miss at least five weeks.

Michael Wuertz scared us all when he wasn’t pitching in any Spring Training games. That’s when we found out about the sore shoulder, which then turned into shoulder tendinitis, which then put him on the DL to start the season. The A’s top right-handed setup man is on his way back, though. He is scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Sacramento tonight and, if all goes well, he could rejoin the team for next week’s homestand.

Joey Devine is one of the nicest guys on the team, but his surgically-repaired elbow hasn’t been so kind to him. Devine entered camp quite enthused that he was ahead of his Tommy John rehab schedule only to be set back with tendinitis halfway through spring. Then, just as he was about to face live hitters last week, he felt more pain and found out the tendinitis has returned. However, that’s relatively good news considering he thought there might be a tear involved. Devine was transferred to the 60-day DL today to make room for Josh Donaldson on the A’s 40-man, so it looks like we won’t see him until after the All-Star break.

Josh Outman, like Devine, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected to rejoin the club until midseason. All reports on his recovery process, though, have been nothing but thumbs up.

John Meloan, remember him? He underwent Tommy John surgery last month and will likely be out until the middle of the 2011 season.

That should add up to nine. Trevor Cahill, who struggled in his season debut against the Jays tonight, represents the club’s 10th player to have used the DL this year. He started the season there with a stress reaction in his left scapula before being optioned to Sacramento and, eventually, being recalled to fill Anderson’s place.

The A’s also saw Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jerry Blevins miss time due to their own respective injuries last week. Now, the team will wait on news from Dr. Thomas Byrd, who will examine Duchscherer’s MRI on Monday in Nashville. If surgery is required, folks, you won’t be seeing him back in a uniform this year.

Watching Duchscherer choke up after last night’s game was rough. This guy’s essentially been to mental hell and back, and now he’s dealing with yet another hip issue after just five starts. If he’s out of the mix, Vin Mazzaro is likely to get the call up. Maybe then we’ll appreciate all this depth talk Billy Beane spoke of so much during the offseason.

On the upside, Eric Chavez is still going strong. Of all the players who have fallen victim to the injury bug, who would have thought the A’s veteran would not be one of them? Chavez very much appears to have a great peace of mind regarding his role on this team, and it’s good to see him enjoying himself on the field again. He also got a haircut recently, as I observed today. “Actually,” he said with a grin, “I got it last week, but thanks for noticing.”

Hey, it’s hard to keep track of trips to the DL, let alone visits to the salon…  

As react to Nomars retirement

Nomar Garciaparra officially announced his retirement today, and while the news didn’t surprise many around the A’s clubhouse, it gave them reason to talk about the role he’s played not just as a player but also as a person for the game of baseball. I was around Nomar a bit last year when he was with the A’s and was always struck by the way he carried himself as a true pro and as a mentor to a lot of the younger guys. Some around the clubhouse hadn’t heard the news when approached about it, but everyone pretty much had the same thing to say: Great guy. Great player. The A’s were truly lucky to have him around for a year…

Said manager Bob Geren: “He had a fantastic career. He’s obviously best known for what he did in Boston, so it’s good to see him retire as a Red Sox. He was a great player on the field, and when he wasn’t on the field he made some great contributions in helping the young guys in the clubhosue.

General manager Billy Beane also had nothing but gracious words to say about Nomar and really stressed how blessed he is to know him as a person. “He was a great talent,” Beane said. “He had a huge impact on the game.”

Sunday notes: Sheets, Cahill and more

Tidbits from a rather quiet Sunday that saw way too much rain pound Phoenix Muni for the majority of the day:

Ben Sheets threw live BP and said everything felt great. Among those who stood in against him: Ryan Sweeney, Daric Barton, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jake Fox. As I’ve noted before, Sheets has turned out to be quite the character around the clubhouse. On the mound, though, he turns into a completely different creature. Very intense. Less than five minutes after walking off the mound, though, he was back to his joking self. And if anything, he learned to stay away from the Mexican burrito spread right before he heads out to throw…

Bob Geren was very impressed with Trevor Cahill’s BP session today and said his performance was “the best I’ve seen from him.” Looked like he had all his pitches working for him, and he was getting quite the response from guys watching him in the dugout.

As you’ve probably already read here, the A’s signed veteran right-handers Jason Jennings and Brett Tomko today. Buzz is already circulating about what these moves mean for the current pitching staff. Are these additions simply Billy Beane’s way of adding more depth to a team with a longstanding injury history, or might this bring to question Justin Duchscherer and Sheets’ health? Hard to say right now, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.

I was told today that the A’s exhibition opener against the Cubs on Thursday will be on the radio for the first time in more than a decade. So for those of you within range of KTRB-860 in the Bay Area, you’ll be able to listen to all the sights and sounds of Oakland’s opener.

And if you didn’t get a chance to see this video of Rickey Henderson lending some advice to Rajai Davis, make sure you do so.

One final note to leave with you: As Jayson Stark observed today, this is the last Sunday without a baseball game to watch until November 7.

Will we see Taylor before Buck?

I think I’ve finally recovered from Monday’s wacky series of events. When I confirmed the Gabe Gross signing news Sunday, I was pretty certain Monday could turn out to be interesting knowing that a trade was most likely to follow to make room on the 40-man. But never would I have pegged it to be a day when we saw not one but two utility infielders come in, not to mention a brief hour-long stint by a $4 million outfielder (Willy Taveras) only to watch him be designated for assignment. And in the meantime, Dana Eveland and Gregorio Petit were DFA’d as well. Needless to say, I was afraid to leave my laptop and/or phone in the event news was waiting about the groundbreaking of a new A’s stadium and/or confirmation that Grant Desme changed his mind about the priesthood. It was THAT kind of day. A kind of day on which anything could happen.

What didn’t happen, aside from fans’ fantasies about the stadium and Desme, was anything involving Travis Buck. In fact, no news of Buck has surfaced in quite awhile. And the way I see it — through reports and personal observations — is that tension is running mighty high between the once promising goldilocks outfielder and the organization. When I talked to David Forst on Monday, he made no mention of Buck when asked about the fourth/fifth outfield slots. Neither did Billy Beane when discussing the matter with the Contra Costa Times.

That being said, I could seriously see Michael Taylor picking out white cleats before Buck does so again. And for Buck’s sake, I hope he’s gone by Opening Day. The kid needs a change of scenery — a new team to prove his worth. So let’s take it to the polls:

Where will we see Travis Buck on Opening Day?
A. Getting reacquainted with new and old teammates in Sacramento.
B. Sitting on the bench in Oakland.
C. Sitting on a big league bench somewhere far away.
D. Standing in a big league outfield somewhere far away.
  

Buck in As future?

As reported here, a club source told me Sunday that the A’s have indeed signed free agent outfielder Gabe Gross to a one-year deal. According to the source, Gross’ contract is worth $750,000. He can earn up to $1 million based on plate appearances. Here’s the breakdown:

300 ABs: $25,000
350 ABs: $25,000
400 ABs: $50,000
450 ABs: $50,000
500 ABs: $50,000
550 ABs: $50,000

The deal was likely done Friday, and the club anticipated announcing the news Monday. So come tomorrow, if/when the A’s put out a release, it should be interesting to see who is designated for assignment. The Ben Sheets signing put the A’s right at the 40-man mark, so someone’s definitely getting the bump. I know this deal is also leaving many of you Travis Buck fans skeptical about his future in Oakland. Before the rumors of Gross (and Johnny Damon) began circling about, many assumed Buck was the A’s fourth outfielder. In the past, Beane has been adamant about Buck not being available to other teams, but a deal like this has to make you wonder if he’s changed his mind.

Count your outfielders

All is apparently not quiet on the Western Front. Talks of the A’s in pursuit of one-time Oakland player Johnny Damon have fizzled this weekend, but according to multiple reports — including FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and ESPN’s Buster Olney — the club is now in “serious discussions” with free-agent outfielder Gabe Gross. The 30-year-old Gross, who hit .227 with six homers and 36 games for Tampa Bay last year, would presumably offer the A’s a left-handed option off the bench and yet another backup outfielder.

Over the past couple weeks, both Beane and Geren have boasted about what could shape up to be the best defensive outfield in the league with Davis in LF, Crisp in CF and Sweeney in RF. The A’s also have the highly touted Michael Taylor waiting in line, not to mention options in Eric Patterson and Travis Buck — the latter who the A’s seem to have lost a lot of hope on, especially if a Gross signing gets done. So with the A’s entering camp with more outfielders than some can count, it begs the question of why Beane is so interested in signing an outfielder rather than what he calls a much-needed utility infielder.

At the same time, it’s Beane. And where his mind goes at this time of the year is anybody’s guess. After all, it’s fair to say the Ben Sheets signing didn’t make much sense — considering the pitching depth — before the deal came into fruition. And now that it has, it makes great sense barring any injury. But Gross is not Sheets. And he’s not Crisp. Or Kouzmanoff. So what gives?

Depth comes with decisions

For those still not sold on yesterday’s signing, I urge you
to join the pro-Sheets club. Why? Because it’s a win-win for all — Sheets gets
to pitch in a pitcher-friendly park, put up good numbers and re-enter the
market at season’s end and/or be moved to a contender for prospects come July
if the A’s are out of contention.

Basically, it’s a smart move for both sides — unless, of
course, Sheets gets hurt. But after listening to both the right-handed pitcher
and Beane talk extensively both during and after the press conference about
Sheets’ questioned health, I firmly believe he’s not going to be crowding the
trainer’s room this year. Billy said the guy keeps himself in remarkable shape,
and Ben went on for about five minutes about how extensive his physical was
before the deal was done.

Billy was asked if he felt anxious about having his rotation
led by two guys who didn’t pitch an inning last year. Definitely a fair
question, and one that I’m sure has plenty A’s fans wondering about too. Here’s
Billy’s answer:

“I wouldn’t say anxiety. Bigger anxiety was going into last
year having so little experience in our starting rotation. Ben opted to have
the surgery a year ago in an effort to make sure he was completely healthy, so
I have less concern than I would had he not had the surgery.

“Quite frankly, we were very pleased with the physical he
went through. Ben keeps himself in great shape, as does Justin, so we’re
anticipating them having a real good year. We can take a little bit of pressure
off our rotation because we now have some depth, which we haven’t had in the
last few years. Going into Spring Training, we have seven or eight guys.”

Later, Bob Geren was promptly asked about his starting
rotation. Is Sheets your ace? “Oh yea,” he replied. Quite a change from last year,
when Geren didn’t choose his OD starter (Braden) until five days before the
first pitch was thrown. He said Duchscherer, Braden and Anderson would likely
follow in that order, although I see a couple different options there since
Geren usually likes to go R-L-R or L-R-L. Both Geren and Beane made it very
clear that the fifth spot is not Cahill’s for certain — which I suspect
several people assumed would be the case. I, for one, though, do see Cahill –
who turns 22 in March — landing that fifth spot.

He definitely didn’t make as many strides as fellow rotation
youngster Anderson did last season, but he did improve on keeping the ball down
in the strike zone near the end of the year. His sinker has potential to be
very dangerous, but he’s gotta be careful with the long ball (he gave up an
Oakland-rookie-record 27 homers last year).

Then there’s Gio. The guy’s got what Geren deems the best
stuff on the staff, but keeping Gio in check mentally is what’s preventing him
from becoming a bona fide Major League pitcher. I talked with Gio for a long
while about this last week, and he said he feels he’s turned a page when it
comes to calming down on the mound. He’ll have to walk the talk come spring,
but if what he’s saying proves to be true, then he could definitely be in the
mix for the No. 5 spot.

Mazzaro is the final candidate for the job and, frankly, the
one several around the league pegged as the next big thing last spring. He was
usually mentioned in the same breath as Anderson and Cahill, and people were
going gaga over comparing the trio to The Big Three of Hudson, Mulder and Zito.
He was called up in June and quickly had heads turning by posting a 0.00 ERA in
his first two starts. But then he suddenly lost eight in a row, suffered a
shoulder injury and was never heard from again. Less walks and more strikes,
along with a slightly more poised appearance, and Mazzaro’s a big leaguer. But
when that time will come, no one knows. So for now, I see him getting schooled
at Triple A to start the season.

Don’t forget about Josh Outman, who should be back
mid-season. Including him, that’s 8 pitchers available to start. So when Billy
grabbed Sheets, was part of the plan to trade one of the younger pitchers for a
much-needed utility INF? “I think it’s fair to say we’ll hold on to the young
guys. We’ve finally got a little bit of depth.”

Depth? Yes. Lots of decisions left to make? Oh yes.

In a perfect world, what does your rotation look like?  

Sheets, Damon on As radar

All those thinking the A’s rotation is
the one area need not be touched heading into Spring Training, think again.
Recent reports are pointing toward a possible Ben Sheets signing in Oakland.

The 31-year-old free agent, who missed
all of 2009 because of elbow surgery, threw a pitching session in front of
several scouts and team officials — including those from Oakland — on Jan. 19
at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. His fastball topped out at 92 mph,
and his curveball was highly affective.

Now, almost one week later, the A’s are
apparently very much still interested despite Sheets’ desire for a guaranteed
$8 million in 2010. And while Billy Beane declined to comment, citing his
policy against discussing free agents, multiple reports say Oakland is
definitely in the mix. Other teams reportedly in a bidding war for the
right-hander include the Mets and Rangers.

The A’s do have some money to spend,
and Sheets would not only offer the A’s an added veteran presence in a very
young rotation, but also provide the club with some trade bait (Gonzalez?
Mazzaro?) to aide in their efforts in landing a power-hitting SS – the one area
on the field where depth is missing.

So while the Sheets interest may seem
somewhat of a head-scratcher at first glance, the notion doesn’t seem too crazy
upon further review – especially when Billy’s involved. However, the team is
also linked to an even stranger idea: Could Johnny Damon be back for a second
tour with the A’s if the Sheets signing doesn’t go down? Doesn’t quite make
much sense, but reports say it’s a definite maybe.

Last week at A’s Media Day, Geren
insisted he may have one of the best — if not, the best — defensive outfields
in the league with Davis in LF, Crisp in CF and Sweeney in RF. Damon’s not
exactly Gold Glove material out there, and he wouldn’t be much of a need at DH
either with Cust, Fox and (hopefully) Chavez already as options there.

Needless to say, the A’s roster could
be slapped with some changes by week’s end. Should be interesting to see how it
all plays out.

Welcome.

Offseason greetings to all in the baseball community, and
welcome to a blog written by your newest A’s beat reporter for MLB.com. My name
is Jane Lee, and I officially joined the A’s full-time beat for MLB.com on
January 18. Hopefully some of you remember me, as I enjoyed a handful of
freelance work covering the A’s during the 2009 season and also worked
alongside former Oakland beat writer Mychael Urban as his associate reporter
the previous year. Thus, having two years of experience on the A’s beat under
my belt, I can assure you nothing but complete and continual coverage of the
A’s that you are used to seeing at MLB.com.

 

I’m beyond excited about this opportunity, and I hope you
join me on the ride by bookmarking this page and making yourself a regular
visitor both here and at the A’s official site. My first week proved plenty
busy, as I reported on the A’s efforts to avoid arbitration with Rajai Davis and newbie
Kevin Kouzmanoff, wrote about Eric Chavez’s new utility role, heard from Coco Crisp and several others at A’s Media Day,
and covered the surprising news of Oakland prospect Grant Desme’s choice to leave baseball and join
the Catholic priesthood. Furthermore, I’m certain Billy Beane isn’t quite done
wheeling and dealing this offseason, so you may be seeing (more) new faces on
the roster before the team and I head to Phoenix in three short weeks for
Spring Training.

 

Here, you can expect any and all news and analysis related
to the team, as well as some fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes and observations
seen on and off the field. Please feel free to leave comments, or e-mail me here. Don’t
forget to follow me on Twitter, either!

 

– Jane


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