Catching Up With a Pair of the Ports’ Top Hitters: James Harris & Joe Bennie

spstockton-ports-logoThe A’s affiliate in the California League, the Stockton Ports, has struggled for much of this season, putting up a .408 winning percentage through the team’s first 98 games. But a couple of Stockton’s biggest standouts in the batter’s box so far this season have been outfielder James Harris and second baseman/outfielder Joe Bennie.

Harris is the team leader in hits, runs, total bases, stolen bases, batting average and on-base percentage, while Bennie leads the team in doubles, extra-base hits and RBIs. We took the opportunity to talk with the pair earlier this week in Stockton.

 

JAMES HARRIS

jh605266bAs a 17-year-old high school outfielder, Oakland native James Harris was a 1st-round pick for Tampa Bay in the 2011 amateur draft. But after struggling through four seasons in the Tampa system, never rising above Class-A, the former top prospect was released towards the end of spring training in 2015. Within a couple of weeks though, Harris was signed by his hometown team and sent to Beloit, where he had a solid season as the Snappers’ leadoff hitter, putting up a .359 on-base percentage over 86 games in the Midwest League. And he’s taken things up another notch this season with the Ports, putting up an impressive .312/.390/.442 slash line and stealing 20 bases through 96 games while also being named a California League All-Star…

AF:  You’ve been having a good year here in Stockton and you’ve been very consistent. So what’s been working for you here this season?

JH:  Pretty much just going out there and having fun. I put in a lot of work in the offseason to be able to just come out here and play and not have to worry about trying to make too many major adjustments throughout the season. I’m just trying to stay consistent with an approach and attitude and make little minor adjustments within the season. So I think that’s helped with consistency.

AF:  What was your offseason program like and what were you really focused on in the offseason?

JH:  This offseason was a lot of skill work – so hitting, first steps, speed, jumps. Just trying to stay consistent with the short swing and be able to repeat that swing over and over again regardless of pitch and location. And then obviously being able to steal some more bases, being able to get a good first step. And then just kind of working out to be a little stronger, to be able to drive the ball to all fields, and be able to do things I need to do to stay healthy for a full season.

AF:  When you came over to the A’s organization last season, things really seemed to start clicking for you right away. It seems like you started having a lot of success right off the bat. So is there anything in particular that accounts for that?

JH:  Change of scenery and maturity. You know, when Tampa drafted me, I was young – 17 years old. And after a few years over there, I was still learning and adjusting to the game. And by the time I got over here, it was a good change of scenery. I’ve had an opportunity to go out there and play every day, so I’ve just tried to make the most of it. I just kind of went back into a position where nothing was going to be given, so I didn’t want to back down or let down or anything. And also, the energy and the vibes over here with the coaches and the coordinators have all been good. And I think I’ve been able to communicate with them and be pretty open with them about things that I want to work on, and also feel comfortable with asking questions about things that they feel I could do better and take the criticism for what it is and work to be better at it.

AF:  Well, I guess sometimes it’s just nice to be able to make a fresh start!

JH:  It is, it is – and just an opportunity to play for a team I grew up watching and was my favorite team. It made the game fun again. It’s almost like the beginning of a dream all over again.

AF:  I was going to ask you about that. Being from Oakland, when you first found out that you were going to have the chance to join the A’s, what was your first reaction to that?

JH:  My first reaction was just thankful that another team was going to give me an opportunity. And the second thing was just, you know, that’s something I’ve always dreamed about. I’ve played in the Coliseum a few times with my high school team and been to a ton of games there. And when I told my family, they were really excited. So I just want to make the most of the opportunity and do the best I can to be able to play at home in my backyard.

AF:  So when you were growing up and following the A’s, who were some of the players you liked and had your eye on?

JH:  Well, the teams when I was younger that I remember, Jermaine Dye was a big guy, and then Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada – you know, that whole team with the big three [Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito] – Terrence Long, Scott Hatteberg, Mark Ellis, Huston Street had just got there…

AF:  The classic Moneyball days!

JH:  Yeah, that was what I knew. And tickets were $5 on hot dog day. I’d go with my family or I’d go on summer field trips with programs and stuff. I think I still have a deck of cards at home with a bunch of A’s players from growing up. Those was the guys that I remember being able to watch. And Rickey Henderson has always been my favorite player.

AF:  I was wondering about that. I had a feeling that might be the case.

JH:  Yeah, Rickey’s always been my favorite player. I met him in high school, because he went to my high school [Oakland Technical High School]. And they ended up naming our high school field after him, so I met him then. I talked to him a little bit when I was with Tampa in the offseason. And then this year, I’ve had a chance to work with him more.

AF:  I imagine you must have spent some time with him in Arizona in spring training.

JH:  Yeah, I talked to him there. And then he’s come here two or three times and I’ve had a chance to talk to him here.

AF:  Well, I imagine when a guy like Rickey has something to say to you, you probably listen!

JH:  100 percent – I guarantee you he’s not trying to steer me wrong!

AF:  You can’t go wrong listening to Rickey!

JH:  Exactly!

AF:  Have you seen Moneyball and, if you have, what did you think about it?

JH:  I have. I thought it was a pretty good film. I didn’t know much about the whole Moneyball scheme and what they were doing at the time. I just learned of it once I saw it what the whole idea of it was. And it makes more sense now being in the middle of it and seeing how organizations work when it comes to players. I thought it was a real good movie though.

AF:  Then finally, is there anything that you’re particularly focused on at this point in the season?

JH:  Everything. I think the main thing is just staying focused. It’s so easy at the end of the season to start kind of losing focus and start shutting it down a little bit. So just trying to stay locked in on every game – we’ve got somewhere close to 50 games left – to lock it in for every pitch, or on the bases, or out in the field. And then just constantly working on jumps, reads, you know, little stuff, footwork in the outfield, staying consistent with the swing and getting good pitches to hit, not trying to do too much, just trying to keep everything simple and just staying focused through the end of the season. I don’t want to let up early. Letting up early creates a bad habit, and they see that stuff. They want to see you finish all the way through. You know, if you get to the big leagues, even if you’re not in the playoff chase, they want you still going hard all the way to the end of the season.

AF:  That’s right, you can’t let up till the last game!

 

JOE BENNIE

jb643218bTaken by the A’s in the 28th round of the 2013 draft, Bennie has done a great job of getting on base ever since joining the A’s organization, and he currently sports a .370 on-base percentage over parts of four minor league seasons. Bennie started out primarily playing second base, while seeing a little time at third base, but he shifted to the outfield last season, and has split his time between the outfield and second base this year. Bennie has been one of Stockton’s best hitters this season and is currently boasting the best on-base percentage (.380) and slugging percentage (.448) in his time in the A’s system. And his brother Robert, an outfielder, was just taken by the A’s in the 24th round of this year’s draft…

AF:  You’ve been having a really solid year here at Stockton. You’ve been getting on base and showing a little pop. So what’s been clicking for you here this season?

JB:  I just think it’s a product of having a lot of at-bats over the past couple years and just all the hard work in the offseason. I showed up to spring training early just trying to get some extra at-bats. And I just think it’s starting to click with my approach and just my confidence out there. So I’m happy the results are coming as part of that.

AF:  And how do you feel about hitting here in Stockton as opposed to Beloit, where you were last year? How’s it been different for you?

JB:  You can mis-hit some balls and they’ll travel a little bit more here. But I try not to let that stuff get to me or get me off my approach. It’s the same game, so I just try to stick with what I can do.

AF:  What are some of the differences in the kind of pitching you’ve had to face here in High-A in the California League?

JB:  I just think they have more of an idea of how to pitch. So they’re really going to attack your weaknesses until you prove you can fix them. In rookie ball, pitchers kind of just throw the ball as hard as they can and they don’t know where it’s going. Last year, they kind of had more of an idea. But this year, it’s been challenging at times because they know what they’re doing. But I just stick to the same approach each day and try not to let that get in my way.

AF:  In your time in the organization, you’ve played a few different positions – second base, third base, the outfield. Is there anywhere in particular that you feel most comfortable at this stage of the game?

JB:  Yeah, I guess they’re searching for a position for me. And they like that I can kind of fill the utility role, which I don’t mind at all because it keeps me in the lineup every day – it doesn’t matter where I’m playing. Personally, I really like second base. I got drafted as a second baseman. I played there for the first two years of pro ball. That’s somewhere I’m really comfortable. But after last year going to instructs to work on the outfield, I’m really comfortable out there now too. So wherever they put me, it doesn’t bother me. I’m pretty comfortable everywhere now.

AF:  Are there many guys on this team you’ve had the chance to spend a lot of time playing with since you were drafted?

JB:  Lana Akau since rookie ball, our first year when we got drafted. Jose Brizuela the last two or three seasons. James Harris the last two years. So there’s been a couple guys I’ve been with pretty much every step of the way.

AF:  Now I know you’re from the east coast. So, prior to this year, had you had the chance to spend much time out in California before and how do you like living and playing out here on the west coast?

JB:  Oh, it’s definitely the first time I’ve been out here for a long period of time. I was out here for like three days my junior year of college when we played the University of San Diego. But other than that, it’s my first time in Cali…I like it a lot. California is nice. We get to travel to nice places. You know the weather is always going to be sunny and a little hot. So I’m enjoying this lifestyle.

AF:  So who have you been living with out here?

JB:  I live with Heath Fillmyer and Brett Graves – two pitchers.

AF:  Have you been getting the pitchers’ perspective on things now?

JB:  Oh, yeah. Sometimes I’ll ask them how they would pitch me. Maybe other teams have that same approach against me, so I use that to my advantage.

AF:  Getting into the mind of the enemy!

JB:  Exactly!

AF:  So is there anything that’s been particularly memorable for you about this season?

JB:  I love every day just coming to the locker room, just getting ready to go. I don’t take a day for granted in pro ball.

AF:  Is there anything in particular you’re focused on or working on at this point in the season?

JB:  Yeah, I try to make progress every day. Right now, I’m sticking to my routine hitting, just trying to stick with that so I’m consistent. And defensively, that’s probably where I put in the most work. In B.P., I really take my reps seriously. But for the most part, just trying to stay healthy and take care of my body.

AF:  And finally, how did you feel about your brother getting drafted by the A’s and the two of you being together here in the same organization now?

JB:  Oh, it was a dream come true. He had a lot of looks from a couple teams. And I was really hoping it was the A’s all the way, just because I love this organization and I’ve seen the opportunities I’ve gotten and I just think this is a great place for him to be. We’ve only been teammates once, and that was in varsity baseball, and I was a senior and he was a freshman. So it’ll be fun to go to spring training with him and hopefully we get to the big leagues together!

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Friday, July 22nd: Raul Alcantara Impresses in Triple-A Debut as Sounds Win in a Walk-Off and Duno Helps Snappers Salvage Doubleheader Split

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Raul Alcantara (7 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Raul Alcantara (7 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Omaha Storm Chasers  1

Nashville Sounds         2

WP – Healy 3-1 / 3.05

HR – Nunez (14)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Raul Alcantara

(7 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K)

RHP Raul Alcantara turned in an impressive start in his Triple-A debut on Friday, allowing just 1 unearned run on 4 hits over 7 innings of work, but he left with the game a 1-1 tie. RHP Ryan Doolittle tossed a scoreless 8th, while RHP Tucker Healy pitched a perfect 9th to pick up the win as the Sounds won their third straight. Third baseman Renato Nunez singled and hit his 14th home run to tie the game in the home half of the 4th, while center fielder Billy Burns had a pair of hits, and shortstop Chad Pinder singled and scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 9th as the Sounds won in a walk-off on Friday. In other news, Nashville catcher Bruce Maxwell is scheduled to fly to the Bay Area on Saturday morning to make his major league debut for the A’s.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit & Vermont…

A’s Rookies Ryon Healy & Daniel Mengden Talk about Life in the Majors

Due to a seemingly never-ending wave of injuries, the A’s have truly been a team in flux this season. But the resulting roster turmoil has provided plenty of opportunities for some of the team’s top prospects, including starting pitcher Daniel Mengden and corner infielder Ryon Healy, both of whom we took the opportunity to talk to earlier this week. We last spoke with Mengden in this May interview, shortly after he made his first start for Nashville. And we hadn’t spoken with Healy since his time in Stockton in 2014, when we talked to the big batch of A’s prospects who were then playing for the Ports in this piece.

Both players started this season with Double-A Midland, but their impressive performances brought them all the way to the big leagues within a matter of months. And we wanted to check in and see how the adjustment to the majors was going. We spoke with both of them earlier this week, shortly before Oakland’s 10th-inning walk-off win against the Astros, in which Healy drove in a pair of key runs for the A’s.

 

RYON HEALY

rh592387cAfter finishing last season with a strong second half for Midland, Ryon Healy found himself starting 2016 back in Double-A due to an abundance of corner infielders on this year’s Nashville team. But the 24-year-old immediately began tearing up the Texas League and quickly earned a May promotion to Nashville, where he didn’t miss a beat. Healy had the best batting average and slugging percentage among all A’s minor leaguers when he was called up by the A’s a week ago. And he’s shown some real pop as well as an ability to hit with runners in scoring position during his brief time in Oakland. Originally drafted as a first baseman in the third round of the 2013 draft, the southern California native mostly split time between first base and third base in the minors, but the A’s have made it clear that they’d like to see if Healy can handle the hot corner in the majors. And so far, with the help of A’s infield coach Ron Washington, the audition’s been going well… 

AF:  So how have your first few days in the big leagues been going for you so far?

RH:  You know, it’s been awesome. All the players and the coaching staff have done a great job of helping me get into a good routine between the cage and the weight room and then early defense and B.P. So I can’t thank all the guys enough for making me feel comfortable and at home here so far.

AF:  Well it must be nice for you to see a few guys here you’ve actually played with before.

RH:  Definitely. The day I showed up here, I recognized at least half the clubhouse. The other half I’ve seen, so I made sure I introduced myself. I’m just trying to show all the respect I can for the veterans here.

AF:  So were you out working in the field with Ron Washington earlier today?

RH:  Every single day I’m out there with Wash before the game.

AF:  How useful and instructive has that experience been for you?

RH:  He probably has way more knowledge than I’ll ever be able to absorb, but I’m going to be out there every day just trying to learn anything and everything I can from him just because of how much experience he has. But even in the short time that I’ve been here, he’s done a lot for my confidence as a defender.

AF:  Now you haven’t been here that long yet, but is there anything different about the way that major league pitchers approach you that’s caused you to have to make any adjustments in your approach at the plate?

RH:  I think just being ready to hit in every count. A lot of these pitchers don’t know me, but these guys aren’t afraid of me. Obviously, they look at me and I’m a few days into the big leagues, so they’re going to come right after me with heaters. I made the mistake the other night when I faced Roberto Osuna of the Blue Jays of out-thinking my at-bat and I got four or five straight heaters and all of a sudden I was struck out. Some of the veterans in here have helped me with that kind of mental stuff. So I’ll be more prepared next time.

AF:  Is there anything else that’s been different for you either on or off the field when it comes to major league life compared to things in Nashville or Midland?

RH:  It’s still baseball, at a very high level – the very highest level. And you need to make sure that your body and your mind are prepared every day to perform at the highest level. But at the end of the day, it’s still a game and everyone’s here to enjoy it. But it’s also a business, and you need to prove every day that you can be here and want to stay here.

AF:  You started out the season at Double-A Midland and you’ve come a long way in a few months and now you’re here. You probably were the best overall hitter in the A’s minor league system this year, so what accounts for the big leap forward you seemed to take this season?

rhDSC04459bRH:  I think it was just a mindset honestly. I didn’t really enjoy the way that I finished the season last year. I know my numbers looked good but, the way that I viewed it, I wasn’t satisfied at all with what I did. I thought the second half of my season last year was a big improvement over the first half, but I still wasn’t very happy with the way that I finished the season. So I knew I had to go home and make some big adjustments. So I watched a lot of video and talked to a lot of people with a lot of experience and absorbed what I could and applied what I did. And fortunately for me, I walked into spring training with a positive mindset, understanding that Double-A was probably going to be my starting point. But I also know it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. I’m definitely not anywhere near the finish, and I never will consider myself near the finish line, but I’ll always just continue to work harder and get better.

AF:  So you started out with a positive approach about trying to prove yourself and letting them know what you could do?

RH:  That was definitely the mindset going in – it was chip on your shoulder, prove everyone wrong, and try and shock the world.

AF:  Rather than mope about it, just go out and show them.

RH:  It was one or the other. It was pretty much a make or break year for me. And fortunately for me, I picked the right mindset and went from there.

AF:  What are some of the adjustments you’ve made at the plate that have helped you get to where you’re at now?

RH:  I think a lot of it’s my mental approach at the plate – just being able to decide which pitches I can do damage with and which pitches I should take, whether they’re balls or strikes. So I’ve taken a lot more strikes this year, and it’s allowed me to get more mistakes, because I’m ready for a pitch in my zone. Rather than hitting a pitcher’s pitch, I’m hitting a pitch I want to hit – which is probably why my strikeouts have gone up, but my walks have also increased. I’m not afraid to hit with two strikes. I’m not afraid to take a strike earlier in the count if it means that I’ll get a pitch in my zone later in the count.

AF:  It sounds like you’ve really become very intelligently selective, looking for that pitch that you can handle and just trying to lay off of everything else.

RH:  Exactly, I think that’s been a big factor in it right now.

AF:  Now you’re from California, and I know your family’s had a chance to come out and see you play. So how has it been for you to be able to have the chance to play here in California?

RH:  It’s incredible. The best part for me is being in the same time zone. I can text my siblings and my parents, instead of having to time our phone calls, so that’s been nice.

AF:  So now that you’ve been here for a few days, is there anything that you’re really trying to focus on every day when you step out on the field here?

RH:  I think it’s just staying in tune with every single pitch and making sure I’m prepared for every play at third base. I think there’s only been one play so far where I’ve really been caught off guard – the potential interference with Carlos Correa and I. But besides that, I feel like I’ve done a good job understanding every scenario that could happen. That was just the one that snuck up on me, but it’s something that I’ll put in the memory bank and it won’t happen again.

AF:  I know you hadn’t really been spending that much time at third base this year, so how has it felt being over there at third base every day? Has it been a bit of an adjustment for you?

RH:  The game is all about adjustments. But yeah, it’s definitely something that I can now put all my time and effort into now that they’re showing that they want me to play there. So instead of having to take reps at first and third, I’m just going to take them at third right now. Until they tell me otherwise, that’s where I’m going to put all my time and effort.

AF:  So I guess they’ve made it clear that that’s where they see you at this point.

RH:  Yeah, for right now.

AF:  Well we all know that anything could change tomorrow.

RH:  Exactly!

 

DANIEL MENGDEN

dmusa-today-9368808.0bRight-hander Daniel Mendgen was acquired by the A’s last summer, along with catcher Jacob Nottingham, in the trade that sent left-hander Scott Kazmir to Houston, and the former fourth-round draft pick ended up posting a 4.25 ERA over eight starts for Stockton last season. Mengden then came roaring out of the gate this season, putting up a 1.19 ERA in eleven starts for Nashville and Midland before being called up to Oakland in early June. The 23-year-old allowed eight earned runs over his first four major league starts in June and has allowed nineteen earned runs over his last four starts in July. Mengden’s distinctive windup on the mound has attracted a lot of attention, as has his handlebar mustache, which is reminiscent of legendary A’s reliever Rollie Fingers…

AF:  So how did you feel when you first got the call to the big leagues last month? Were you surprised at all?

DM:  I was kind of surprised. I figured I might be a September call-up. I thought they might let me sit in Triple-A. Even though I was doing well, I didn’t think it really mattered. I thought I was just going to mature down there and get my feet under me and then be a September call-up, maybe in the bullpen.

AF:  I guess you weren’t really feeling too much pressure down there at that point anyway.

DM:  Yeah, so I was kind of just doing my thing, just going about my business, taking it one game at a time. And then there were injuries and it was good timing and they gave me a chance. And I’m trying to do the best I can to run with it and trying to put us in the best position to win.

AF:  So how did they tell you that you were going up to the big leagues?

DM:  It was our manager Steve Scarsone and our pitching coach Rick Rodriguez. We were in Oklahoma City for a doubleheader. And after the second game, I came in to give them the chart. And he was like, “Hey, you messed up the chart. You missed two hitters. You missed like 10 pitches.” And I said, “I didn’t miss any pitches.” He goes, “You’ll get fined for each batter you miss the next game.” And then he said, “Do you like doing charts?” And I was like, “No, who likes doing charts?” And he says, “Good, you’re going to the big leagues. You don’t have to do charts anymore.”

AF:  You’re off the hook! Well, I guess they called Ryon Healy in and started telling him that he wasn’t hustling before they told him he was going up.

DM:  Yeah, same type of thing. Scar’s a great manager down there. He just tries to keep it loose and have fun.

AF:  Did Bob Melvin or Curt Young have any words of advice for you when you first got here?

DM:  Curt was just like, “Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re throwing well. Don’t change anything. Nothing changes from Triple-A to the big leagues except the jersey. So just keep doing your thing and don’t worry about the excess stuff going on with being in the big leagues and the fans and all the mumbo jumbo around us.”

AF:  Have any of the big league pitchers up here had any particular advice to offer you yet?

DM:  Rich Hill is really a good veteran guy who’s talked to me a little bit and helped me out when he can. I’ve asked him if I’m doing things right and asked him how it goes for rookies and stuff like that. Most of our guys are pretty good. I was talking to Ryan Madson one day when we were in the bullpen and we were talking about changeups and grips and how we throw it. They know I’m a rookie and I’m going to try and pick their brain and learn as much as I can while I can from the veteran guys.

AF:  Since you’ve been here, is there anything in particular you’ve been working on or focused on trying to do?

DM:  Well, we’re always working on things. We’re trying to better every day no matter what. We always have room to get better. But just the general things like keeping the fastball down and executing two-strike pitches – just the general stuff, nothing too fancy.

AF:  So at this stage of the game, what pitches are really working for you and which ones are you still working on refining?

DM:  It kind of depends on the day. Some days I have all four, and some days you have two or three. But I guess the most consistent would probably be the fastball and the changeup – and the cutter most of the time. But my last start, the curveball was a little off. I couldn’t throw it very well, but I kept throwing it because you’ve got to throw it to show it to them. But I’d probably say the curveball is one of the more work-in-progress pitches I have that kind of varies more from start to start. But most of the time, I have the fastball, the cutter and the changeup almost every outing.

AF:  And what’s your velocity been like lately?

DM:  It’s probably normal – 90-95 mph, in that range. It’s weird, its like big league innings are way harder than Triple-A innings. Some of those innings just suck the life out of you. It’s a lot harder having to actually get outs in certain situations, and it takes that much more energy out of you at this level compared to Triple-A.

AF:  You don’t have quite as much left in the tank after a few of those innings.

dmDaniel+Mengden+Oakland+Athletics+v+Houston+NKSYO9ZVIWMl2DM:  Exactly!

AF:  Is there anything you find different about the way major league hitters approach you that’s caused you to have to make any adjustments to the way you pitch?

DM:  Yeah, everyone’s approach here is a lot better – that’s why they’re here. They have a good approach, they’re a good hitter and they have a good eye. You have to really throw good pitches. You can’t get away with bouncing a curveball or throwing a pitch way outside or up. Hitters are a lot more disciplined. I have to make good pitches. I can’t just hope they’re going to swing. Sometimes they’ll swing at pitches out of the zone. But most of the time, if it’s out of the zone, they’ll take it. They see everything way better than most guys and their overall approach is just better.

AF:  So is there anything in your game you’ve really had to focus on – maybe just trying to be more precise with your pitches?

DM:  Yeah, just fastball command – fastball command is number one. If you have that, then you can go from there. You’ve got to keep the ball down and throw strikes. The thing of it here is, if you make a mistake, it’s either a double or a home run. In Triple-A, if you make a mistake, you still could get an out possibly. But here, if you make the tiniest mistake, the ball’s going a long way.

AF:  Now I know one of your starts was in your hometown of Houston. So how was that for you?

DM:  Oh, it was great – just being able to see my family and friends, college friends, people I played ball with, coaches, teachers. Anybody you could think of came out and supported me, and it was great having that support and fan base behind me. And it was great being able to pitch in front of all of my family, besides just my parents, my girlfriend and my siblings. But yeah, it was exhilarating. It’s one of those feelings that’s really hard to explain…After the game was over, I had probably at least 100 people just waiting to take pictures and stuff – people from when I was on the swim team when I was like 9 or 10 to college teammates and boosters and friends I’ve made through high school and college…so it was pretty cool.

AF:  So what’s the major league routine been like for you?

DM:  With a lot of day games here, it’s kind of hard to really go out and do much. Basically just hitting the field every day, get our stuff done early and get out for the game. And usually by the time we get home, we’re tired and we just kind of watch some TV and go to sleep. So it’s not a very extravagant life. But on the road, you might want to go out and explore and eat dinner somewhere.

AF:  Where are you living now that you’re here in the Bay Area?

DM:  Right now I’m living with Josh Reddick. I moved into his house. I had been living at a team hotel for a while…It’s been fun. He’s a great guy. He’s a real fiery cat. He likes to have a lot of fun. So he’s a good guy to be around.

AF:  So is there anything in particular you’re focused on heading into your next start?

DM:  Just executing my pitches – trying to make the best pitch I can in any given situation. Every hitter’s just a hitter – you don’t have to try and over-think it. Sometimes you’ll say, “Oh my gosh, that’s Jose Altuve.” You just kind of have to go after them like they’re a normal hitter. You can’t think about their name. You think that they’re the enemy and you’re trying to beat them. So if I execute my pitches and do what I need to do, if me and [Stephen] Vogt stick to our plan, most of the time, we’ll win – if I execute everything. It’s all just about executing.

AF:  And finally, have you been getting a lot of attention for the mustache since you’ve been up in the big leagues now?

DM:  Oh, yeah! Some guy in the stands actually handed me mustache wax and told me, “Hey, this is what I use. Why don’t you try this?” People always say they love it. On the road, people either hate it or they love it. There’s no in between – you either love it or you hate it.

AF:  So, just for the record, what mustache wax do you use?

DM:  It’s called Bonafide.

AF:  You haven’t had the chance to meet the owner of the A’s original handlebar mustache, Rollie Fingers, yet, have you?

DM:  No, but I actually did a conference call interview with him maybe two weeks ago before the All-Star break. So it was nice to be able to talk to him and pick his brain…He said he hadn’t seen me throw, but he said he’d heard a lot about me. He said that all of a sudden people were telling him, “This kid has the same mustache as you.” So he said he had to look me up.

AF:  Well, at least the two of you ought to be able to compare notes on mustache waxes when you meet!

*          *          *

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Thursday, July 21st: Walter’s 4 Scoreless Frames Help Hounds Win 3rd Straight while Jensen & Murray Pitch Sounds & Ports to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Corey Walter (4 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds RHP Corey Walter (4 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  4

San Antonio Missions    2

WP – Walter 2-2 / 2.40

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Corey Walter

(4 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / Win)

With the RockHounds down by 2 runs, RHP Corey Walter entered the game in the bottom of the 6th and tossed 4 shutout innings to give the Hounds the chance to come back and win their third straight on Thursday. Walter earned the win for Midland and now has a 2.40 ERA in 75 innings for the RockHounds this season. RHP Heath Fillmyer made the start and allowed 2 runs over 5 innings of work in his Double-A debut. First baseman Viosergy Rosa had the big hit in the 8th inning, a 2-run double to drive in the winning run. Second baseman Josh Rodriguez had a pair of hits, while catcher Beau Taylor and right fielder Tyler Marincov both singled in runs for the RockHounds. In addition to Fillmyer, RHP Lou Trivino was also reassigned to the RockHounds from Stockton, while Midland RHP Chris Jensen was sent to the Sounds on Thursday.

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Wednesday, July 20th: Detwiler Wins 1st Game for Sounds while Rodriguez Drives in Winning Run for RockHounds

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Ross Detwiler (5 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 2 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Ross Detwiler (5 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 2 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds       7

Albuquerque Isotopes  5

WP – Detwiler 1-0 / 1.80

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Ross Detwiler

(5 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 2 K / Win)

RHP Jesse Hahn tossed 1 scoreless inning in a shortened start for the Sounds. It’s assumed that Hahn is likely to make the start for the A’s on Sunday. He was followed on the mound by LHP Ross Detwiler, who was recently acquired from the Indians. The 30-year-old southpaw allowed just 1 run on 3 hits over 5 innings of work to earn the win in his first appearance for the Sounds, while RHP Eduard Santos got the final out in the 9th to notch his 3rd save for Nashville. Center fielder Billy Burns had 3 hits, including a double, stole a base and drove in a pair, while catcher Bruce Maxwell and second baseman Joey Wendle both singled and doubled in the win. In roster news, the A’s optioned LHP Dillon Overton back to Nashville and recalled infielder Arismendy Alcantara, while RHP Raul Alcantara was reassigned to the Sounds, and LHP Brandon Mann returned to the RockHounds on Wednesday.

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Tuesday, July 19th: Seddon’s Solid Effort & Chapman’s 4 RBIs Lead Hounds to Victory while Ports Win in a Walk-Off & Sounds Drop Twinbill

Midland RockHounds Pitcher Joel Seddon (7 IP / 6 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 4 K / Win)

Midland RockHounds RHP Joel Seddon (7 IP / 6 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 4 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Corpus Christi Hooks       2

Midland RockHounds  14

WP – Seddon 4-8 / 5.27

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Joel Seddon

(7 IP / 6 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 4 K / Win)

RHP Joel Seddon turned in his fifth straight quality start on Tuesday, allowing 2 runs, just 1 earned, over 7 innings of work to earn his 4th win for the RockHounds. And Seddon has now given up just 4 earned runs in 34 innings over his last 5 starts for Midland. A number of hitters had big nights for the Hounds. Third baseman Matt Chapman led Tuesday’s attack, collecting 4 hits, including 3 doubles, and driving in 4 runs, while shortstop Yairo Munoz had 3 hits and drove in 3, and right fielder Tyler Marincov singled, doubled twice and drove in a pair of runs for the RockHounds.

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Monday, July 18th: Midland Falls Despite Gossett’s Solid Effort while Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s All Come Up Short

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (6 1/3 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 1 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds RHP Daniel Gossett (6 1/3 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 1 K)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Corpus Christi Hooks     3

Midland RockHounds  2

LP – Gossett 2-4 / 3.14

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Daniel Gossett

(6 1/3 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 1 K)

RHP Daniel Gossett allowed just 1 earned run for the second straight start but still ended up suffering his 4th loss for Midland on Monday. The 23-year-old also allowed 1 unearned run over his 6 1/3 innings of work and now has a 3.14 ERA in 9 Texas League starts. RHP Ben Bracewell gave up 1 run in 1 2/3 innings of relief for the RockHounds. Left fielder Brett Vertigan had 2 hits and drove in a run, while catcher Andy Paz had a pair of singles as well as a pair of errors, and center fielder J.P. Sportman doubled and drew a pair of walks in the loss.

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Sunday, July 17th: Marincov’s 3-Run HR Helps Hounds Win while Walsh, White & Iriart All Homer in Losing Causes

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Designated Hitter Tyler Marincov (3 for 4 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Designated Hitter Tyler Marincov (3 for 4 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

EXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Corpus Christi Hooks     3

Midland RockHounds  6

WP – Cochran-Gill 4-3 / 3.42

HR – Marincov (7)

Prospect Of The Game:

Designated Hitter Tyler Marincov

(3 for 4 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

Designated hitter Tyler Marincov had 3 hits for the RockHounds, including a big tie-breaking 3-run homer in the 4th inning as well as an RBI single in the 3rd on Sunday. Center fielder Brett Vertigan doubled twice and scored twice, while catcher Beau Taylor singled, doubled and drove in a pair of runs for the RockHounds. RHP Corey Walter made the start in place of scheduled starter Brandon Mann and allowed 1 run in 2 innings of work, while RHP Trey Cochran-Gill tossed scoreless innings in relief to pick up the win, and RHP Bobby Wahl pitched a perfect 9th to notch his 6th save for the Hounds. Infielder Franklin Barreto didn’t play on Sunday after exiting Saturday’s game after beating out an infield single in the top of the 6th inning.

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Saturday, July 16th: Maxwell’s Big Bat Leads Sounds to Victory while Hounds Fall Despite Alcantara’s Solid Start

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Catcher Bruce Maxwell (5 for 5 / 2 Home Runs / 6 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Catcher Bruce Maxwell (5 for 5 / 2 Home Runs / 6 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds   19

El Paso Chihuahuas  5

WP – Neal 7-2 / 3.21

HR – Pinder 2 (12), Maxwell 2 (9), Alcantara (7)

Prospect Of The Game:

Catcher Bruce Maxwell

(5 for 5 / 2 Home Runs / 6 RBIs)

Whether it’s due to Ryon Healy’s recent promotion to Oakland or something in the water in El Paso, a number of Nashville’s position players have appeared to be pretty inspired at the plate lately. And no one has been hotter than catcher Bruce Maxwell. The backstop had a career day on Saturday, collecting 5 hits, including a pair of home runs, while driving in 6 runs for the Sounds. And Maxwell is now 10 for 14 with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs in the first three games of Nashville’s four-game series in El Paso. Shortstop Chad Pinder also swatted a pair of home runs on Saturday, while left fielder Arismendy Alcantara doubled twice and homered, and center fielder Jaycob Brugman had 4 hits and drove in 3 runs for Nashville. Starter Zach Neal allowed 3 runs over 5 innings of work to pick up the win as the Sounds won their fourth straight on Saturday.

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Friday, July 15th: Olson & Sportman Lead Sounds & Hounds to Victory while Bennie Brothers Help Ports & AZL A’s Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Outfielder Matt Olson (3 for 4 / Home Run / Double / Walk / 4 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Outfielder Matt Olson (3 for 4 / HR / Double / Walk / 4 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds   11

El Paso Chihuahuas  4

WP – Kurcz 5-0 / 3.19

HR – Olson (10), Maxwell (7)

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder Matt Olson

(3 for 4 / Home Run / Double / Walk / 4 RBIs)

With two men on and the game tied in the top of the 8th inning, right fielder Matt Olson ripped a 3-run homer to provide the margin of victory for Nashville on Friday. Olson also singled, doubled, walked and drove in a total of 4 runs in the game. Catcher Bruce Maxwell homered for the second straight night, while center fielder Jaycob Brugman collected 4 hits, including a double, and drove in a run, and left fielder Arismendy Alcantara doubled, singled twice, stole a base and drove in 3. Starter Jesse Hahn allowed 3 runs over 6 innings of work, and RHP Aaron Kurcz picked up the win despite giving up the tying run in the bottom of the 7th as the Sounds won their third straight. In roster news, infielder Ryon Healy was promoted to the A’s, while outfielder Billy Burns was optioned back to Nashville, and RHP Nick Tepesch was designated for assignment. Catcher Carson Blair was given his release and catcher Bryan Anderson rejoined the Sounds from the RockHounds on Friday. Healy went 0 for 4 while batting ninth and playing third base for the A’s in his major league debut on Friday.

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