Results tagged ‘ Evan Scribner ’
As you may already know, A’s pitchers and catchers began reporting to the team’s spring training camp in Phoenix on Friday, with the team’s first workouts on Saturday. And there are already plenty of observations we can make about the major league team, as well as the minor league teams, at this point.
First of all, the A’s are still a very young team. On the 40-man roster, only two players – Coco Crisp and Nick Punto – were born before 1982, and only three of the team’s pitchers – Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Jesse Chavez – will be over the age of 29 on opening day.
On Thursday, one day before pitchers and catchers began reporting to the A’s spring training camp in Phoenix, A’s assistant general manager David Forst told Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game that he thought he knew what the A’s starting rotation was going to look like and mentioned Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily. That would make Tommy Milone the sixth starter in waiting at Sacramento, with recent acquisitions Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz right behind him.
Returning River Cats Andrew Werner and Arnold Leon, along with minor-league free-agent signee Matt Buschmann, will be the top contenders for the remaining spots in the River Cats rotation, with former perfect-game hurler Phil Humber likely serving time in Sacramento’s bullpen. Last year, Humber made 10 relief appearances for the Astros and came into 13 games out of the bullpen for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Midland’s top three starters from last season – Murphy Smith, Sean Murphy and Zach Neal – would be the next in line to take a step up should there be an issue with any of the previously-mentioned A’s or River Cats starters. If the three of them remain at Midland though, the top three candidates to join them in the RockHounds rotation will be Drew Granier, Raul Alcantara and Tanner Peters.
The 21-year-old Alcantara is the hottest young pitching prospect in the A’s system at the moment, and the team would like to see him start the season in the RockHounds rotation and then see where his talent takes him from there. But at this point, it’s clear that Alcantara could be a fast-riser.
Former bonus baby Michael Ynoa will probably be the other most closely watched young pitcher in the A’s camp this spring. He’s been throwing hard in Phoenix, but the key for him will just be staying healthy and staying on the mound. It’s still expected that he’ll start the season at Stockton. But if he starts out well, he should be due for a quick promotion to Midland.
As far as relievers go, A’s manager Bob Melvin was impressed with Evan Scribner’s and Fernando Nieve’s initial bullpen sessions in Phoenix, and both are likely to end up starting the season as key cogs in the River Cats bullpen, as long as Scribner can clear waivers anyway.
One of last year’s biggest objects of attention when camp opened, Japanese shortstop Hiro Nakajima, won’t be making any headlines in big league camp this time around though, since Nakajima will be spending his time in the A’s minor league camp this year. But another shortstop, top prospect Addison Russell – who appears on schedule to become the A’s starting shortstop in 2015 – will definitely be getting a good chance to show the A’s staff what he can do this spring in the big league camp.
It appears that most of the A’s off-season work is done. The team has found capable replacements for departing free agents Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour and Chris Young and filled a few other holes as well. It’s possible that someone like Alberto Callaspo, who’s set to earn close to $5 million and doesn’t have a full-time position, could still end up being traded before spring training is through. It’s possible that a few younger players with major league experience who are out of options like outfielder Michael Taylor or reliever Evan Scribner could be dealt as well. But for the most part, barring any unforeseen injury issues, it looks like the A’s are now holding most of the cards they’ll be playing to start the 2014 season. And it’s becoming increasingly clear who most of the players are that Sacramento River Cats fans can expect to be seeing at Raley Field in 2014 as well.
2014 OAKLAND A’S
One area that seems to be most clearly set for the team is the outfield, with Josh Reddick in right, Coco Crisp in center, Yoenis Cespedes in left and newcomer Craig Gentry serving as the fourth outfielder. The left side of the infield will also remain in place for the A’s, with the team’s most valuable player in 2014, Josh Donaldson, manning the hot corner and the team’s best-hitting shortstop in recent memory, Jed Lowrie, returning to shortstop.
The other four positions in the lineup – second base, first base, catcher and designated hitter – are the areas where the A’s will deploy their patented platoons. Free agent infielder Nick Punto is likely to take over for Adam Rosales and Callaspo as Eric Sogard’s platoon partner at second base. And based on manager Bob Melvin’s comments, it seems like that might push Callaspo into the role of Brandon Moss’s platoon partner at first base, which would then push Nate Freiman to Sacramento along with fellow first baseman Daric Barton.
Melvin’s recent comments also make it sound like John Jaso is likely to get most of the DH at-bats, replacing the departed Seth Smith in that position, while against left-handers, Craig Gentry would join the lineup in left field with Yoenis Cespedes moving into the DH spot. With Jaso getting most of the DH at-bats, that requires the A’s to carry a third catcher, and that’s most likely to be Stephen Vogt, who got plenty of valuable experience last year down the stretch and in the postseason for the A’s. And his left-handed bat is the perfect complement to righty-swinging backstop Derek Norris, who hit just .149 against right-handed pitching last year.
Basically, Vogt would be replacing Jaso in the catching platoon, just as he did late last year, with Jaso moving out from behind the plate to replace Seth Smith in the DH platoon, while Punto replaces Callaspo in the second base platoon, Callaspo replaces Freiman in the first place platoon and Craig Gentry takes Chris Young’s place in the lineup against left-handers.
As far as the pitching staff goes, the plan seems pretty clear. Free agent lefty Scott Kazmir will take over for Bartolo Colon as the veteran presence in the team’s starting rotation, while young righty Sonny Gray appears set to take lefty Tommy Milone’s spot in the rotation, just as he did late last season, with Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily rounding out the starting five.
Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Jim Johnson will take over for Grant Balfour as the team’s closer, while top-notch setup man Luke Gregerson will take the roster spot that Pat Neshek occupied most of last season and lefty Fernando Abad is likely to take Jerry Blevins’ spot on the left side of the bullpen, with fellow lefty Sean Doolittle and righties Ryan Cook, Jesse Chavez and Dan Otero rounding out the rest of the A’s bullpen – though it’s possible that, since he’s out of options, the team could also decide to have Evan Scribner take Otero’s spot to start the season. The A’s will also likely start the season with two relievers who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery on the disabled list – recently-signed free agent lefty Eric O’Flaherty and righty Fernando Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Astros in the Jed Lowrie deal.
2014 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS
If we make the preceding assumptions about the major league roster, then the River Cats roster starts to fall pretty clearly into place. Of course, there are a few players who are out of options, and it’s quite possible that at least one of them won’t end up clearing waivers.
The A’s have two veteran minor league catchers to handle the River Cats pitching staff, returning backstop Luke Montz along with Chris Gimenez, who was recently claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the team looks to be overloaded with first basemen, with Daric Barton, Nate Freiman and Anthony Aliotti all looking for playing time – unless the A’s end up trading Callaspo and opening up a roster spot for Freiman as Brandon Moss’s platoon partner. If not, there could still be plenty of playing time to be found for all three between the first base and the designated hitter spot.
Returning River Cat Andy Parrino appears to be set at shortstop. Hiro Nakajima is likely to get the majority of starts at third base while also picking up at-bats at other positions around the infield, while free agent signees Jose Martinez and Alden Carrithers should get most of the playing time at second base. Shane Peterson is set to return to Sacramento’s outfield, along with Jake Goebbert and, if they clear waivers, veteran minor leaguers Michael Taylor and Corey Brown (who was recently designated for assignment).
The River Cats should have plenty of worthy contenders for their starting rotation. If the A’s other five starters are all healthy to start the season, then Tommy Milone is likely to anchor Sacramento’s starting five, along with recently-acquired righty Josh Lindblom and lefty Drew Pomeranz. Returning River Cats Andrew Werner and Arnold Leon will also be competing for a spot as well as free agent signees Phil Humber and Matt Buschmann, with those don’t make the rotation starting the season in the River Cats bullpen. If he clears waivers, they’re likely to be joined there by Evan Scribner, along with returning River Cats Paul Smyth and Fernando Nieve and free agent signees Deryk Hooker and Jose Flores as well as Triple-A Rule 5 draftee Tim Atherton.
So that’s how things seem to be shaping up for both the A’s and the River Cats, assuming everyone clears waivers and Billy Beane doesn’t have any last-minute surprises up his sleeve!
A’s general manager Billy Beane has had a busy week – and it ain’t over yet! On Monday, the team signed free agent left-handed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to a two-year $22 million deal. And later that same day, the A’s acquired right-handed closer Jim Johnson from Baltimore in return for second baseman Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.
Then on Tuesday, the team traded two of its top minor league prospects, outfielder Michael Choice and second baseman Chris Bostick, to Texas for outfielder Craig Gentry and right-handed starter Josh Lindblom. The A’s then followed that up just hours later by sending outfielder Seth Smith to San Diego for right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson.
Just the previous week, the team dealt minor league outfielder John Wooten to Washington for left-handed reliever Fernando Abad. And two weeks prior to that, the A’s signed utility infielder Nick Punto as a free agent.
The A’s new outfielder, Craig Gentry – who was nicknamed “Kitten Face” in Texas – is a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three outfield positions. He brings excellent defense and speed and hits lefties well, so he figures to take Chris Young’s place as a right-handed platoon player and fourth outfielder who could take over full time in center field for the A’s when Coco Crisp becomes a free agent after next season.
In order to acquire Gentry, the A’s gave up their top outfield prospect, who also happened to be the team’s top major-league-ready hitting prospect, former 1st-round draft pick Michael Choice. After hitting .302 at Triple-A Sacramento in 2013, many had hoped that Choice would be given the chance to fill Young’s role on the A’s roster in 2014. But instead, he’ll get the chance to battle for a starting spot in the Rangers’ outfield this season.
Top talent evaluators are divided on Choice’s chances for success as a major league slugger. But the A’s have a history of undervaluing and trading away talented young outfielders who’ve gone on to become successful major league hitters elsewhere. And A’s fans have to hope that Choice doesn’t turn out to be the next Andre Ethier, Nelson Cruz or Carlos Gonzalez in Texas.
With Choice now gone, Shane Peterson and Michael Taylor are now the most major-league-ready outfielders at the upper levels of the A’s minor league system, while 20-year-old B.J. Boyd and 19-year-old Billy McKinney are the team’s top outfield prospects at the lower levels of the system.
The A’s also traded away their top second base prospect, Chris Bostick, in the deal. And it looks increasingly likely that shortstop Daniel Robertson might have to try to make the move to second base to provide a future double play partner for top shortstop prospect Addison Russell. With fellow second baseman Jemile Weeks now gone as well, Sacramento’s 2014 infield could be comprised of Daric Barton or Anthony Aliotti at first base, minor league free agent signee Jose Martinez at second base, Andy Parrino at shortstop, Hiro Nakajima at third base and Dusty Coleman as the utility infielder filling in at second, short and third.
Meanwhile, RHP Josh Lindblom is likely to start the season in Sacramento’s starting rotation, along with River Cats returnees Arnold Leon and Andrew Werner as well as recent minor league free agent signees Phil Humber and Matt Buschmann.
At the major league level, new acquisitions Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson are clearly intended to take the place of free agents Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour on the A’s pitching staff. With Kazmir guaranteed $11 million this season, Johnson expected to net $10-11 million in arbitration and seven starting pitchers currently on the staff, the A’s second-highest-paid starter, Brett Anderson at $8 million, is expected to be the A’s most appetizing bit of a trade bait to be dangled at next week’s Winter Meetings. And rumors already have the Blue Jays, Twins, Royals, Yankees, Indians and Mariners licking their lips over the left-hander.
Assuming the A’s are able to complete a deal for Anderson, the team’s 2014 rotation would then be comprised of five of the following six starters: Scott Kazmir, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Sonny Gray. Given the general health of starting pitchers, it wouldn’t be surprising if one out of any group of six starters wasn’t 100% healthy to start the season, so I wouldn’t bother spending too much time worrying about which five of the six will end up making the opening day cut – it’ll surely sort itself out by the end of spring.
As far as the A’s bullpen goes, new closer Jim Johnson, who has saved at least 50 games in each of the last two seasons, and new RHP Luke Gregerson, who has been one of the best setup men in the National League over the past couple of years, are set to join LHPs Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins and RHPs Ryan Cook and Jesse Chavez, who is out options and whom the A’s value as a long man and spot starter.
Since the team typically likes to carry seven relievers, there’s room for one more arm in the A’s pen, and RHP Dan Otero is clearly the most deserving candidate for the final spot. But since Fernando Abad, Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa and Fernando Rodriguez are all out of options, it’s possible that Otero could start the season being stashed at Sacramento, waiting for someone to hit the DL while one of the others is given a shot.
Over the past week and a half, the A’s farm system has suffered the loss of outfielder Michael Choice, second baseman Jemile Weeks, second baseman Chris Bostick and outfielder John Wooten. And in the last six months, the team lost its 2007 #1 draft pick James Simmons as a minor league free agent and traded away 2008’s #1 pick Jemile Weeks, 2009’s #1 pick Grant Green and 2010’s #1 pick Michael Choice. 2011’s #1 pick Sonny Gray has already made it to the majors, while 2012’s #1 pick Addison Russell should be starting the season at Double-A Midland and 2013’s #1 pick Billy McKinney is expected to start the year at Class-A Beloit.
As previously mentioned, LHP Brett Anderson is the most likely member of the A’s roster to be the next one to find himself on Billy Beane’s trading block, with infielder Alberto Callaspo not far behind. With six other starters on the staff, a long injury history and an $8 million salary attached to his name, Anderson is clearly expendable. And with a salary close to $5 million and no definite spot in the A’s lineup, Callaspo seems to just be taking up roster and salary space at this point.
Outfielders Seth Smith, Chris Young and Michael Choice have all recently departed, with Craig Gentry being the only outfielder the A’s have acquired to take their place. So it certainly seems like there could be room for one more big OF/DH bat to be added to the A’s lineup to help boost the team’s offensive output, possibly as the result of an Anderson deal.
It’s also been reported that the A’s have been inquiring about middle infielders and catchers in trade talks for Anderson. So the team could be looking for a second baseman to take the place of Eric Sogard, or a shortstop who would then enable Jed Lowrie to make the move to second, or possibly a catcher who would allow John Jaso to take over for Seth Smith in the designated hitter role.
The A’s major league roster currently shapes up with Jaso and Norris as the catching platoon, Donaldson, Lowrie, Sogard, Punto, Moss and Freiman serving around the infield, and Cespedes, Crisp, Reddick and Gentry making up the outfield. Since the team typically likes to carry thirteen position players, that leaves one last roster spot open. At this point, it would most likely be filled by Callaspo. But if he ends up being traded, then it would be Barton, unless, of course, the A’s acquire another big bat who would end up pushing Barton back to Sacramento.
With all the current question marks, one thing seems certain – Beane and company aren’t done dealing just yet, and the A’s roster is far from set. There are surely more changes to come. But for the time being, here’s how things are shaping up for the 2014 A’s and River Cats, assuming everyone who’s out of options can clear waivers.
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (Triple-A)
Sacramento River Cats 0
Tacoma Rainiers 4
LP – Billings 13-8 / 4.31
Farmhand Of The Game:
Pitcher Bruce Billings
(5 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 5 BB / 2 K)
Starter Bruce Billings had a solid outing for Sacramento, allowing 2 runs, just 1 earned, over 5 innings of work, but he still ended up taking the loss on Saturday. Outfielder Michael Choice had 3 hits, including a pair of doubles, while catcher Derek Norris went 1 for 4 in his first rehab appearance for the River Cats, and shortstop Addison Russell, serving as the designated hitter for the night, went 0 for 3 in his debut for Sacramento. Meanwhile, Susan Slusser reported on Saturday night that the A’s will add infielders Jemile Weeks and Andy Parrino along with LHP Pedro Figueroa to the major league roster when rosters expand on Sunday. She’s also expecting that the A’s will add LHP Tommy Milone and RHP Evan Scribner on Tuesday, and that outfielder Michael Choice is likely to join the major league roster as well.
Thursday, August 29th: Oberacker’s Big Bat Leads Hounds to Victory while Cats & Snappers Win and Ports Post 1 Hit in Loss
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (Triple-A)
Fresno Grizzlies 2
Sacramento River Cats 3
WP – Werner 12-14 / 5.78
HR – Weeks (4)
Farmhand Of The Game:
Pitcher Andrew Werner
(6 IP / 4 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)
LHP Andrew Werner had a solid start for Sacramento, allowing 2 runs on just 4 hits over 6 innings to earn his 12th win, while RHP Brian Gordon got the final 3 outs for his 22nd save. Second baseman Jemile Weeks hit his 4th home run, while third baseman Hiro Nakajima had a pair of hits and drove in a run for the River Cats. Meanwhile, RHP Evan Scribner was optioned back to Sacramento to make room on the A’s roster for the return of Bartolo Colon.
Wednesday, August 21st: Olson’s Big Bat Leads Snappers to Victory while Cats Win and Hounds & Ports Both Fall
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (Triple-A)
Sacramento River Cats 7
Colorado Springs Sky Sox 5
WP – Scribner 3-1 / 2.32
Farmhand Of The Game:
Designated Hitter Michael Choice
(2 Doubles / 2 RBIs)
Designated hitter Michael Choice had a pair of doubles and drove in both the tying and the winning runs in the top of the 9th inning for the River Cats, while outfielder Michael Taylor collected 3 hits and drove in 3 runs on Wednesday. Starter Travis Banwart had a rocky outing, allowing 4 runs over 5 2/3 innings, while RHP Evan Scribner gave up 1 run in 2 innings of relief to pick up the win, and RHP Brian Gordon got the final 3 outs to notch his 19th save for Sacramento.
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (Triple-A)
Sacramento River Cats 6
Iowa Cubs 4
WP – Scribner 2-1 / 2.33
Farmhand Of The Game:
Outfielder Michael Taylor
(2 for 3 / 2 RBIs / GWRBI)
With the bases loaded and 2 outs in the top of the 8th inning and the game tied, outfielder Michael Taylor singled to drive in a pair of runs and give the River Cats the lead. Third baseman Daric Barton had 3 hits, while first baseman Anthony Aliotti drove in a pair of runs for the Cats. Starter Tommy Milone allowed 3 runs, all unearned, and struck out 8 over 5 1/3 innings of work, while RHP Evan Scribner picked up the win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, and RHP Brian Gordon tossed a scoreless 9th for his 16th save. Meanwhile, Midland’s best starting pitcher, LHP Carlos Hernandez, has been promoted and will be joining Sacramento’s pitching staff, and RHP Darren Byrd was assigned to Stockton to make room on the River Cats roster.
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (Triple-A)
Round Rock Express 3
Sacramento River Cats 5
WP – Gray 10-7 / 3.42
HR – Goebbert (1)
Farmhand Of The Game:
Designated Hitter Jake Goebbert
(Home Run / 2 Walks / 2 Runs)
Designated hitter Jake Goebbert made a good first impression with Sacramento on Saturday, hitting a home run in the 5th inning to tie the game and walking twice and scoring twice in his first game with the River Cats after being promoted from Midland. Third baseman Hiro Nakajima had 2 hits and drove in a pair of runs, while starter Sonny Gray gave up 3 runs on 8 hits over 6 1/3 innings to pick up his 10th win, while RHP Kyler Newby got the final 3 outs to earn his 1st save for Sacramento. It was also announced that the A’s were recalling RHP Evan Scribner while sending LHP Tommy Milone to the River Cats. The A’s also acquired RHP Fernando Nieve from the Indians and assigned him to Sacramento.
The Sacramento River Cats boast three Pacific Coast League All-Stars this season – outfielder Michael Choice, second baseman Grant Green and pitcher Sonny Gray. All are former 1st-round draft picks and all could soon be seeing time in Oakland, so you forward-looking A’s fans ought to get acquainted with them while you can. We took the opportunity to talk with all three of them, along with River Cats pitching coach Rick Rodriguez, while in Sacramento last week to see how things are shaping up for some of the A’s top prospects…
The A’s top pick in 2010, Choice struggled a bit last year with Midland. But he had a great spring and seems to have turned the corner this year in Sacramento. With Chris Young not likely to be retained by the A’s next season, Choice could be in line to see time in the A’s outfield next year…
AF: You’ve been having a good year here in Sacramento, and you had a really good spring too. Did you have a little extra confidence, because it seems like you just came out the chute raring to go this year?
MC: Just going back to the off-season, I spent a lot of time working in the off-season and getting myself ready for spring training. And all the hard work just paid off.
AF: Was there anything you did different this off-season as opposed to the past?
MC: Not too different. I had a little more time to get things going. The off-season before I went to the [Arizona] Fall League, the season before that there was instructs (instructional league). So there was a lot more time to kind of rest and get yourself into more of a routine that you’d like to get into. So basically I had a lot of time to get in the cage, especially in the winter when it’s cold.
AF: So how did everyone treat you when you were in the big league camp this spring?
MC: Yeah, everybody’s cool up there. For the most part, the A’s clubhouse is pretty young. There’s not too many older guys up there, so everybody’s real receptive to each other.
AF: Was there anyone in particular who took you under their wing or took the time to show you the ropes a bit?
MC: Not anybody in particular. But I spent a lot more time with most of the outfielders in camp. Coco, C.Y., Reddick, Seth Smith – those guys are the ones I talked to the most up there.
AF: Well, after the spring you had, you must have had a lot of confidence and been pretty eager to get things going.
MC: Yeah, definitely. You’re always ready to get the season started because spring training gets long, especially once you go down to minor league camp. It’s the same thing everyday, and you’re just ready for some real games where it matters.
AF: So what would you say has been the key to the success you’ve been having this year?
MC: Just the experience of the game. The more games you play in, the more experience you get, the more you see guys, you just get into a routine of how to get better.
AF: It seems like you’ve been taking a lot of walks and getting on base a lot this year. Is there anything different in your approach at the plate, or is there anything different in what you’re looking for or what you’re trying to do at the plate?
MC: Not so much, just kind of basically picking up where I left off at the end of last year at Midland – just really trying to swing at good pitches, pitches I can handle that are more up in the zone and trying to leave the ones down alone.
AF: And what about your basic swing and your mechanics, how much are you still tweaking that, or are things pretty much settled in now?
MC: I mean, with hitting, you’re always tweaking something, but most of the time, it’s more mental than physical. At this point, I work on the physical stuff before the game, but once the game starts, it’s all mental and you’re more worried about what the pitcher has and how you’re going to be successful against him.
AF: Now they’ve been having you spend a little time in left field and right field this year. So how is it different for you playing the corner positions rather than center field?
MC: Corners are a little bit faster. You’ve got to read angles. Knowing the hitter’s important – which guys like to pull, which guys like to hit the ball opposite field. But it’s been going good so far, just getting my reps in during BP and making sure I can get good reads in the game.
AF: So is there anything in particular that you’re currently focused on working on either in the field or at the plate, or is it now just a matter of going out everyday and trying to follow through on the approach that you’ve developed at this point?
MC: You pretty much just hit the nail on the head right there. You know, everything I’ve done in preparation before the game, I just want that to play in the game.
AF: When you left the big league camp in spring training, did Bob Melvin or anybody pat you on the back or let you know they appreciated what they saw from you in camp this year?
MC: Yeah, you have those sit-down meetings before you get sent out, and they basically just said, “Keep working hard and knock the door down.”
The A’s top pick in 2009, Green has been a man without a home in the field. He started out as a shortstop, then switched to the outfield, and even saw a little time at third base. But he finally seems to be settling in at second base this season. And with the middle infield the murkiest part of the A’s major league roster, many A’s fans are already clamoring for Green to get his shot…
AF: You’ve been having a good year here, and things have been going well for you at the plate. So are there any particular adjustments you’ve made this season?
GG: Nothing different really, just the same stuff we were working on last year.
AF: And what was the key stuff you were working on last year?
GG: Just better plate discipline, better balance – that’s something we worked really hard on last year. I kind of had a good season and wanted to keep it going this year.
AF: So are you waiting more for your pitch now?
GG: Yeah, definitely not trying to get that pitcher’s pitch early and just waiting on mine.
AF: It seems like you’ve been hitting an awful lot of doubles this year. Is that just due to waiting for the right pitch a little more?
GG: Yeah, I’ve had a little bit more success hitting balls in the gap this year. I’ve always been the type of guy who’s had quite a few doubles. I think last year was the lowest amount of doubles I’ve had in a season. But it’s definitely just been a matter of getting my pitch and doing something with it.
AF: Were you feeling pretty confident to start the year?
GG: Yeah, then I hit a little valley here and there. I went on a couple of stretches that weren’t the best.
AF: Well, it seems like you’re in one of your best stretches of the year right now. Are you just seeing the ball really well right now?
GG: Yeah, I’m definitely just seeing the ball well. I’ve had a couple of at-bats where the ball’s fallen for me, and that kind of happens when you’re going well. So it’s been a combination of both.
AF: Well, you’ve also been hitting them over the wall and in the gaps lately too, so that’s not just luck. (He would hit two home runs in the game later that night). But what about in the field? You’ve been playing second base for most of the season, and it’s a rarity for you to be at one spot most of the season. How do you feel about second base and how are things developing for you over there?
GG: I’m feeling good. I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable than I was at the beginning of the year. It’s almost becoming second nature now. So that’s definitely a good feeling – being able to worry about one position only. I’m still just doing the usual, just working on little stuff here and there – whether it’s turning two around the bag, because it’s just a different look from what I’m used to, or different feeds to second base. Those are really the main two things that we work on.
AF: You’ve obviously spent plenty of time playing shortstop, so how does second base compare to shortstop for you? What’s different for you over there?
GG: Definitely, the view off the bat is much different. But other than that, the only other thing I really see that’s different is the turns. Coming from short, you’re able to kind of read the play because everything’s in front of you – you see the ball, see the runner. When you’re at second base, it’s more of a reaction thing, more of a feel, that you know on certain balls you’ve got to get rid of it quick and on other balls you’ve got a little bit more time and you can stay in there.
AF: And are you feeling more confident every day you’re out there at second?
GG: Oh yeah, much more confident. Like you said, it’s a rarity that I’ve been able to stay at one position most of the year. So it’s definitely nice to be able to know when you come to the yard that not only are you going to be playing but the odds are you’re going to be at one position and you’re going to be able to work on that one position during BP.
AF: So do you pay much attention to what’s going on with the big league club in Oakland and how they’re doing and how guys up there are playing?
GG: Not really, other than the guys I’ve come to know through the system who’ve gotten called up. Other than that, it’s not the thing on my mind. I’m a River Cat right now, and that’s what I am. So until that call-up comes, I’m going to be here in Sacramento being a River Cat.
AF: So do you live with any teammates here in Sacramento during the season?
GG: I’ve got an apartment just for the season with a couple of guys here – Ryan Ortiz and Paul Smyth have lived with me throughout the year.
AF: And finally, after long avoiding Twitter, there now seems to be a Twitter account for you (@GreenieLocks8). Now was that created by Sonny Gray and Bruce Billings, or does that actually belong to you?
GG: (Laughs) No, it is not mine. It’s something they have fun with. They definitely asked me if they could do it, and I said yes. It’s all fun. I’m not on the Twitter game, but more than likely, I’ll probably take it over at some point.
AF: So you were somewhat complicit in this thing anyway.
GG: Yeah, I told them as long as they didn’t get me in trouble, it was okay.
The A’s top pick in 2011, Gray had a lot to learn last year in his first full season at Midland. But he seems to have gotten over the hump this year at Sacramento and is clearly the A’s top pitching prospect, poised to pounce as soon as an opportunity pops up on the big league pitching staff. We had the chance to see his last start in Sacramento, where he allowed 4 runs in the 2nd inning but righted the ship and otherwise pitched flawlessly over 7 innings of work and walked away with a no-decision in a game the River Cats won. We talked to him in the Cats’ clubhouse after the game, along with Oakland Clubhouse’s Chris Biderman. Below are some selections from that post-game question-and-answer session…
Q: I know you’ve been working on your changeup for quite a while. So where do you feel you’re at with the changeup right now?
SG: I think it’s good. I think I threw 7 pitches in the 5th or 6th inning tonight, and I think I threw 5 changeups and got some early contact. So I’m very confident – I’ll throw it whenever, to righties or lefties. Tonight it got me out of the 2nd inning with the double play, and I got a lot of swings and groundballs and soft contact with it.
Q: Do you feel a lot more confident throwing it this year than you would have at any point last year?
SG: Oh, at any point in my whole career, in my whole life. It’s just something that finally got in my mind that it helps me and it makes me that much better of a pitcher.
Q: How do you feel about your overall command?
SG: I think it’s better than it’s been. It’s obviously something that you’re always going to work on. You’re always going to try to get better at that. But even tonight – I missed up in the zone a little bit in the 2nd inning and got hit – but other than that, it was a walk on a close pitch here, a walk on a close pitch there.
Q: If you had that kind of 2nd inning in a start last year, you might not have been able to recover. How much different of a pitcher are you now than you were at this time last year?
SG: I’ve felt really comfortable on the mound this whole year. I had a little bump in the road in the 2nd inning, and last year I might not have been able to make the adjustment and tone it down a little bit and start throwing changeups and curveballs for strikes and making my fastball look a little better. You know, it’s kind of frustrating to give up 4 runs in the 2nd inning feeling as good as I felt tonight, but it’s also kind of rewarding to be able to still get 7 innings after throwing almost 40 pitches in 1 inning.
Q: You took over the PCL lead in strikeouts tonight. Is that something you’re able to take some pride in?
SG: I think strikeouts are never a bad thing because you can kind of shut down an inning. But I think I am striking more guys out this year than last year.
Q: Is that because of the refinement of your secondary pitches?
SG: I think so. I think I’m getting a lot of swings on my breaking ball, and that’s probably because my fastball’s a little bit better this year and I’m throwing my breaking ball noticeably better this year than I did last year. I don’t know if it’s the weather here that allows you to do that. In Midland, it’s a little bit tough, but I have noticed that my breaking pitches have been better.
Q: Was it kind of cool to face a guy like Eric Chavez who’s been in the big leagues for as long as he has, or was that even on your mind at all?
SG: No, it wasn’t on my mind really. I didn’t really know.
Q: Is there anything in particular you’re focused on working on right now now that you’re feeling confident in the changeup a little more?
SG: The only thing I’m doing every time out is just trying to make pitches and get as many outs as possible. There’s not one thing that I would say I’m getting lectured on. It’s just trying to get outs every time you get out there.
Q: So at this point, it’s just a matter of executing the game plan and doing everything you know you need to do.
SG: Yeah, right.
Rick Rodriguez is the long-time River Cats pitching coach, though he also served a brief stint as the A’s bullpen coach last season. He’s had a hand in developing many of the A’s most talented young pitchers, and is now entrusted with guiding Sonny Gray’s glide path to the majors…
AF: So I wanted to talk to you primarily about Sonny Gray. Obviously he’s had a really good season and he kind of looks like he’s gotten over the hump. So, as his pitching coach here this year, can you define from your perspective what he’s been doing right this season?
RR: Yeah, this is really the first year I’ve ever worked with him. I remember him from spring training last year. And just going by the little bit I saw last year compared to this year, it’s like night and day. His command of his fastball has gotten a lot better. His changeup has gotten a lot better. He’s getting more confidence in it – he can throw it pretty much anytime now. His curveball has always been nasty. And he’s learning how to pitch. He’s learning that you just can’t pump fastballs in there all the time. So he’s using that changeup. He’s learning to pitch back and forth and learning how to use that changeup when he’s behind in the count.
AF: It certainly seems like his outings have been a lot more efficient. He’s throwing far fewer pitches, he’s not walking a lot of guys. So what’s the source of that newfound efficiency?
RR: I think it’s just more confidence. Coming into this level, he’s seeing that he can compete and dominate this league. And hopefully for however long he’s here, he can continue to do that and then when he goes to the big leagues he’ll have all the confidence in the world.
AF: Now what about his third pitch – the changeup? I know that’s something the organization’s been working on with him for a while now. So how’s that been developing?
RR: Yeah, I give him credit. He’s working hard in the bullpen on it. That’s part of his routine – he works it in. He knows you do X amount of fastballs here, okay now we’re going to do the changeup. He’s limiting the use of his breaking ball in his side work – he’s working primarily fastball/changeup. And I think that’s translated into the success he’s having right now.
AF: And I’m assuming that his command has improved as well, that he’s putting pitches where he wants to more frequently.
RR: Yeah, more frequently – there’s always room for improvement. And every once in a while, just like anybody else, all of a sudden the fastball command gets off track and then gets back on track. But his command has gotten a lot better.
AF: Is there any one particular thing that you’re trying to work on with him right now?
RR: You know, I keep talking to him – we preach first-pitch strikes. So we’re always working on first-pitch strikes. But in addition to that, once you get 0-1, hey let’s get 0-2. Instead of throwing a ball, let’s go 0-2 and start really putting those guys in a defensive mode. And I think he’s starting to understand that – he’s trying. It’s a learning process, and he’s still very young, so he’s still learning how to do all that.
AF: So you’d really like to make him even more aggressive right off the bat.
RR: Yeah, he’s got all the talent in the world. And like I said, he’s very young and he’s still working on some things, but he’s going to be a good one.
AF: Well, at this point, he’s the next prospect in line if anything should happen. So what do you think he still needs to do to be in a position to be a successful major league pitcher?
RR: His mound presence is very good. His emotional presence is very good in the dugout. I think that’s a big plus for him – I think he’s learned that. The one thing I think he probably needs to do is the execution of his pitches probably needs to be a little bit more consistent – meaning if the catcher’s going fastball down and away to a right-handed hitter, I want him to hit that fastball down and away or miss down and away, not for it to come back over the plate. And just like with anybody else, you get in little ruts and sometimes the ball does come back over. And with Sonny, he’s learning, if that ball does come back over, what to do to get it where he wants it. And I think if he can improve on that, he’s going to be tough.
AF: Is there anyone else on your staff here you’ve seen show a lot of improvement this year?
RR: Well, I had Scribner when I was the bullpen coach in Oakland last year. But down here, his control has gotten so much better. His curveball has gotten to the point where he can throw it pretty much at any time wherever he wants. And he’s doing very well both against left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. Brian Gordon has come on very, very strong. He’s learned to command the strike zone with all his pitches. He tightened up his slider, which I think helped. Pedro Figueroa worked on some mechanical things and now his fastball command has gotten much better. His slider’s gotten a little bit sharper. So guys are still working, trying to get better, trying to iron out some stuff. But those three guys have come in and improved tremendously.
AF: So you think Scribner is a dramatically improved pitcher from what you saw of him in Oakland last year?
RR: Yeah, from what I saw of him in Oakland and from what I see now. Again, it’s about executing. But if he can just keep executing in Oakland the way he is here, he’s going to be fine.
Find out more about the A’s top prospects. Get the inside scoop on Choice, Green and Gray from their manager, Sacramento River Cats skipper Steve Scarsone, here.
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A’s Farmhand Of The Day
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (Triple-A)
New Orleans Zephyrs 4
Sacramento River Cats 3
LP – Scribner 1-1 / 4.70
Farmhand Of The Game:
Pitcher Sonny Gray
(7 IP / 7 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 11 K)
Starter Sonny Gray turned in another strong outing for Sacramento on Tuesday, allowing 3 runs, just 2 earned, while striking out 11 and walking none, but he left the game with the River Cats down by a run. (If you missed our recent video interview with Sonny Gray, you can check it out here). Outfielder Michael Taylor collected 3 hits, including a double, and drove in the tying run in the bottom of the 8th inning, but RHP Evan Scribner surrendered the winning run in the top of the 10th to take his 1st loss for Sacramento. After getting the start at second base on Monday, Hiro Nakajima started at third base on Tuesday and went 1 for 5, lowering his average to .244.