Oakland A’s surprise everyone

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This year I was able to see the Oakland A’s twice during Spring Training. The first time at the Dodgers facility, Camelback Ranch and then again at the A’s facility, HoHoKam Stadium, in Mesa. This Oakland team looks very different from the one that played that epic 12-inning wild card game against the Kansas City Royals last October.

Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin
Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin

For starters, the A’s traded pitcher Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox for four player, including infielder Marcus Semien and catcher Josh Phegley. Everyone was surprised in December, but during Spring Training it was clear both Semien and Phegley were going to make an impact on the team.

While at HoHoKam I was able to interview both players and they were very happy to be wearing the Athletics green.

The big surprise for everyone here in the Cactus league was manager Bob Melvin sending Ryan Cook down to the minor leagues. Cook was considered a top contender to be the A’s closer, but he had such a poor camp Melvin made the tough decision.

“Cookie has been an instrumental piece in our success the past few years, an All-Star in 2012, anything from a seventh-inning guy to a ninth-inning guy for us. We just feel like he needed a break from this. Sometimes something like that can rejuvenate you. Certainly it wasn’t fun for anybody, especially him. He was shocked and I don’t blame him. But we expect him to be back here, we really do. He’s too good and too talented not to be pitching for us. But at this point, he’s going to have to work it out down there.”

One thing Oakland fans may get to see once the season starts is the major league’s only switch pitcher, Pat Venditte. On the day I was there Melvin said he had been very impressed with Venditte when he pitched the previous day.

Oakland A’s shortstop Marcus Semien
Oakland A’s shortstop Marcus Semien

Because of Venditte being so good, the minor leagues instituted the “Venditte Rule,” which states the switch pitcher and switch batters can only change their positions once between pitches. It actually gives the advantage to the batter, because he comes to the plate expecting a pitcher to be throwing either left-handed or right.

If Venditte makes the roster you can expect he will be the talk of baseball when he gets his first appearance in a regular season game.

Enjoy the video and see what the manager and some of the players in camp have to say.

 (All photos by Claudia Gestro)