Sizing up what’s on the horizon for the guys in white shoes as the calendar turns to May.
* May looks like it could be absolutely brutal for the A’s, leaving them black and blue after a run through some of the tougher teams in baseball. The Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Tigers, Angels, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, and Twins are lined up up for manager Bob Melvin’s overmatched crew.
You have to hope the Twins will be a soft part of the schedule that the A’s can exploit to try and end the month on a high note. But most of those other clubs should put up more than enough runs to outpace Oakland’s sluggish offense. In the worst-case scenario I could see the A’s going roughly 7-20 in May.
Then again, if the A’s catch some of these teams while they’re struggling and the offense can finally get on a little bit of a roll they might be able to ride their solid pitching staff to about 12 wins but I’m not counting on it.
* Manny Ramirez is eligible to join the team at the end of the month which means that for at least a week or so the circus will be in town as everyone’s favorite flake draws some national headlines in his return to the big leagues. There’s a good chance the veteran slugger is completely past his prime and the A’s will cut him loose in a month or so to almost no fanfare but for at least a little while Manny will be a big deal around baseball.
Who knows, maybe the old man still has some life left in his bat after all? Considering how lifeless the A’s offense has looked at times this season they could use all the help they can get. Plug Manny into the No. 3 spot in the order and slide Josh Reddick to No. 5 behind Yoenis Cespedes at cleanup and you may have a decent offense if the top two hitters in the lineup can get on base consistently.
* Is Ken Korach coming back this month? Sacramento River Cats announcer Johnny Doskow has been doing a great job filling in for the big league club but I miss hearing Korach on the radio. Get well soon big guy, can’t wait to have you back on the air with Vince.
* Will Jemile Weeks get hot at the plate this month? Anyone who’s ever said that speed never goes into a slump is clearly wrong because Oakland’s speedy second baseman has been in a slump all season and entered May with a .181/.260/.309 line. If anyone is due to get on a roll it’s Weeks and hopefully tonight’s strong showing in Boston is the start of something special. Maybe some bunt hits here and there and a little luck on some batted balls in play can snap Weeks out of his funk.
* It’ll be interesting to see how Tyson Ross does this month as Oakland navigates its way through a lot of hard-hitting lineups. If he keeps putting up stinkers like his most recent start against the Orioles where he coughed up 9 runs you have to wonder whether Brad Peacock will get called up from Sacramento to work in the A’s rotation sooner rather than later. Even Ross’ start against the Indians where he only have up one earned run while picking up a win was a little sloppy with five walks next to his name in the box score.
If Grant Balfour eventually gets traded and Ryan Cook gets promoted to closer, Ross could be an interesting candidate to go to the bullpen as a setup man. It’d be interesting to see how nasty he could be if he could simply air out his fastball and slider for just one inning at a time.
* Will May offer some news on Dallas Braden’s progress as he tries to return from shoulder surgery? He was basically shut down in April but you have to figure there’ll be at least a little update coming up this month on whether Stockton’s favorite son is moving forward on the comeback trail or whether he’s still sidelined.
Even if all Braden can do is make a few starts in September it’ll be a welcome contribution considering the fact the A’s will probably want to limit the innings pitched by kids like Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, etc. as the season winds down.
If Braden can build a little momentum heading into 2013 while sparing some of Oakland’s promising young arms a little abuse down the stretch then everyone wins.
* A blip on the radar to keep an eye on is Michael Ynoa’s return to the mound on May 8. It’d nice if the kid could finally stay healthy and give the A’s some kind of return on their investment in the young Dominican. If he’s simply knocking on the door as a potentially dominant relief pitcher in a couple of years I’ll be happy.
* I curious to see whether Daric Barton will end May hitting over .200 or whether he’ll end the month settling in for a long summer in Sacramento. It’s hard to make a strong argument that Barton has earned regular playing time over Kila Ka’aihue at first base in the early part of the season but the sad thing is that Ka’aihue isn’t really a huge improvement over Barton at the moment. The Kila Monster has a .667 OPS in 45 at bats while Barton has a .612 OPS in 49 at bats. Overall, Barton is the superior defender which may keep him in the lineup more often than a lot of fans would care to see.
Right now Barton is a rare, frustrating creature: The hitter who looks like he doesn’t want to hit. More often than not, he seems more interested in working the count just for the sake of working the count rather than finding a pitch he can drive. I often get the impression that he just enjoys looking at pitches and going up to the plate three or four times a game is just a fun chance to watch those pretty white baseballs zip past him.
Get the stinking bat off your shoulder Daric, your career depends on it and the A’s offense could use a little help.
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