OAKLAND -- Hours before his first start for the As, right-hander Jeff Samardzija was sitting in the middle of the clubhouse chatting with teammates and, in the words of manager Bob Melvin, "walking around with a smile pasted on his face."
"He doesnt look like hes one of those guys that you have to walk wide circles around on the days that he pitches," Melvin said.
The As are still getting to know their newest acquisition, with a major step coming when Samardzija starts todays series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays. Itll be the first A.L. appearance for Samardzija, the 29-year-old who was 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Chicago Cubs this season before being dealt to Oakland over the weekend.
Samardzija throws hard -- his fastball this season has averaged 94.6 mph, according to FanGraphs, with a biting slider. He had a 1.68 ERA at the end of May before a couple of rough outings in June. That much you can look up about Samardzija, but manager Bob Melvin said hell be looking today to learn a little more.
"You want to see the type of competitor he is, how he goes after hitters maybe with guys on base, and so forth," Melvin said. "You just get a feel for the person a little bit more. So were all looking forward to watching him pitch."
Samardzija has the chance to help the As secure their eighth series sweep of the season. Theyve allowed just two runs today in the first three games of the series against Toronto. Heres the As lineup today:
And the Blue Jays lineup behind right-hander Drew Hutchison:
* Brandon Moss underwent an MRI this morning on his injured left ankle, Melvin said. Results werent available before the game.
"Its just to the point where were a little bit concerned and want to be precise in what we see," Melvin said.
With Josh Reddick on the disabled list, Coco Crisp getting a day off and Craig Gentry in center field, its Stephen Vogt in right field. This is where Vogts versatility -- and the As investments in that quality -- really comes into play.
Josh Donaldson is DHing today, Melvin said, with the As wanting to make sure theyre doing what they can to alleviate Donaldsons recent back soreness. Thats especially the case after Donaldson went tumbling over the tarp in foul ground again chasing a ball on Saturday night.
"He feels good," Melvin said. "We just want to make sure he stays in a good situation with the back."
* All-Star teams will be announced starting at 4 p.m. PT today. Its a virtual lock the As will have their first position player make the team since Ramon Hernandez a decade ago, as Donaldson held a wide lead at third base in the last round of fan voting. The question is how many players the As, who have the majors best record, will send. Derek Norris was also making a late push at catcher, Yoenis Cespedes has jockeyed for the third spot among outfield starters -- and that doesnt include reserves and pitchers.
"They have to get there first, but we hold out hope we have multiple guys," Melvin said. "I feel like we deserve to have multiple guys."
The As two representatives last year were Bartolo Colon, who did not pitch in the game, and closer Grant Balfour. Donaldson was among the most notable snubs from the team, and it was pointed out to Melvin that not making the team isnt always a bad thing -- as seemed to be the case with Donaldson, it can spur a player in the second half.
"You can get a bit of a chip," Melvin said. "And you know as far as All-Star selection goes there are going to be some guys that deserve to be there that dont (make it). He was one of those guys last year. But hopefully we have several guys that are in it."
* With the Samardzija trade making waves in baseball, the As owning baseballs best record and the possibility of several All-Stars from Oakland, Melvin was asked what its like having the focus of the baseball world possibly shifting to Oakland for a change.
"I think its a good thing," he said. "But we dont get too worked up about that. Whether were an underdog (or) a favorite, we play the same. Its nice to have that potential spotlight, hopefully, today a little. But I dont think it affects the way we do things or the way we play."