A’s catcher Stephen Vogt is still getting up to speed this spring after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow five weeks ago, so to hit two home runs in Monday’s 6-4 Cactus League victory over the Kansas City Royals, Vogt admitted, made it a “pretty good day.”
It wasn’t just the results that pleased Vogt, though. Up until recently, he said, he has remained hesitant to let loose with his swing and extend his elbow fully. Monday, Vogt said he finally did so on the two home runs, a solo shot to center field off of left-hander Sam Selman and a three-run homer to right off right-hander Christian Binford.
“I haven’t been feeling great, so to have a day with two swings like that where I actually trust the elbow, trust everything is going well … it was nice just to take full swings and not feel any pain,” Vogt said. “I’ll take that over the home runs.’
Vogt, who has yet to catch in a game this spring, has only been taking batting practice for a week and acknowledged he’s “behind still,” but he said Monday was progress in that he felt himself finishing through the ball on his swings.
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“It’s probably not all the way there yet as far as extending,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You could see that he protected it a little when he was swinging, even in BP today. Then the last swings (in the game), it looked like he extended.”
Melvin said before the game there’s no schedule yet for Vogt to catch in a game. Vogt is scheduled to be off Tuesday and start Wednesday at designated hitter.
A few debuts – Starter Jesse Hahn and relievers Ryan Madson and John Axford all made their spring debuts in the A’s win over the Royals at Hohokam Stadium. Hahn threw two innings and allowed one hit, a two-run homer, while recording five ground-ball outs. Madson and Axford each pitched a scoreless inning.
For Hahn, it was the first time on a mound for the A’s since last July 1 – he was shut down in the second half with an elbow injury – and he said it felt more “like it was two, three years ago … It was an awesome feeling to get back out there.”
Hahn retired his first hitter on a comebacker, then walked Christian Colon and threw an 0-1 changeup to Mike Moustakas that the Royals’ third baseman hit out to right-center. He said the pitch was probably a mistake – Moustakas had been late on a first-pitch fastball, and coming back with a slide-step changeup “kinda ran right into his timing.”
After that, Hahn retired his final five batters and said he was glad to feel healthy on the mound again. Melvin said the A’s clocked Hahn’s fastball at 95 mph, another good sign.
“Aside from one pitch I thought he was good,” Melvin said. “He’s always going to have good sink on his fastball, it was just one changeup that he left up in the zone. I think he felt really good about it, as did we.”
Madson was facing a Royals team with which he won a World Series title last fall. He said he exchanged greetings with a few former teammates but was more worried about making a good impression upon the A’s in his first outing. He did so with a perfect inning that included two groundouts and a strikeout.
“If (my pitches) could be right there all year long I’d be real happy,” he said. “Cutter was good, the fastball location was good, sinker was working and I threw a good changeup.”
Madson used the changeup to strike out Royals leadoff man Alcides Escobar, the eighth-toughest hitter to strike out in the American League last season. He said the changeup was “fighting me a little” in the bullpen before his outing, but it “just needed game speed on it probably.”
Melvin sounded impressed by the right-hander, who will likely start the season as the A’s set-up man to closer Sean Doolittle.
“Man, he has a better cutter than I remember, has a really good changeup,” Melvin said. “The velocity was good and with his downhill plane, if he’s throwing strikes and mixing pitches, those are the kind of results you’ll see from him.”
Axford got into a little trouble by issuing a pair of two-out walks in the fourth inning but struck out Balbino Fuenmayor to strand the runners. He said the jam allowed him to work on his pickoff move and slide-step while also getting out some first-day jitters.
“I was telling (Doolittle) when I came set the first couple times I was actually really curious, where do I put my head again?” Axford said. “I forgot what I did.”
Looking Crisp – It was a brief moment, but one of the most encouraging things to occur in Monday’s game for the A’s was Coco Crisp sprinting around the bases and scoring from first on Josh Reddick’s single in the third inning. Crisp looked to be moving on the pitch and after Reddick’s line drive to right field kicked away from Travis Snider, Crisp motored home, sliding in just ahead of the throw.
The A’s have been candid about not knowing what to expect from Crisp this season given his recent injury history. It’s the reason they signed Khris Davis to play left field and they have Mark Canha as a serviceable backup option. But Crisp reported to camp healthy and Melvin said the result has been noticeable.
“He’s really looked much different than we saw him last year,” Melvin said. “He’s running better, the line drive to center field … he had a good read on that, his BPs are better, he’s hitting some balls out of the ballpark left-handed. He looks a lot better this year, and a lot healthier than we saw him for the better part of last year.”
Many hats – Canha still hasn’t played in a game because of back stiffness, but Melvin said he took batting practice Monday and could make his spring debut by the end of the week. Melvin also said the A’s may take a look at Canha in center field as camp goes on.
“He’s willing to do anything,” Melvin said.