OAKLAND -- Manager Bob Melvin said he was just glad the A’s finalized their trade of Yoenis Cespedes for Boston’s Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes on a day the A’s were off.
"That’s a lot to digest," Melvin said.
If it hadn’t already, the A’s stunner of a deal at Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline hit home Friday with the arrivals of Lester and Gomes -- and Sam Fuld, also acquired at the deadline -- in Oakland. Lester said one of the first things he noticed when his flight got to the Bay Area was that the A’s were planning to give out Cespedes T-shirts on Saturday, when Lester is now scheduled to make his first A’s start against the Royals.
"Kind of ironic," Lester said.
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Lester, who will wear No. 31 with the A’s, said his first reaction upon learning he’d been traded to Oakland was "excitement."
"Obviously, leaving Boston after being there for so long was at times difficult," he said in a press conference this afternoon. "But going from a team that hasn’t done so well this year to a team that has the best record in baseball is pretty exciting. Fortunately I’ve got a few faces here that I recognize and know pretty well, so that should make the transition pretty smooth."
Lester, who had spent his entire career in Boston, now joins an A’s rotation that includes Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Asked for his impression of the group, he said: "It looks great." Lester was also asked what he has thought of the A’s from the opposing dugout in recent years and said:
"Full of energy, play the game the right way. Obviously their pitching staff has always been strong. So I think that’ll be fun to be a part of. They’ve got a lot of younger guys that have been around a while, so the energy’s always going to be there and like I’ve said before, just excited to be a part of it from the other dugout now."
Melvin, asked how his rotation now stacks up to others he’s had in his career, smiled and said: "Right up there. As good as I’ve ever hard."
"The magnitude of that type of trade gets your attention," Melvin said. "Everybody was close to Ces here, and he’s had unbelievable impact on what we’ve done here the last two-plus years, and we wish him the best and thank him for everything.
"But to bring in the guys we brought in, you have to trade something very significant, and that’s what it took. So you’re always looking to try to get your team incrementally better, and we feel like we had to trade an impact guy like that to get incrementally better."
While Lester was getting acquainted with new surroundings and new teammates today, his fellow acquisition, Gomes, was largely re-acquainting himself with familiar ones, having been a key clubhouse guy on the 2012 A’s team that won the A.L. West and made the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Gomes said reaching the playoffs with a team creates "a different bond," and that he felt a little like "a proud father" seeing the A’s with six players in this year’s All-Star Game.
"These little guys are trumping me now," Gomes joked.
Gomes referenced his final game with the A’s -- their loss in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS, after which they received a standing ovation from the Coliseum crowd and a hat tip from their opponents, the Detroit Tigers -- and the fact that he was able last year with Boston to "finish the deal" with a World Series victory.
"I thought I was hungry to get that World Series ring," Gomes said. "Now that I have it, I’m staving for it. It really sinks home that that’s what we play the game for."
The plan is for Gomes to play left field against left-handers, with Stephen Vogt starting against right-handers. Right now, though, Vogt is still nursing a bone bruise in his foot, which is why he’ll play first base tonight and Brandon Moss will start in left. Here’s the full A’s lineup:
And the Royals’ lineup behind right-hander Jeremy Guthrie:
* Sam Fuld arrived in Oakland today after a 36-hour span that’s "been a real whirlwind." It started late Wednesday night when Fuld learned he’d been traded by the Minnesota Twins back to the A’s. The Twins were in Kansas City at the time, and Fuld had his wife and three children with him. So the family decided to rent a car, drive back to Minnesota to get Fuld’s things, and Fuld flew to Oakland on Friday morning.
He arrived to find himself in the leadoff spot, starting in center field, for the team with the best record in baseball.
"It’s exciting," Fuld said of joining a contender. "I think that’s why any of us play the game. … I’ve had two playoff experiences and there’s nothing that compares to that."
Like Gomes, Fuld is also coming back to a familiar situation, as he was with the A’s in spring training and played seven games in Oakland in April. Fuld said although he left "on great terms" when the A’s designated him earlier this year, he didn’t think he’d be back so soon.
"It makes it a lot easier," Fuld said of his familiarity with the A’s. "I just walked in today and felt pretty darn comfortable right away."
Now that he is, Fuld said he’s eager to fill what looks like an immediate need for the A’s in center field, with both Craig Gentry (hand) and Coco Crisp (neck) nursing injuries.
"That was a for-now, right now, trade," Melvin said. "We were playing some guys out of position in center field. And to be able to bring (Fuld) back and plug him into center field … was huge for us."
* Lester’s arrival sends Jesse Chavez back to the bullpen and the long relief role Chavez held last season, before injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin this spring pressed him into the rotation. Jason Hammel remains in the rotation as the No. 5 starter, despite the fact he has gone 0-4 in his first four starts with the A’s, with a 9.53 ERA.
"His track record would suggest we need to be a little more patient with him, and I think good things are going to come from him," Melvin said. "It hasn’t to this point, and no one feels worse about it than him. but you don’t have a (2.98 ERA in 17 starts with the Cubs) and not give a guy a chance to prove himself here."
Melvin said Chavez entering unchartered territory with his workload this season also had a part in the decision, but stressed that Chavez has "done nothing to put himself in the bullpen." Chavez went 8-7 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts this season, though he hit a rough stretch in July.
"I’m not upset, I’m not mad about it," Chavez said. "You can’t go down there with a bad attitude, because a bad attitude brings bad performance. That’s something I learned in my career and it’s something I’m not going to do. It’d be wrong for the team. Just going to go down there and do what I did last year, help this team any way I can."
Chavez pointed out his joining the bullpen might take a load off some of the relievers that Melvin has had to use more frequently this season. Melvin said he "wouldn’t hesitate to use (Chavez) anywhere," though his primary role will be long relief.
* As for Crisp, Melvin said the center fielder has had a couple "trigger-point" injections in recent days, which have made his ailing neck "feel a little bit better." Crisp will not be available tonight and is still day-to-day.
As explained by the AP’s Janie McCauley, a trigger-point injection is a mixture of saline and anesthetic that is injected directly into the muscle. The moisture hydrates the muscle and loosens it up. Crisp’s neck has periodically bothered him since he ran into the wall at the Coliseum earlier this season chasing a fly ball.
* Finally, Melvin was asked how he thinks the move to Boston’s Fenway Park will affect what Cespedes is able to do at the plate. Cespedes will no doubt take aim now and then at the park’s famed "Green Monster" -- the tall but close wall in left field.
"You don’t want to get caught into a thing where you’re trying to pull everything, cause his success comes when he’s hitting the ball everywhere," Melvin said.
"But it’s probably a ballpark that’s suited for him, put it that way."