OAKLAND -- Hours before his first start for the A’s, 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 doesn’t look like he’s one of those guys that you have to walk wide circles around on the days that he pitches," Melvin said.
The A’s are still getting to know their newest acquisition, with a major step coming when Samardzija starts today’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays. It’ll 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 he’ll 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 we’re all looking forward to watching him pitch."
Samardzija has the chance to help the A’s secure their eighth series sweep of the season. They’ve allowed just two runs today in the first three games of the series against Toronto. Here’s the A’s 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 weren’t available before the game.
"It’s just to the point where we’re 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, it’s Stephen Vogt in right field. This is where Vogt’s versatility -- and the A’s investments in that quality -- really comes into play.
Josh Donaldson is DHing today, Melvin said, with the A’s wanting to make sure they’re doing what they can to alleviate Donaldson’s recent back soreness. That’s 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. It’s a virtual lock the A’s 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 A’s, 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 doesn’t 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 A’s 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 isn’t 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 don’t (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 A’s owning baseball’s best record and the possibility of several All-Stars from Oakland, Melvin was asked what it’s like having the focus of the baseball world possibly shifting to Oakland for a change.
"I think it’s a good thing," he said. "But we don’t get too worked up about that. Whether we’re an underdog (or) a favorite, we play the same. It’s nice to have that potential spotlight, hopefully, today a little. But I don’t think it affects the way we do things or the way we play."