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KANSAS CITY – Catcher Geovany Soto has been a quick study learning the A’s entire pitching staff, and Oakland manager Bob Melvin is confident Soto will be fine catching Jon Lester for the first time Tuesday.
Soto was the choice to start behind the plate over Derek Norris as the A’s take on the Kansas City Royals in the American League Wild Card game.
“Soto’s a guy that’s played on different teams, a veteran who’s dealt with different staffs,” Melvin said during a pregame media session. “He’s acclimated to our staff as quickly as you can. Guys like throwing to him.”
It’s a matter of trying to control the Royals’ base-stealing tendencies. They led the majors with 153 stolen bases in the regular season, and the A’s ranked 13th out of 15 A.L. teams this season with a 78.1 percent opponents’ success rate. But, since Soto arrived with the A’s via trade from Texas on Aug. 24, he’s helped limit the running game when he’s been in there.
Soto has thrown out 8 of 16 attempted base stealers (50 percent) since coming to Oakland.
“They steal a lot of bases, and Soto’s done a great job with that,” Melvin said.
But Soto’s yet to catch Lester in a game. Melvin, a former catcher himself, says Lester’s command and poise make things easy on a catcher.
“I think I could probably catch Jon Lester at this point in time,” Melvin cracked.
Regarding another lineup decision, Melvin said the call to sit designated hitter Adam Dunn had to do partly with defense. Stephen Vogt is starting at first base, and the A’s wanted to keep Brandon Moss’ bat in the lineup over Dunn’s. Moss often plays left field, but Melvin said he likes Sam Fuld’s glove in left field. So Moss slides into Dunn’s normal DH spot.
“It’s a big outfield, a fast opponent. (Fuld) plays the corners great. You’re talking about Jon Lester -- righties that pull the ball, lefties that go the other way. That definitely factored in. At times we’ll go offense early and defense late. Other times we’ll do defense early.”
Reliever Eric O’Flaherty, who logged time as the A’s closer when Sean Doolittle was on the disabled list, was left off the 25-man roster for the Wild Card game. Melvin said O’Flaherty’s arm hasn’t felt great lately. That’s a reason he hasn’t been used much of late.
O’Flaherty, who missed the first half of this season while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, threw to hitters Monday but didn’t like the way the ball was coming out of his hand, the manager said.
“He’s just been dealing with a little bit of soreness,” Melvin said. “It’s natural when you’ve had a surgery like that and you feel something, that it scares you a little bit. I think that’s the case for him right now, I’m not sure. But we’re not going to run him out there when he’s not feeling great.”
Jesse Chavez was another reliever left off the roster. Chavez, who’s served as a long man since being bumped from the rotation when Lester was acquired, hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 17.
The A’s opted to keep starter Jason Hammel on Tuesday’s roster and have him available as a right-handed long man to complement lefty Drew Pomeranz.