ANAHEIM — A’s co-owner Lew Wolff wandered through the A’s clubhouse Wednesday afternoon.
He shook hands with Sonny Gray, telling the A’s right-hander that it was good to see him back at full health.
Chances are, Wolff is still getting familiar with many of Gray’s younger teammates who have come up from the minors recently. But he agrees with the sentiment that it’s the core of young talent the A’s have — players currently with the big club and others in the high minors — that points toward optimism for the future.
“It’s worked out quite well,” Wolff said of the performance the A’s have gotten from several of their rookies. “And a couple of (the top prospects) we haven’t even seen yet.”
It had to be tough for the A’s to glean that optimism coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angels Angels. An 8-6 loss Wednesday night guaranteed the A’s (67-91) will finish in last place for the second year in a row. The only other time that’s happened in Oakland history was 1997-98.
But as the A’s move on to Seattle for a season-ending four-game series, their final weekend of play carries some impact. The Mariners (84-74) are two games behind Baltimore for the American League’s second Wild Card with four to play. The Tigers stand between them and the Orioles, but the Mariners have hope, and A’s manager Bob Melvin expects that will make for a lively atmosphere at Safeco Field.
“They’re right in the middle of it again now, so I think that will be good for our guys too,” Melvin said before Wednesday’s game. “You play the last four games, nothing’s on the line for us, but whenever you’re in that atmosphere there’s an intensity to it that’s similar to the postseason. I think it’ll be good for our younger guys to see.”
Kendall Graveman, a second-year pitcher who counts as the veteran of Oakland’s current rotation, takes the ball in Thursday night’s opener against lefty Ariel Miranda. After that, the A’s follow with three rookies — Raul Alcantara, Jharel Cotton and Sean Manaea, who opposes Felix Hernandez in Sunday’s finale.
Wolff didn’t offer much on the A’s ongoing search for a ballpark. The A’s are still considering multiple locations in Oakland — the Coliseum site, Howard Terminal and others around the city. There remains no indication that they are focusing on any one site, despite team officials — including principal owner John Fisher — touring Howard Terminal five weeks ago.
“John has been spending a lot of time on it,” Wolff said of the search.
The A’s fell behind 8-2 in the fourth Wednesday before rallying. The highlight for Oakland was Gray, who returned after missing nearly two months with a strained forearm and threw a scoreless first inning in a start that was designed to go just one inning.
The A’s hope Gray rebounds from a disappointing 2016 season and can once again become the rotation’s veteran anchor. It’s rookie starters such as Manaea and Cotton that have provided the late-season optimism, in addition to the season-long work of Graveman. Wolff is pleased with the young pitching depth the A’s have acquired, and they’ve called on a lot of it this season due to a team-record number of injuries.
“I think we probably need to look a little bit in the outfield, but we have quite a bit of young pitching,” he said. “I guess we’re gonna need it.”
Bullpen coach Scott Emerson assumed pitching coach duties for the A's after Curt Young was struck behind the left ear by a foul ball in the first inning Wednesday. Young was seen in the clubhouse after the game and all indications were he's OK.