OAKLAND — Eventually the focus shifted to baseball Monday night, which had to be a welcome development for the A’s.
It didn’t equate to victory, as Indians starter Carlos Carrasco handcuffed them in a 1-0 Cleveland win. But it was the first step in trying to move forward since news broke of a clubhouse fight Friday between Danny Valencia and Billy Butler.
It’s been a trying enough season for the A’s (53-72) based purely on wins and losses. The breakout of clubhouse drama simply added a layer of unwanted distraction to what’s been one mess of a 2016 season.
“I think we’re already taking the steps to move past it,” catcher Stephen Vogt said before the game. “… These are two guys that are professionals. What happened is unfortunate, and we’re all trying to move past it as quickly as possible. I think both of them have been around long enough to move past it.”
Closer Ryan Madson shared that sentiment.
“Everything’s back to business as usual,” he offered.
That’s the common message you often hear in the aftermath of such turmoil. But the A’s final five-plus weeks of the season will be judged not only on how their young players continue to develop, but whether this group keeps things moving in a united direction and avoids any more embarrassing spotlight.
A silver lining came Monday night in the form of rookie Andrew Triggs, who shined over six scoreless innings, striking out six and walking one. His mini-emergence takes on significance in light of Jesse Hahn’s shoulder injury keeping him out longer than expected, and the not-so-surprising realization that Sonny Gray seems all but assured to miss the rest of the season with a strained forearm.
Melvin said before the game that Gray still isn’t throwing, and that he doesn’t place major importance on the right-hander needing to appear in another game this season.
“I think it would be hard to get him stretched out to start, and the bullpen isn’t really where we want him to pitch out of,” the manager said. “For me, if he would just pitch off the mound and throw a bullpen, have some peace of mind as far as how he feels going into the offseason, that would be enough for me.”
Two impressive starts in a row from Triggs isn’t going to thrust him into the discussion for the 2017 rotation just yet, but the right-hander is doing well enough to earn an extended look as a starter for the time being. Melvin likes the way he’s expanded his repertoire as a starter, showing hitters a changeup to complement his fastball, cutter and curve.
Triggs, who incredibly is on his eighth separate stint with the big league club this season, has taken his shuttling between the majors and minors in stride.
“I embraced it,” Triggs said. “I mean, I was 27 years old when I got called up. I spent a lot of years toiling in the minors. I 100 percent embraced it.”
Now the A’s look to move on, hoping to leave the Butler/Valencia episode in the past.
“This was not the first time guys have gotten in a fight in (a) clubhouse,” general manager David Forst said. “Unfortunately, when you’re having the kind of season we’re having, it’s a big story. If we were winning, it would be colorful, but we’re not.”
That came across as downplaying the seriousness of the issue, but it’s true that the A’s aren’t the first team to have a player take a swing at a teammate. It has, however, provided a dark cloud over a season that was already coming in woefully short on positives.
Shortstop Marcus Semien’s fiancee, Tarah, gave birth to the couple’s first child early Monday evening. Melvin said he wasn’t sure when or if Semien would go on paternity leave. Players can stay on it for one to three days and be replaced on the 25-man roster during that time. Monday’s game marked the first Semien has missed this season, and it snapped his streak of 126 games in a row played going back to last season. That was the longest by an Athletic since Miguel Tejada’s set the franchise record with 594 games in a row that stretched from 2000-03.
Chad Pinder made his first major league start at shortstop Monday and went 0-for-3.