SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -– Not often do you hear of a pitcher mad at himself for throwing too many strikes.
That essentially was the case for A’s right-hander Jesse Chavez in Thursday night's 6-4 win over the San Francisco Giants.
He was able to get ahead in counts against the Giants. He just couldn’t put hitters away like he wanted. That led to lots of foul balls, which elevated his pitch count and led to manager Bob Melvin calling on his bullpen in the bottom of the fourth at Scottsdale Stadium.
Chavez, who returned to the team Wednesday after witnessing the birth of his daughter, gave up seven hits and four runs (two earned), with two walks and one strikeout. At this point of camp, Chavez wants his work days to last a little longer.
“It’s finishing ‘em,” Chavez said. “Being able to elevate. I try to throw it up, and I can’t. It’s either gonna be down, or it’s gonna be on the spot I want it to be, just not elevated enough to change their eyes. And that’s the biggest thing right now, which isn’t allowing me to go deep in ballgames. Those pitches I’m trying to elevate become foul balls, which knocks my pitch count up.”
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Chavez has posted a 4.50 ERA through five appearances (four starts), so where does that leave him in the A’s plans for their staff? It would appear he and Drew Pomeranz are fighting for the final rotation spot. Pomeranz has pitched well aside from a poor start in his last outing, when he was bothered by a hip problem that he and the team think is short-term.
Pomeranz predominantly has been a starter throughout his career, a former first-round pick who the A’s view as having terrific upside. There are justifiable reasons to hitch their wagon to Pomeranz in the rotation. Chavez has proven effective in a long relief role for the A’s and has much more experience in the majors as a reliever than Pomeranz.
But Chavez impressed in a starting role through the first half of 2014. Surely he entered camp looking to re-establish himself in the rotation.
Regardless of where he might sit in the pitching mix, Chavez has reason to be happy. He and his wife, Crystal, welcomed their third daughter, Dannie Rae, on Tuesday.
STOCK RISING: Melvin is a big fan of Billy Burns, version 2015.
The switch-hitting outfielder entered Thursday night leading the majors in hits (20) and runs (15), and was batting .432 (16-for-37) over his previous 12 games. Burns has bulked up and he’s showing more pop in his bat to complement his speed. Should the A’s want to keep another outfielder if Josh Reddick (oblique) isn’t ready to start the season, Burns is making a nice case for himself.
“Billy Burns is better at everything this spring,” Melvin said. “He’s stronger, certainly left-handed. He’s pulling some balls. … Teams were shifting him last spring, pulling the left fielder and center fielder in, taking a lot of hits away from him. He’s combated that by being more aggressive at times too. You saw him early in the spring hit balls down the right field line with authority. If anybody we’ve seen really made significant improvement … it’s him.”
QUOTABLE: “He’s got as much power as anybody we have on our team.” – Melvin on Rule 5 first baseman/outfielder Mark Canha.
ODDS AND ENDS: Left fielder Coco Crisp (sore right elbow) reported feeling much better Thursday, but Melvin said Crisp won’t be in Friday’s lineup against Texas regardless. The plan was to give him at least three full days off after he received an injection in his elbow.