A's have high expectations as 1st full-squad workout begin
MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Last spring, Dave Stewart and Rickey Henderson addressed the Oakland Athletics players before the first full-squad workout in spring training. A's manager Bob Melvin admitted to being a little superstitious and asked the pair of Oakland greats to speak again on Saturday.
Why not? The Athletics won 97 games last season and secured a wild-card berth. Melvin wanted to remind the players there's still work to do.
"We talked about expectations a little bit, kind of where we came from, where we are now and where we expect to go," Melvin said of his address to the full squad.
The Athletics' spring will be interrupted by a trip to Japan to play two regular-season games against the Mariners on March 20-21. Both teams will have 28-man rosters so there's no need to push anyone now.
Khris Davis, the major League home run leader with 48 last season, looked as if he was ready, launching balls over the fence off Melvin in batting practice.
"I think he took advantage of the wind," Melvin jokingly said.
For Cliff Pennington, this marked a return to his roots. The versatile infielder signed a minor league deal with the A's and is back with the team where he began his career in 2008. In 11 seasons with the Athletics, Diamondbacks, Angels, Reds and Blue Jays, Pennington has compiled a .242 batting average.
"I think I know more staff and coaches than players," Pennington said. "This is where it all started so it's kind of fun to come back in here and see some familiar faces."
He had conversations with other teams but liked the comfort factor of returning to Oakland. Being reunited with current A's hitting coach Darren Bush also was a plus. Bush was Pennington's hitting coach at two levels in the minor leagues.
Pennington has primarily played shortstop but has embraced the role of utility player.
"Obviously, everybody wants to play," Pennington said. "When you put on a uniform, you want to go on the field. It's a role I've been in for a little while now and I'm just trying to do the best I can to help the team win any way I can. Sometimes that's being a mentor or player/coach in the dugout or on the field. I embrace it and try to do the best I can with it."
Pennington, 34, may be able to provide some pointers to the young A's infielders.
"I love playing the game but I also love helping out," he said. "To come in here and get to talk to some guys and maybe give them a few things I've learned over the years to a group that's already really, really good, that's always fun."
Melvin gave players a heads up to be ready to do whatever it takes.
"We are creative, we do try to find nuances and different ways to move forward with what we have," he said. "Sure, I'd like to have the Astros starting rotation and let those guys go out there and pitch six, seven innings every day and turn it over to a really strong bullpen but that's not how we're made up."