Oakland A's: Bob Melvin's Keys to Success in September
Before the second of a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin sat down to speak with reporters about his message to players, what it will take to secure a playoff spot and a few other notable roster issues.
One month away from the postseason, the A's find themselves as the front-runners for a wild-card spot come October. As of September 1, MLB teams are allowed to expand from a 25- to a 40-man roster.
Typically, September call-ups act as time to scout for next year.
But this year is different.
Charging hard into the final weeks of baseball, the A's now must be a bit more calculating in their roster moves.
It's essentially too late to make a major shakeup.
Here's what Melvin had to say about his squad.
Young Guys Will Play
Teams heading to the postseason usually call up 15 role players. The original 25 men act as everyday starters and their backups, while the most recent additions fill in sporadically.
This won't be the case for the A's.
Bob Melvin said the "[talent] pool is bigger than 25," meaning call-ups should see significant time on the field in addition to simply pinch-hitting and running roles.
Coming to Oakland from Triple-A Sacramento is outfielder Collin Cowgill as well as pitchers A.J. Griffin and Pedro Figueroa. Brandon Inge also returns from the disabled list.
"We're not afraid to play our younger guys," said Melvin.
Good thing, because they've been doing that all year.
According to Melvin, Cowgill will be more than just a role player. The plan is to utilize his speed on the bases and spell all three outfielders, specifically Coco Crisp against opposing left-handed pitching.
As for second baseman Jemile Weeks' lack of a call-up, Melvin said: "I don't know what to tell you at this point."
Weeks could still receive a later call-up.
The Oakland Athletics face quite a dilemma in the infield. Currently, there are six infielders (not counting first basemen).
Stephen Drew—acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 21—plays shortstop.
Josh Donaldson, filling in for an injured Brandon Inge, is hot right now, but was removed from the August 31 game due to hip soreness.
Inge arrived back in Oakland upon the September 1 call-ups and looks to reclaim his spot.
The A's also have Adam Rosales, Cliff Pennington and Brandon Hicks.
With Inge, Pennington and Drew as the incumbent starters, Rosales is playing well right now and Hicks showed promise early on.
"It's a good problem to have," said Bob Melvin.
Melvin said the plan is to "take things slow" with Donaldson and give Drew a day off (or two) when necessary. With Inge's experience, it makes moving him around the infield an option when Donaldson is in the lineup as well.
So for now, Drew remains at short, Donaldson and Inge will likely split third, while Pennington and Rosales share second. Hicks is the last alternative.
Update: Brandon Inge left the game after re-injuring his shoulder. He likely will miss the remainder of the season.
Melvin Is Happy with the Catcher Position
Intrigued by prospect Derek Norris' potential, the Oakland Athletics called up the catcher to see what he could do at the big league level.
Norris got off to a hot start in his first few games, but quickly tapered off.
Needing an upgrade at the position, the A's traded for George Kottaras, then quickly shipped incumbent Kurt Suzuki to the Washington Nationals.
Norris was recalled on August 3.
So will there be any more changes behind the plate?
"I like our tandem with Derek and George," Melvin said.
Melvin may not have a choice, because there's not much else that can be done at this point anyway.
Norris appears to still be struggling. Luckily, Kottaras is warming up to Oakland—having knocked in eight RBI in the last two games and 11 in the last 10. Kottaras went 3-5 with two home runs and five RBI in the first of three games against the Boston Red Sox.
With Josh Donaldson's recent production, he will be considered as well if necessary.
"If something happened and we pinch hit for someone, Josh isn't an emergency catcher, he's actually a catcher," Melvin said. "But we don't have any plans to start him behind the plate."
The "Bernie" Can Continue
In case you're unaware, the Oakland Athletics have been using the magic of the Bernie to stay loose.
Don't know what the Bernie is?
The silly, Weekend at Bernie's inspired dance has become Oakland's theme as of late, as chronicled by CSNBayArea.com's Casey Pratt.
Of course, nothing beats having the actual "Bernie" (actor Terry Kiser) on hand for the ceremonial first pitch. Kiser "dropped dead" in Bernie-fashion, mimicking his role in the cult-hit from the '80s, rhythmically coming to life before throwing the ball.
Bob Melvin is okay with his team's use of such goofy antics.
"I do enjoy that whole Bernie dynamic. The fans have a good time with it," he said.
So will we see Melvin get in on the act?
"I'd have to be promised something pretty exotic to get me in," Melvin laughed. "Something like 20 wins. There'd have to be some guarantees involved."
Keep Rolling As Is
When asked about his message to the players, Bob Melvin said:
We continue with the same thoughts that we had that has gotten us to this point. We play for the day. We don't want to get too distracted by anything else. Keep it pretty simple. Enjoy each other. Have fun as a group. That's about as far as we want to take it. We're proud of the fact that we are in the position we're in, but we don't want to get too far out there [with distractions].
For such a young and playoff-inexperienced team, it's a simple, yet conceivably difficult notion. Ultimately though, Melvin is absolutely correct; If this team wishes to continue the success they found in July (19-5) and August (18-10), they need not change a thing.
Nick Houser is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.