RIVAL ASTROS WERE ‘SHORT ON REMORSE’
‘Nothing was said’: A’s players, manager react to Houston press conference
Baseball was watching the Houston Astros’ quasiapology press conference held in West Palm Beach on Thursday morning.
Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, new manager Dusty Baker and owner Jim Crane gave short addresses regarding the sign-stealing scandal from the podium, which didn’t sit right with the A’s.
“Nothing was said,” Sean Manaea said. “They skated on by and haven’t taken responsibility for their actions.”
Manaea was responding to the group’s tepid acknowledgment of
“I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me,” Bregman said to reporters
in Florida. “I have learned from this, and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans.”
“I want to say that the whole Astros organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017,” Altuve said at the podium. “We feel remorse for the impact on our fans and the game of baseball.”
“At that meeting last night, the players showed tremendous remorse, sorrow and embarrassment for their families, organization, city of Houston and baseball,” Baker said. “I want to ask for the baseball world to forgive them for the mistakes they made.”
“We broke the rules. You can phrase that any way you want,” Crane said.
But, back in the clubhouse, some of the Astros players opened up a bit more.
“I caught the press conference, which I thought might’ve been a little short on remorse,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But I heard once they got into the clubhouse it was a lot different theme.”
Astros’ infielder Carlos Correa was the first from that World Series team to acknowledge the method in which his team cheated, telling reporters that “the trash can was there” and that the cheating method became more difficult to execute into the postseason. Teams who had suspected wrongdoing were forced to switch signs on a constant basis in-game.
The A’s have made clear that their AL West rival’s cheating was obvious to them for years.
“Just felt different at their place,” Melvin said at media day in January. “Just like any team, we had some suspicions for a couple years, then Mike (Fiers) came over to us. You look at the games there and you see guys giving multiple signs with no one on base, it’s a dead giveaway.”
This scandal’s cloud continues to hover over spring training on the East and West coasts, and it could hover well into the season. THURSDAY'S DRAW >> The pitching draw, a good chunk of the future, and some key bullpen arms, would be lining up on the bullpen lines together.
Jesús Luzardo, Manaea, Frankie Montas, Liam Hendriks and Jake Diekman threw bullpen sessions.
“Luzardo couldn’t wait to get on the mound,” Melvin said after. Bear with is as we discuss Luzardo ad nauseam this spring and beyond, but the elite arm’s
progress and quick maturity must be noted. Remember that he had a 1.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 12 innings last September, out of the bullpen and out of his typical routine.
“I think it was huge for him, and to not only perform at the level he did, but perform at the level he did with as much that was at stake for us in a role that he wasn’t accustomed to,” Melvin said, noting that his innate ability to calm nerves and adjust in those situations bode well for him. “He’ll hit the ground running pretty good.”
Melvin, after the workouts, made a point of noting Manaea’s slider — an important element in garnering swings and misses for him. He’s clearly spun the negativity he felt after the Wild Card loss and managed to take an objective moment to build off the low points.
“Very rarely do you see guys pitch at 91 and look like power pitchers, because there’s such deception in his delivery and
there’s such a gap between his fastball and changeup,” Melvin said. “He gets a ton of swings and misses. Doesn’t necessarily have to be at 95 mph.”
THE REAL DRAW AND THE NEW RULE >> Forget the big guns, Melvin was far more interested in the last round of pitchers set to take the mounds — non-roster invites Jaime Schultz, Jordan Weems, Ian Gardeck and Lucas Luetge.
“Noah Syndergaard over here on the left, he looks like he’s throwing about 100 and has a lot of plane to it too,” Melvin said, referring to Weems and his long blonde hair.
Melvin said he liked what he saw from Gardeck — “good arm, good movement and velocity.”
Melvin and his team of coaches will have a somewhat different approach to identifying productive relievers this year with news that MLB passed the threebatter rule.
“I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know it was coming in spring training,” Melvin said. “You worry that a guy who doesn’t have command, throwing ‘X’ amount of pitches. I’m a little bit more concerned about that than I am during the season.”
The A’s, like many teams, like the option to utilize a bullpen matchup by matchup. This rule should shave minutes off games, but now relievers’ value who can get both lefthanded and right-handed hitters out will rise in stock — it’s certainly what Melvin and the coaches will be prioritizing (and a big reason Diekman was re-signed).
The A’s Mike Fiers runs a drill during spring training practice on Thursday in Mesa, Ariz.
The A’s Sean Manaea, front, leads a group of pitchers during spring training practice on Thursday in Mesa, Ariz.
Manaea: A’s pitcher following Astros’ press conference: “They skated on by and haven’t taken responsibility for their actions.”
The A’s Jesus Luzardo throws during spring training practice on Thursday in Mesa, Ariz.