4/22/2014 5:57 P.M. ET
A's catchers struggling to throw out baserunners
By Alex Espinoza / Special to MLB.com
OAKLAND -- John Jaso and Derek Norris were out on the field well before the rest of their teammates Tuesday, but it wasn't a reaction to Jaso's throw into the outfield during the ninth inning the night before. Just standard, scheduled work for Oakland's two catchers along with second-year bullpen coach Darren Bush.
"When you're at home you can work on defensive stuff," manager Bob Melvin said. "When you're on the road, it can be a lot more difficult based on where you hit. When we're home, a couple times a week you'll see that."
But it's hard not to notice other teams' success on the basepaths against Oakland so far this season. Entering play Tuesday, opponents have converted 17 of 19 stolen base attempts, the worst mark for any team in the American League. Conversely, the A's lead the Majors with a 93.3 percent success rate (14-of-15) on stolen bases this young season.
Jaso did a good job to nab Alex Rios at second base in the first inning on Monday, but his wayside throw in the ninth sailed into center and allowed Michael Choice to advance to third base. Jaso's toss wasn't even close to the target, but Melvin attributed part of that to the pitchout from Dan Otero. And it didn't help that Elvis Andrus took a hearty swing at the ball as Jaso tried to execute.
"The pitchout probably wasn't the best pitchout, so it was a combination of both those things," Melvin said.
The Rangers' powerful lineup is well-known by now, but they also boast a versatile bunch of athletes like Andrus, who leads the AL with nine stolen bags. Rios and Leonys Martin also have four steals apiece for Texas, which has totaled an AL-best 19 as a team entering Tuesday's contest.
"You know they have three or four guys who are going to be aggressive on the bases," Melvin said. "But we're aware of it there, they try to push it some."
A's lineup back to full strength with Crisp, Cespedes
OAKLAND -- The A's lineup was back to full strength on Tuesday after the team suffered slight injury scares in recent contests.
Coco Crisp led off and started in center field after injuring his right ribs while diving for a fly ball on Monday, while Yoenis Cespedes batted fifth and played left, two days after aggravating his bruised right heel.
"Little nicked up," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of his two stars on Tuesday. "Ces, once he got here yesterday, was lobbying to start. … Both of them are good to go today."
While Cespedes' heel injury has been a nagging problem since the first homestand of the year, Melvin said Monday marked the second time this season that Crisp injured his rib-cage area. Crisp laid out full extension on a fly ball hit by Leonys Martin in the sixth inning, but came up just short before grimacing and grabbing his right side. Still, Crisp stayed in the game and played all nine innings.
Melvin said X-rays taken Monday night were negative but that he wants to monitor Crisp's health closely. The veteran is a key sparkplug to the offense when available, but has already missed five games this year due in large part to a sore left wrist. For now, Melvin plans on giving Crisp the day off Wednesday with the short turnaround for a matinee.
"This is a guy, based on our experiences here with him, he plays at a very high level and plays hard," Melvin said. "He's always diving on the ground and we've got to be sure he's healthy to get through a season."
O'Flaherty, Elmore on the mend
OAKLAND -- The A's bullpen has been filthy so far this season. Through 19 games, Oakland's relief corps has posted an MLB-best numbers in opposing batting average (.190), on-base percentage (.264) and slugging (.270).
Scary for other teams to think that the A's could be adding one of the game's premier southpaw setup men in the not-too-distant future. Eric O'Flaherty, who posted a 1.99 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 7.2 K/9 rate across 295 appearances for the Braves from 2009-13, is currently on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing Tommy John surgery last May 21.
O'Flaherty stretched out to 60 feet, 6 inches for the first time during his rehab Tuesday, throwing all of his pitches, including his go-to slider. Safe to say, manager Bob Melvin was impressed after witnessing the 35-pitch session.
"As a matter of fact, I asked him if he had an inning in him today," Melvin said.
Oakland signed O'Flaherty this offseason to a two-year, $7 million deal that could potentially be worth $10.5 million if he achieves all the incentives, in hopes that he'd bolster the 'pen by midseason. With the way he's progressing, an early June return might not be out of the question.
"This is the start of when you start looking down the road and mapping some things out, whether it's rehab schedule or not," Melvin said. "It was pretty impressive."
Infielder Jake Elmore, who was acquired via trade from the White Sox on Feb. 27, is also on the mend as he tries to return from a strained left quadriceps that landed him on the 15-day disabled list in late March.
"This is my first stint on the DL in my career," Elmore said. "So it's real tough watching everybody else play baseball and you have to sit back."
Elmore said he's enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere in the Oakland organization, and that he'll be assigned to Triple-A Sacramento in the coming days as he tries to crack the 25-man roster. Elmore faces an uphill battle to carve out a niche for himself in Oakland, as the club carries four capable middle infielders in Jed Lowrie, Eric Sogard, Alberto Callaspo and Nick Punto.
"Position versatility is one of my strengths," Elmore said. "And getting on-base for the guys that hit the home runs. Just try to create runs for them and the whole team in general."
Other recovering A's on the disabled list include starter A.J. Griffin (shoulder), who is still a few weeks away from being fit to return to game action. Right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez (Tommy John recovery) has made six strong rehab appearances with Triple-A Sacramento, allowing just one earned run.
Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.