Khris Davis, Athletics look to build off playoff momentum
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Khris Davis hardly cares how many home runs he hits this year if he can slug the Oakland Athletics much deeper into the postseason.
Sure, he has some numbers in his head. How could he not after leading the majors with 48 homers last year? Perhaps 50 is now within reach.
There was time for reflection, and it has now passed.
"I did at the end of the season. Now I'm kind of like over it," Davis said. "I want to pick up where I left off. I felt like I ended the season on a good note, making it to the playoffs. Nobody thought we'd get there. Even though we lost, there was a lot to be proud of. It was by far the most fun I've had playing baseball, because we won so many games. And winning is way better than losing."
With a young power-hitting lineup, the A's realize they won't surprise the rest of baseball as they did last year with their knack for late-game rallies and winning the close ones. Oakland lost the AL wild card game to the New York Yankees.
"We've come a long way as a team to get into this type of position," manager Bob Melvin said. "It's easier to envision where the lineup's going to be and look a little bit farther down the road with this type of team than with teams where you're kind of always having to mix and match."
Here are some things to watch for as the A's look to start strong, beginning in Japan on March 20 against the AL West rival Seattle Mariners:
MOMENTUM TIME: Melvin expects his A's to have swagger, a well-deserved confidence after the remarkable turnaround of 2018.
The A's trailed the Mariners by 11 games in the wild-card race on June 15 then propelled themselves into the playoffs with a superb second half.
"We were able to, through confidence, create the success, and now we have that kind of confidence to go into the season," said Melvin, the reigning AL Manager of the Year.
PROFAR'S PRESENCE: New second baseman Jurickson Profar joins a talented infield with a pair of slugging Matts — Matt Chapman at third and Matt Olson at first — along with much-improved Marcus Semien at shortstop.
Profar knows how good his new club can be after watching the A's beat his former Texas Rangers so many times before being traded.
"Now I get the chance to play with them. So far, it's fun," he said. "I'm excited to get it started already and have a good year with everybody."
Profar batted .254 with 20 homers and 77 RBIs in 146 games last season while playing all four infield spots for the Rangers.
He is embracing a new opportunity with Oakland.
"They did great last year and we're still young. I'm looking forward to doing it again, go to the playoffs and not only one game like last year. Keep going."
POWER PLAY: Davis, who received a $6 million raise this offseason to $16.5 million, also had a career-high 123 RBIs. He jokes about the fact he has hit .247 for each of the past four seasons.
Olson hit 29 homers and drove in 85 runs while Chapman had 24 homers and 68 RBIs in his first full major league season. He is coming off left shoulder surgery in December.
"Now that I think about it, wow, it was because of these young guys," Davis said of the recent success. "They bring something fresh, and that's what Oakland needs is some freshness."
ROTATION FACES: The A's are counting on veteran starters Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada to lead the rotation until everyone is healthy again.
Fiers returned on a $14.1 million, two-year deal in December, then Estrada received a $4 million, one-year contract in January.
The A's acquired Fiers in August from Detroit, and he helped the club reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014. He went 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 10 outings with nine starts after joining Oakland.
Brett Anderson is back with the A's and the lefty also is slated to be in the rotation when the season starts.
Lefty ace Sean Manaea pitched a no-hitter against Boston on April 21 then underwent shoulder surgery in September. He is expected to be out until around the All-Star break.
Jharel Cotton had Tommy John surgery in March, followed by three others who also underwent the elbow ligament replacement surgery: departed 2018 opening day starter Kendall Graveman, Daniel Gossett and top prospect A.J. Puk.
TOP PROSPECT: While Jesus Luzardo didn't get named to the roster for Japan, he is still hopeful of breaking camp with a big league spot. He will remain in Arizona to stay on a throwing schedule.
The prized lefty made all of four starts at Triple-A Nashville last season, when he also pitched in Double-A and Class-A ball.